The figurative language of Brit Bennett

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about a series of similes and metaphors from Brit Bennett….

Brit Bennett (pictured above) was born and raised in Southern California and graduated from Stanford University. Later, she earned her MFA in fiction at the University of Michigan. Despite her youth (she’s younger than 40) she has already won a Hopwood Award in Graduate Short Fiction and the 2014 Hurston/Wright Award for College Writers. And as if those awards weren’t enough, her work has been featured in The New YorkerThe New York Times Magazine, and The Paris Review.

Brit Bennett’s most recent novel, The Vanishing Half, was selected as one of The New York Times 10 best books of 2020. I found it to be an engaging, sophisticated book  — examining the story of Black twin sisters who separate and one who decides to pass as white.

Bennett also has a fine eye and ear for figurative language. Here are my favourite examples:

  • She looked exactly the same as when she’d left a sixteen‑ still light, her skin the color of sand barely wet.
  • Instead, after a year, the twins scattered, their lives splitting as evenly as their shared egg.
  • A breeze floated in through the front door ‑Desiree leaning on the porch rail, smoke trailing past her head. She always stood like that one leg behind the other like an egret.
  • As if she were in The Wizard of Oz, but instead of a house dropping on her, she’d fallen through the roof and awakened, ears later, dazed to realize that she was still there.
  • When he visited, Desiree felt like a girl again the years falling away like meat off the bone.
  • One tiny slip of paper wedged in her pocket that might as well have been a razor, digging into her side.
  • Time was collapsing and expanding; the twins were different and the same all at once.
  • They never talked long, never made plans to meet, and at times, the calls seemed more perfunctory than anything, like holding a finger to another’s wrist to feel for a pulse.
  • Her death hit in waves. Not a flood, but water lapping steadily at her ankles. You could drown in two inches of water. Maybe grief was the same.
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