The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it's not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it's everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Ten years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters' story lines intersect?
Brit Bennett is an American author whose debut novel, The Mothers, was published in 2016. The novel is a coming-of-age story surrounding a trio of black teens growing up in southern California. Bennett grew up in Oceanside in southern California. She is the youngest of three sisters. Their father was Oceanside's first black city attorney, and their mother a finger-print analyst for the country sheriff's department. Bennett recalls herself as a serious, driven child, who started writing when she was 7 or 8. Her efforts resulted in a play about a coyote and short story about a Native American boy whose home is destroyed. While she was only 17, she began writing The Mothers—she was the same age as the book's protagonist, Nadia Turner. Like Nadia, Bennett was smart and ambitious and eager to get out of the city where she grew up. My mom grew up sharecropping in Louisiana, and my dad grew up in South Central L.A., and both of them were able to scratch and claw and go to college, so what’s my excuse? Bennett did leave town. She attended Stanford University, where she received her B.A. in English. Later, she earned an M.F.A. from the University of Michigan. Bennett says she felt out of place in Michigan—she was a southern California girl suffering through Midwestern winters and wrestling with the culture shock of being in a mostly white environment. At the time that Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York, were killed at the hands of the police, Bennett was completing a writing fellowship at Michigan. Not long after the court cases absolved the policemen involved in the killings, Bennett wrote an essay for the webwite Jezebel, entitled "I Don't Know What to Do With Good White People." The essay was viewed more than 1 million times in 3 days and drew the attention of a literary agent who emailed her wanting to know if Bennett wanted to write a book.