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Brit Bennett

Novelist of National Book Award nominated, New York Times-bestselling The Vanishing Half, and National Book Foundation 2016 5 Under 35 Honoree

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Brit Bennett – Great Writers, Great Readings
  • About Brit Bennett

    When Brit Bennett’s debut novel The Mothers was published in the fall of 2016, critics and readers were immediately dazzled by this exciting new voice in literary fiction. Bennett was named a 5 Under 35 honoree by the National Book Foundation and the book was longlisted for the NBCC John Leonard First Novel Prize and the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction.

    The Mothers is a surprising story about young love and the things that ultimately haunt us most. Set within a contemporary Black community in Southern California, Brit Bennett’s first novel is an emotionally perceptive story about ambition, community, and love.

    In the New York Times #1 bestseller and Good Morning America June Book Club pick, The Vanishing Half, Bennett returns the readers to California for another emotionally perceptive story. This engrossing page-turner, longlisted for both the 2021 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction, explores the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations. In her talks and her work, she examines the role writing plays in documenting racial injustice and contemporary Black experience.

    Before publishing her novel, Brit Bennett had already built an impressive platform as a social commentator. Her essay in Jezebel, following the Ferguson riots, was shared over a million times. Since then she has been invited to write several Op-Eds in the New York Times, and appeared on NPR’s The Brian Lehrer show. Her work has also been featured in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, and The Paris Review.

    While an undergraduate at Stanford, she won the Bocock/ Guerard and Robert M. Golden Thesis prizes for her fiction. Earning her MFA at University of Michigan, she won a Hopwood Award in Graduate Short Fiction as well as the 2014 Hurston/ Wright Award in College Writing.

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  • Speaking Topics

    Becoming A Writer—More Than a Pipe Dream

    In a recent interview with Fusion Brit Bennett said: “I knew I wanted to be a writer, but it was always a pipe dream. To me, it was as bizarre as wanting to be a rock star.” Like many writers, Brit Bennett began putting pen to paper during her formative teenage years. But while most peoples’ attempts never make it past the friend & family audience, Bennett’s pages stayed with her throughout college and grad school, and emerged into her riveting debut, The Mothers. In this lecture, Bennett recalls how she started writing at 17 and what it took to stay with her characters over so many years. An MFA grad from the University of Michigan, Bennett shares valuable insights and tips for young writers.

    Exploring Broader Themes in Social Commentary

    The sense of urgency that defines and carries Brit Bennett’s debut novel, The Mothers, is nothing that would surprise anyone already familiar with Bennett’s personal essays and astute social commentary. In the wake of the non-indictment in Ferguson and the non-indictment in the Eric Garner case, Bennett wrote an essay for Jezebel that racked up 1.6 million views and triggered important discussions. Bennett reflects on the challenges and rewards of writing commentary and personal essays in the age of comment sections and immediate feedback.

  • Video

  • Praise for Brit Bennett

    Praise for The Vanishing Half

    Impressive … This prodigious follow-up surpasses Bennett’s formidable debut.

    Publishers Weekly

    Assured and magnetic. . .Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism…calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book’s 50-year-old antecedent. . . . [a] rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

    Kirkus

    Irresistible … an intergenerational epic of race and reinvention, love and inheritance, divisions made and crossed, binding trauma, and the ever-present past.

    BookList

    This is sure to be one of 2020’s best and boldest… A tale of family, identity, race, history, and perception, Bennett’s next masterpiece is a triumph of character-driven narrative.

    Elle

    One of Bennett’s gifts as a writer is this: Her plots entertain you while her characters make you think. In this case, about race, gender, privilege, and the ways an identity can be built, challenged, and rebuilt.

    Goop

    Bennett writes like a master, reminiscent of Toni Morrison, Anne Tyler and Elizabeth Strout.

    BookPage

    Here, in her sensitive, elegant prose, [Bennett] evokes both the strife of racism, and what it does to a person even if they can evade some of its elements.

    Vogue

    [The Vanishing Half] is a dazzling mosaic exploring racism, colorism, and the expectations we place on the ones we love the most.

    Marie Claire

    If you’re looking to escape into a fictional story, Bennett brilliantly examines race and identity, family and history, and love and belonging—and it just may make you reflect on the realities of your own.

    Forbes

    The legacy of Toni Morrison looms large in The Vanishing Half.

    Vox

    Nuanced and deeply moving, The Vanishing Half is an unforgettable meditation on family, privilege, and belonging.

    Esquire

    Intricately plotted, exceedingly moving story…with insights into the social and cultural history of passing, while telling what is at heart a tender story about sisterhood, identity and, as Bennett said, ‘the endlessly interesting question of which elements in our identity are innate, and which do we choose?'

    San Francisco Chronicle

    Brilliant … The Vanishing Half is at once a crowning jewel within that body of work and a standalone achievement that transcends the subject, a deeply human exploration of relationships and one of the most un-put-downable reads of the year.

    GQ

    A stunning page-turner… It’s a powerful story about family, compassion, identity and roots… You will be thinking about The Vanishing Half long after you turn the final page.

    Good Morning America

    Reinvention and erasure are two sides of the same coin. Bennett asks us to consider the meaning of authenticity when we are faced with racism, colorism, sexism and homophobia. What price do we pay to be ourselves? How many of us choose to escape what is expected of us? And what happens to the other side of the equation, the side we leave behind? The Vanishing Half answers all these questions in this exquisite story of love, survival and triumph.

    The Washington Post

    My hope is that the warranted praise Ms. Bennett receives for this novel will have less to do with her efficient handling of timely, or ‘relevant,’ subject matter than for her insights into the mysterious compound of what we call truth: a mixture of the identities we’re born with and those we create.

    Wall Street Journal

    Provides a meditation on the nuance of race that feels important, now more than ever. It’s the kind of novel that demands to be read — a propulsive, heartfelt work that keeps its reader both glued to the page and chastened by the idea that soon the experience will come to an end. . . You can call The Vanishing Half an escape, but it’s a meaningful one.

    InStyle

    Bennett pulls it off brilliantly… Few novels manage to remain interesting from start to finish, even — maybe especially — the brilliant ones. But… Bennett locks readers in and never lets them go… Stunning…She leaves any weighty parallels — between, for example, racial and gender determinism — to the reader. Her restraint is the novel’s great strength, and it’s tougher than it looks… The Vanishing Half speaks ultimately of a universal vanishing. It concerns the half of everyone that disappears once we leave home — love or hate the place, love or hate ourselves.

    Los Angeles Times

    Beautifully written, thought-provoking and immersive… Issues of privilege, inter-generational trauma, the randomness and unfairness of it all, are teased apart in all their complexity, within a story that also touches on universal themes of love, identity and belonging… The Vanishing Half, with its clever premise and strongly developed characters, is unputdownable and highly recommended.

    Associated Press

    A story of absolute, universal timelessness — a story of what it means to simply be, to grow up and define oneself and reinvent, to negotiate a place in the world. It’s also a deeply American story, rigorously engaged with a country’s racist past and present, while interrogative of its foundational values, like choice and legacy. For any era, it’s an accomplished, affecting novel. For this moment, it’s piercing, subtly wending its way toward questions about who we are and who we want to be….

    Entertainment Weekly

    An eloquent new entry to literature on that most vital of subjects, identity, The Vanishing Half is the novel of the year.

    TIME

    Bennett’s gorgeously written second novel, an ambitious meditation on race and identity, considers the divergent fates of twin sisters, born in the Jim Crow South, after one decides to pass for white. Bennett balances the literary demands of dynamic characterization with the historical and social realities of her subject matter.

    The New York Times

    [Bennett’s] second [book], The Vanishing Half, more than lives up to her early promise. . . more expansive yet also deeper, a multi-generational family saga that tackles prickly issues of racial identity and bigotry and conveys the corrosive effects of secrets and dissembling. It’s also a great read that will transport you out of your current circumstances, whatever they are. . . Like The Mothers, this novel keeps you turning pages not just to find out what happens.

    NPR

    Praise for The Mothers

    With echoes of James Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain, The Mothers is not your typical coming-of-age novel: It begins with Nadia’s abortion, an experience often absent from our culture’s stories, and goes on to look at how women step in to nurture—and sometimes betray—one another.

    Vogue

    Gripping...the twenty-first century answer to Toni Morrison’s Sula...displays the same complexity in its portrayal of a pair of girlfriends as they grow together, and then apart, in a tight-knit African American community.

    Elle

    Brit Bennett is so bracingly talented on the page...[The Mothers is] astute and absorbing and urgent.

    Jezebel

    Ferociously moving...a lush book, a book of so many secrets, betrayal...Despite Bennett’s thrumming plot, despite the snap of her pacing, it’s the always deepening complexity of her characters that provides the book’s urgency...I found myself reading not to find out what happens to the characters, but to find out who they are.

    The New York Times Book Review
  • Books by Brit Bennett

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