THE VANISHING HALF.

Author: Brit Bennett.

Genre: Contemporary family drama, historical fiction.

Triggerwarnings: racism, domestic violence, colourism.

Rating: 4⭐

Teenage light skinned black identical twins, Desiree and Stella Vigne, elope from a small town called Mallard in Louisiana. But soon after, Stella just vanishes leaving behind nothing but a note for Desiree. Years later, Desiree returns to Mallard with her dark skinned daughter Jude, while Stella continues to live hidden as a white woman with her white husband and their daughter, Kennedy, abandoning her own family. Their lives reach a full circle when their respective daughters come face to face unintentionally threatening to unveil the lie on which Stella has built the foundation of her new life.

This is one of the best recommendations I have received. While the theme of the book is colourism, racism and domestic violence, it also highlights the prejudice of colorism within the community. It was disturbing and empowering at the same time. It shows how the colour of the skin determines a lot of aspects in the lives of the people. It talks about the extent to which black and coloured people are shunned, that they don’t mind losing their own identity in order to be accepted. Characterization by the skin colour is prominent in the story to emphasize on the affects of racism. It hovers on the idea of bigotry, ethnicity, regret and a life based on a compulsive lie.

This book is a non- linear, multi- generational story of the Vigne twins. The characters are dynamic, raw, and show their grey side of survival. I was able to get into the flow of its smooth narration easily. There is an audiobook on YouTube that you can check out.

IN XANADU. A Quest

Author: William Dalrypmple.

Genre: Travelogue.

Rating:  4.5⭐

Xanadu, now Shangdu, is located in Inner Mongolia, northern China. It was the first capital and the summer capital of the Mongol Empire in the 1263. Xanadu was famous for its palaces, gardens and waterways and was Kublai Khan’s favourite summer palace.

Kublai Khan was the grandson of Genghis Khan and the founder of the Yuan Dynasty in the 13th century China. He was the ruler of the Mongol Empire for 30 yrs. During his reign, Xanadu flourished, making it one of the richest kingdoms. After Kublai Khan’s death, however, Yuan Dynasty started to decline, thus changing the face of the once prosperous city to shambles. Xanadu was believed to be so beautiful, that ‘Xanadu’ term is still used as a metaphor for opulence or an idyllic place.

In 1270s Marco Polo, a Venetian merchant, explorer and a writer travelled along the Silk Route with his father and his uncle and reached Xanadu where he served the court of Kublai Khan for 17 years. Though he was not the first European to reach China, Marco Polo was the first to leave a detailed chronicle of his experience. His travel book inspired Christopher Columbus and many other travellers. Author and his companions are one of the many who decided to retake this path once taken 7 centuries back. They started from Jerusalem to reach a tedious route with multiple ethenic diversities, landscapes and overcame diplomatic complications, struggled for basic comfort to finally reach Xanadu. This travelogue takes us through two timelines, 1270s and 1980s with the glimpse of the history compared to the present . He has collated his observations with that of Marco Polos, adding his own version about the aspects which were either not present or overlooked by the later.

It does take a moment to get into the book if you don’t know the background of the topic. I had to do my own research to understand the scene. Nevertheless, it improved my knowledge and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this hilarious travelogue. It has its ups and downs but never a dull moment.

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