Debut novelist of New York Times-bestselling The Mothers, National Book Foundation 2016 5 Under 35 Honoree
Photo credit: Emma Trim
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, Bennett’s first novel is an emotionally perceptive story about ambition, community, and love. In her upcoming novel, The Vanishing Half, Bennett returns the readers to California for another emotionally perceptive story. This engrossing page-turner 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.
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.
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.
Praise for Brit Bennett
Praise for The Vanishing Half
Not to be missed.— Harper’s Bazaar
The detail and the feeling showcased in every sentence Brit Bennett writes is breath taking. The Vanishing Half is a novel that shows just how human emotion, uncertainty and longing can be captured and put on paper.— Candice Carty-Williams, author of Queenie
An impressive and arresting novel. Perceptive in its insights and poised in execution, this is an important, timely examination of the impact of race on personality, experience and relationships.— Diana Evans, the Orange Award winning author of Ordinary People
A novel of immense, shining, powerful intelligence.— –Deborah Levy, two-time Booker shortlisted novelist
The Vanishing Half should mark the induction of Brit Bennett into the small group of likely successors to Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, and Nella Larsen..”— Sara Collins, author of The Confessions of Frannie Langton
The Vanishing Half is an utterly mesmerising novel, which gripped me from the first word to the last. It seduces with its literary flair, surprises with its breath-taking plot twists, delights with its psychological insights, and challenges us to consider the corrupting consequences of racism on different communities and individual lives. I absolutely loved this book.— Bernardine Evaristo, Booker Prize winning author of Girl, Woman, Other
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, STARRED review
Impressive … Bennett renders her characters and their struggles with great compassion, and explores the complicated state of mind that Stella finds herself in while passing as white. This prodigious follow-up surpasses Bennett’s formidable debut.— Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW
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
Media About Brit Bennett
- 212 572-2013
- Brit Bennett travels from New York, NY