Desiree and Stella Vignes are twin Black girls who grow up in 1940s Louisiana. They are from a very, very small town that has valued lighter skin for generations, and Desiree and Stella are very light. Wanted to escape their small town, Deisree and Stella run away from home to New Orleans to try and find their own paths in life away from what their community has decided for them. It is there that Stella decides to run away from her sister and begin passing as a white woman. Desiree starts a relationship with a very dark-skinned Black man and has a girl, Jude, with him. The two sisters’ divergent paths are set, and Bennett effortlessly weaves us through their lives at various moments.
Bennett uses large jumps in time to give us almost little vignettes of the sisters lives and the lives of their children. With these jumps in time, we are able to experience a juxtaposition of the sisters in the 40s all the way to their children in the 80s and how their experiences vary so greatly. By including the lives of the sisters and then their children, we see the consequences of the sisters’ choices in the lives of their children in very surprising ways.
The characters that Bennett has written as also delightfully complex and relatable. Stella’s internal struggle around being a Black woman but passing as white is compelling. Jude’s experience coming into her own as a very dark skin Black woman in the 80s in LA is empowering. I must commend Bennett, too, on how she wrote a trans man, Reese, in the narrative. Too often when a trans person is included in any sort of narrative, whether it be film, TV, or literature, they are there as The Other through which the main character learns tolerance or open-mindedness, or the trans person is there simply as The Traumatized to provide a backdrop for which another character can grow. Reese is his own person and is presented without questioning. His pronouns are never doubted. His identity is never questioned. His ability to love and be loved is as natural as everyone else’s. It was incredibly refreshing.
BINGO – REPEAT – UNCANNON