In our monthly book club, we discuss whatever we happen to be reading and ask everyone in the comments to do the same. What Are You Reading This Month?
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half describes the fictional, uncharted Arkansas town of Mallard, an area that’s “more idea than place,” populated entirely by light-skinned Black people—the lighter the better. Twins Desiree and Stella Vignes are descendants of the town’s founder but long to flee Mallard’s constricting environs. The twins’ fates spin out into different paths after they escape to New Orleans: Stella disappears after discovering she can pass for white, while Desiree, in defiance of her hometown, marries the darkest man she can find; when she returns to Mallard in the first pages of the book, her daughter, Jude, is the darkest person anyone has ever seen there. Bennett’s lyrical prose captivates as she crafts the journeys of all the Vignes women: not just Desiree and Stella but also their mother, Adele, and Jude as she grows up and falls in love. The gravity of the book’s title increases the further one wanders into its absorbing pages: The vanishing half is not just the gone-but-not-forgotten Stella, but also the parts of ourselves that fall away as we shun them and embrace others, creating the identities we want to present to the world. [Gwen Ihnat]
There was a stretch of time in 2020 when I had trouble reading for any extended period. My attention was scattered, frazzled. Like many people during lockdown, my brain needed comfort food, not a challenge, in order to reassure myself that the world wasn’t falling apart. So late in the summer, I decided to revive a subscription I had allowed to lapse eons ago—to Mojo magazine. And almost instantly, I was glad I had done so. The venerable British music magazine remains zealously focused on its bread and butter (classic rock, and all derivations thereof), in ways that are simultaneously thoughtful and comforting, but it has also done an admirable job attempting to both expand the roster of who and what falls under that header (a recent issue did a fascinating deep dive into the life and music of Toots Hibbert of Toots And The Maytals, following his death from COVID-19) and keep one foot in the world of contemporary music in a way that no longer feels as perfunctory as it once did. The writing is fleet, the subjects engaging, and the accompanying CDs a nice old-school flourish. It’s a warm bath of a music mag. [Alex McLevy]