Tag Archives: Transgender

Review: The Vanishing Half

The Vanishing Half

The Vanishing Half
By Brit Bennett
Riverhead Books, 9780525536291, June 2020, 352pp.

The Short of It:

The Vanishing Half is a book that must be discussed.

The Rest of It:

Stella and Desiree are twins, living in the small (fictional) town of Mallard, Louisiana. This town is known for its black, light-skinned inhabitants. As young children, they witness the murder of their father by a group of angry white men, and from that point on, the girls, each affected in different ways, step out of their familiar surroundings to begin lives outside of Mallard.

At first, they do this together. Taking odd jobs, sleeping on floors and eventually making a place of their own to call home. But Stella wants more and eventually leaves Desiree behind to pursue what she feels is a better life. A life that should not be held from her, just because she’s black. Desiree is hurt by the abandonment but at the time, doesn’t fully understand Stella’s choices. All she wants throughout the years is to find her sister once again.

This story is told in several parts and jumps into the present day as we meet Jude and Kennedy, the children of Desiree and Stella. We also meet their significant others and as readers, we are brought into Stella’s world as she makes the decision to pass for white. One day, Stella is mistaken for white and just goes along with  it. The concept of “passing” is one that affects more than just Stella as the story unfolds.

The Vanishing Half is a story about identity. Racial identity as well as gender identity (one of the characters, one of my favorite characters is transgendered). These characters are trying to find their way and their true selves and not without a lot of struggle. Some of Stella’s choices will anger you but Bennett wrote her in such a way, that you can’t hold her choices against her. She feels regret for her decisions but as readers we also see why she made these decisions to begin with.

I really liked how the story was structured and how balanced it was. I appreciated the decision to move the characters to California, particularly Los Angeles because as I can tell you, Los Angeles is accepting of a lot and it’s a place where people find themselves all the time. People can be whatever they want here, so having some of the story set in Los Angeles made sense. I really enjoyed the writing and I was lucky enough to be told about the Los Angeles Times Book Club interview with Bennett right after finishing the book so I got to hear her take on the book and it was just a great talk.

I highly recommend The Vanishing Half. Now, I really want to read her first book, The Mothers.

This book completes my summer reading list!

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: This Is How It Always Is

This Is How It Always Is

This Is How It Always Is
By Laurie Frankel
Flatiron Books, 9781250088567,  January 2018, 336pp.

The Short of It:

A good book to discuss with a group because you will definitely want to talk about it after reading it.

The Rest of It:

This Is How It Always Is is a novel. It reads like a true story, and the author does in fact have a transgender child but it is a work of fiction. I had to remind myself of this many, many times while reading it.

Penn and Rosie have five sons, two older boys, a set of twins and then Claude. From a very young age, Claude is highly intelligent and interested in things that his brothers are not. Dressing up, for one. While young, this doesn’t appear to be an issue. In fact, his grandmother takes great pleasure in buying Claude tea-length dresses and girly things to wear at home but eventually, Claude wants to wear these things in public.

Rosie, a doctor, doesn’t see an issue with it. She figures he’s young and should be able to express himself however he sees fit. Penn, doesn’t have an issue with it either but he is more aware of the problems that it could cause. Perhaps, they should meet with the school administrators to discuss it. Once they do, they realize the challenges involved.

Claude becomes Poppy, but how much do they share? Do they make it public? Tell Poppy’s friends? The neighbors? Co-workers?  If you had a child who was Poppy’s friend, would you want to know? Think about sleepovers, shared restrooms, etc.

Poppy’s story is hard to put down. As a parent, it would be a tough situation to be in. I’m not sure how I’d handle the situation myself. There were decisions made that made me want to scream at the parents but then I’d turn a few pages and feel empathy for their situation. Most of all, I felt for Poppy.

Because one of the parents is a doctor, we get the medical aspect of Poppy’s transformation but only a taste of it since she is so young. Hormone blockers are mentioned. Surgery is hinted at for a page or two. At the age of ten, is it right for a parent to consider surgery when the child could easily change their mind? That brings up another topic entirely. Is gender something you can change your mind about or something bigger?

There were aspects of the novel that I didn’t care for. I didn’t like that they ended up in Thailand even though much was revealed there. It seemed a little too convenient and not something that could actually happen. I do feel that the author did a really good job of presenting the issues in a clear way. I was conflicted the entire time I was reading it. I don’t know if a person can love a book like this because Poppy experiences so much heartache and angst but I love that the author put the topic out there because I am still thinking about the story now.

If you are stuck in a reading rut and need something to get you reading again, This Is How It Always Is will definitely get you reading and thinking.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.