“Stella became white” abandoned by my twin 🏃🏽‍♀️🧍🏽‍♀️The Vanishing Half + Hamnet 2022 📚 Book-ish 10

“Stella became white and Desiree married the darkest man she could find.”

Hello everyone, welcome to today’s Book-ish video. I want to share with you two books, The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett and Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell. I chose these books because they were both about twins, and how one left the other. In The Vanishing Half, one of the sisters abandons her family; even going as far as to change her ethnicity from black to white. While in Hamnet, one twin falls ill and then suddenly the other twin dies instead; this unexpected loss produces inconsolable grief.    

I have 5 main points. I want to share some important life lessons I have learnt, as well as some uncomfortable and painful experiences that happen to people.

Trigger warning: I am going to talk about depression, violence and death. So if any of these topics make you uncomfortable, be aware.

Number 1. The Con of Forcing Your Best Life

I find myself wondering what am I willing to do to get the dream life I desire? How much control do I want in the direction I walk? Who am I willing to manipulate so I can get my way?

All have sin, all have fallen short. So I will not pretend that I have only thought about doing things the right way. I come up with crazy plans and schemes, however I don’t act on all of them. Mind your business, but I’ve acted on a few. And one thing I have learnt for sure from my attempts, is that manipulation is exhausting, you get tied in a web of lies and sometimes the consequences are real.

The Vanishing Half and Hamnet are good examples that show when you are chasing after ‘better’, ‘happier’ and ‘more’; be very careful. It is so easy to lose yourself and to be blindsided by something you did not expect. If you think it is possible to plan exactly in detail how something is going to go, and believe the experience will be want you imagined. You are in for a surprise. 

In The Vanishing Half, twin sisters Stella and Desiree run away from their Southern hometown. They arrive in New Orleans together, and start making plans to start a new life. However, Stella then suddenly abandons Desiree. No warning or preparation time. One day she is there and the next she is gone. The only information that is certain is that Stella, has stopped being black. 

Let me give you a little context now, but I will go into detail about her changing ethnicities in my 4th point when I talk about Colourism and Racism. For now, the thing to note is that Stella and Desiree’s skin tone is very light, and they have come from a town where all of the people prefer to mix with other light skinned people to get even lighter babies. I will come back to this.

However, the main thing is Stella has decided to white pass. She, has done this in order to have a better life for herself. After realising that being white gave her more privileges, she believed that abandoning her past and family would bring a her a happy life. Stella believed she had the right to choose. But, this decision that she felt was harmless, actually prevents her form truly making intimate connections. Yes, she succeeds in marrying a white man, having a daughter and living in a beautiful home. Yet, she lies to her husband and child everyday about her past, and she is constantly living with the fear of her neighbours one day finding out who she is. 

From this take away, that just because you can choose, it doesn’t mean you should do something. Especially if it involves constantly lying, manipulating and pretending to be someone you are not. At the end of the day is it worth it if you are suffering from the loneliness and the mistrust that comes with living a life of lies.

While in Hamnet, Agnes the mother of the twins does not make such a controversial choice. She is obsessed with control, having a gift which allows her to sense the future; it doesn’t give her clear visions all the time but shows glimpses. And because of that she gets comfortable with predicting and planning. Agnes saw that when she dies she would have 2 children by her side. So when she has 3 children this throws her off balance. She now starts waging war against fate, believing she can save the child she thinks she will lose. Agnes focuses on Judith, the weak twin as Hamnet is strong and he will be fine. 

When it comes to interacting with people, Agnes is good at playing a game to get want she wants, her manipulations schemes are subtle. In oder to get her husband to move to London, because she believed that is the step he needed to take to achieve his great destiny. Agnes tells her brother to put an idea into her father in-laws head; who then told her husband to move. Agnes gets her way, but then quickly regrets sending her husband away. Realising that what she wanted more was his company than for him to be great, as now she is alone.

Once again we see that manipulation ultimately leads to loneliness. 

And that’s a big life lesson, if you want to build true and genuine connections; keep that in mind

My next point is

Number 2. Stop saying “Boys act mean to girls they like” page 90 VH

If watched my previous book-ish video ‘this is a man’s world’, you will know how much I hate this statement. And so the fact that I literally saw it again pop up in another book, I knew I had to repeat myself. I know I will continue to repeat myself. “You do not show love by being mean to someone”. Simple. And this goes both ways, if a girl fancies a boy and is rude to him trying to act sassy. And this is also true for none romantic relationships. “You do not show love by being mean to someone”. That’s all I have to say for this point. 

Moving on, next is

Number 3. Subtle Signs of Depression pg184

When Agnes describes her husbands depression, she compares it to a bad smell. Yet, this smell can so easily fade into the background and no one notice. Like during dinner, the other family member’s are not aware that ‘latin boy’ is not acting as himself. However, the signs are there; from the sleeping too much, to feeling jaded about life and also weight lose.

This topic is hard for me, but I wanted to shed some light on this issue. Mental health is something that people are getting more educated about over the recent years. However, it is something that sometimes still gets played down and not taken seriously. And access to help might be limited depending on where you are. One of the biggest problems with depression is how easy it is for it to be unnoticed, even the person themselves might not even be aware. 

So, now I am going to bring more context to Stella’s decision to white pass. This is a major plot spoiler, so skip to point 5 if you wish to avoid it.

Number 4. Colourism and Racism 

Stella and Desiree lived in a small Southern town, called Mallard around the 1950’s. The towns people themselves, were obsessed with light skin. However, the people in the surrounding areas, the other southerns considered them black. Which meant that a white person could Lynch a coloured person from their town Mallard. Racial terror lynchings, “the public killing of an individual who has not received any due process.” And this was what the twins experienced at a young age. They watched and hid inside their house, covering their months from screaming, while their father was lynched by a group of white men in front of their home. Their father somehow managed to survive, however in hospital those same group of men come back to finish him completely. The girls were not there at the hospital, but they attend their father’s funeral knowing he was lynched twice. This is unimaginable trauma, and the girls do not talk about it. Yet, this is something that haunts Stella all the way until she is and adult. She has nightmares every night, that one day white men will break into her home and kill her too. 

So, when this information was revealed later on in the novel about her nightmares. I felt a little bit more of an understanding; one of the main reasons she white passes was for survival. Yet, I found it hard to swallow just how much she got into the character as a white woman, to the point where she insults black people. Then I remembered, oh yeah black people insult other black people quite casually too in the form of colourism. 

That town Mallard, could not handle a dark skin person. The twins, Stella and Desiree ran away from Mallard because it was suffocating, they wanted to live as differently as possible from what they had known growing up. “Stella became white and Desiree married the darkest man she could find.” Desiree then had a dark skinned daughter, Jude who everyone was so surprised looked nothing like her. Unfortunately, this isn’t a black love story couple goals thing, because the man is an abuser. And Desiree ends up returning home to Mallard, with her dark skinned daughter. Though this was a decision of safety. It lead to her daughter Jude growing up in a town that looked down and bullied her for her dark skin. Jude had people saying things like she shouldn’t wear bright clothes, call her names, and that Desiree couldn’t be her mum. Making her insecure to even try versions methods to lightening her skin and hang out with a boy who didn’t want to be been in public with her.

Racism and coulorim unfortunately is still present in the 21 century. And an area that it impacts severely is in work. Stella first made the decision to white pass to be able to secure a job, and after that she did not want to lose the privilege it allowed her. While when Desriee moved back to her hometown she struggled at looking for work, because as soon as she put her address down as Mallard people would know she was black. They would refuse to hire her even though she was qualified, so she had to work as a waitress. This is something that many black people have experienced, not being employed because of the colour of their skin. And with colourism, the entertainment industry and media still prefers to use a lighter skin tone than those with dark skin tones. There is a small pool of black representation, with the same faces used. And roles about dark skinned people being cast to light skin people. Nina Simone.

Finally, let’s end with the impact the twin who left through death had on his family. No spoilers here, I am just going to reflect on the concept of death.

Number 5. Impact of Death 

Can a person feel death approaching, the grim reaper? Where do we go after we die? Why do we struggle so much with letting go? How do you grieve loss in a healthy way? Do you believe in ghosts?

First of all, it is a fact you are going to die. It is certain, as it is a process of life. For me personally, I believe in heaven and that people really go to a better place. However, there is still such a heaviness that can come over those that are left behind. Losing someone you care about is heartbreaking, and that emotion can be so consuming. 

Hamnet is truly an amazing book, the fact that from the beginning you are aware he is going to die. Yet, when and how it happens still manages to shatter your soul. I want to read this passage for you, but it is something you have to experience yourself. Following the journey of Agnes and Latin boy up until then, and seeing the bigger picture of everything that lead up to that point made the loss so unbearable. And this tragedy is remembered in the form of a play, Hamlet.

Dying is not peaceful. It can come, raging and recking the whole place down. I saw it in this book and I’ve seen it in real life. The ones left behind can sometimes become worse off. Death takes the life of one person and can steal joy and hope from the ones attached to them. Some people are able to process death and heal eventually with time, but some people remain stuck and deteriorate. Something death can bring people together, as they comfort one another. However it can also reveal cracks that were hidden and make people distance themselves. The impact of death is not certain, even though dying is.

So with that we have come to the end of this book-ish video, these topics where a lot and so if you made it till the end thank you for sticking with me. I hope I have been able to do these books justice and show a little of why they are so important. There is so much more within these books you have to read them for yourself. As they also shed light on family, career, relationships, personality, sexuality and politics in a way that makes you reflect on reality, privileges and trauma. 

Another thing these books had in common apart from them being about twins is the way the story flips from past to present so smoothly. They give clues for you to ponder that you don’t fully understand until the end. 

Hamnet and The Vanishing Half were honestly really amazing books and I recommend you grab yourself one that you felt a connection to.

I have linked my books down below; let me know in the comments if you have read it or have anything else to add about some of the points I mentioned. Thank you so much for watching this video. If you enjoyed this video remember to like, comment, subscribe and ring the notification bell so you know when I post. Byeeeee

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