Brit Bennett: The Vanishing Half



And Silver Bland, and this is bookworm. My guest today Brit Bennett is the talk of the literary world her book. The vanishing half made its debut at number one on the New York Times. Bestseller list now like me. You may not think much of bestseller was but my big surprise when I picked it up is that it's a wonderful book? It's very enjoyable to read, and it's only Brit. Bennett's second book won't was the originating idea for the vanishing half. Well thanks for having me The book actually began a conversation I had with my mother where she was telling me about this town. She remembered hearing about from her childhood, growing up in rural Louisiana and it was a town. Where was a community of light skinned black people that continued to intermarry within that community in hopes that their children would progressively lighter from generation to generation, so it really struck me as I'm very strange, disturbing idea, also place, and of course as a novelist that immediately makes you think. Oh, this is the setting for a novel. We? Get a very. Dramatic sense of that sending early in the book and I'm going to ask Brooke Bennett to read. The section that describes the town. It has a great name. The name of the town is Mallard and it's named after a duck. Go It was a strange town. Mallard named after the ring necked ducks, living in the rice fields and marshes, a town that like any other was more idea than place. The idea arrived to Alphonse to soar in eighteen, forty eight, as he stood in the sugar cane fields. He'd inherited from the father who'd once owned him. The father now dead, the now freed son wished to build something on those acres of land that would last for centuries to come. A town for men like him who never be accepted as white, but refused to be treated like Negroes a third-place his mother rest. Her soul had hated his lightness when he was a boy, she'd shopped him under the sun, begging him to darken. Maybe that's what made him I dream of the town. Lightness like anything inherited at great cost was lonely gift. He'd married him lotto even lighter than himself. She was pregnant with their first child, and he imagined children's Children's children lighter still like a cup of coffee steadily done rooted with cream, a more perfect Negro, each generation lighter than the one before. Soon others came. Soon idea in place became inseparable in Mallard carried throughout the rest of Saint Landry parish colored. People whispered about it wondered about it. White people couldn't believe even existed. When Saint Catherine's was built in nineteen, thirty eight, the diocese set over a young priest from Dublin who arrived certain that he was lost, didn't the bishop tally that Mallard was a colored town? who were these people walking about? Fair and Blonde and red headed the darkest ones nose year than a Greek was this accounted for colored in America who whites wanted to keep separate. How could they tell the difference? By the time, the being twins were born Afonso store was dead long gone. But his great great great granddaughters inherited his legacy whether they wanted to or not. Even desharnais complained before every founder's day picnic. Who rolled her eyes? When the founder was mentioned in school, as if none of that business had anything to do with her. This would stick after the twins disappeared. How desert never wanted to be part of a town that was her birth rate how she felt that you could flick away history like shrugging a hand off your shoulder. Can escape a town. You cannot escape blood. Somehow the twins believe themselves capable both. And yet if Alphonse to store could have stroll through the town. He'd imagined he would have been thrilled by the side of his great great great granddaughters, twin girls, creamy skin, Hazel Eyes wavy hair. He would marveled at them for the child to be a little more perfect in the parents. What could be more wonderful than that? The Breath Bennett reading. The section from the opening, ten pages of her novel, the vanishing half. Now. Tell me. This idea, the idea of the town that is designed to get wider and wider and to exile or expel those people who are violations of its aspiration toward whiteness. This is a horrifying idea just as in. Edward P. Jones's novel, the known world, a town where freed black people on black slaves themselves. Tell me how to we get ideas as dangerous and strange as these. Long I started so when I started thinking about the book I I read about similar communities to the stat existed of Louisiana, these krill communities of fair skin, black people who believed very deeply that it was better to be light, who were suspicious of darker skinned black people in wanted to kind of insulate their community against who they perceived as being outsiders to me. Book was taking. This idea of color is on just pushing it to extremes by locating the physical town in sort of pushing the. The extremes of that ideology to think about what it would look like. If color is not just a you know something that's abstract, if it's not just something that you think of as a preference or sort of personal opinion about light skin, being better than dark skin, what is it like if this is something that is actually kind of instituted in place and to the degree that the population is almost almost kind of genetically engineering at so that their children can can become lighter and

Coming up next