HBO wins rights for Oceanside native Brit Bennett’s ‘The Vanishing Half’

Author Brit Bennett and her new book, "The Vanishing Half"
(Courtesy photo by Emma Trim)

Los Angeles-based author’s latest novel quickly rose to the top of best-seller lists, finally hitting the No. 1 spot on the New York Times best-seller list mere weeks after its release


“The Vanishing Half,” Oceanside native Brit Bennett’s latest book about race, is headed for HBO after the cable giant won a competitive auction that saw 17 bidders vying for the rights to the best-selling novel.

First reported by, the deal is allegedly worth in the low seven figures and includes an executive producer title for Bennett, whose book was released June 2 by Riverhead Books, an imprint of Penguin Books. HBO plans to turn the novel into a limited series.

The book, which explores colorism and racial passing, quickly climbed best-seller lists before landing at the top of the New York best-sellers list a few weeks ago.

Since its release, “The Vanishing Half” has garnered praise from critics and the public alike, with Time magazine saying, “Bennett creates a striking portrait of racial identity in America.” Publishers Weekly, in its starred review, called the novel “Impressive. … This prodigious follow-up surpasses Bennett’s formidable debut,” referring to Bennett’s first novel, “The Mothers,” a hit back in 2016 that is now being developed into a feature film by Kerry Washington and Warner Bros.

“The Vanishing Half” is about the Vignes twins, who for years lived together in a small southern town. After fleeing at 16, one grows up and raises a Black daughter in the same town, while the other lives a different life, passing as White.

“It feels uniquely surreal that this book is now being framed as topical,” Bennett, who began writing “The Vanishing Half” in 2014, told the Union-Tribune last month. “I did not imagine it as topical when I was writing it or that it would be discussed in that way.”

“For me, I was primarily interested in writing about the complexity of colorism,” said Bennett, who graduated from Stanford University and received a master’s degree in fiction from the University of Michigan. “Not necessarily in thinking about it sociologically or historically, but rather as an embodied feeling,” Bennett said. “Thinking about the shame that can be associated with dark skin because of our culture and history that prioritizes whiteness and, as an extension, white men.”

This week, “The Vanishing Half” sits in the No. 4 spot on the New York Times best-seller list.