Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
Published by Picador
Published 10 September 2015
I read this for 2017 Popsugar Reading Challenge. The category is ‘a book by a person of color’.
WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT
In the winter of 1953, Boy Novak arrives by chance in a small town in Massachusetts, looking, she believes, for beauty—the opposite of the life she’s left behind in New York. She marries a local widower and becomes stepmother to his winsome daughter, Snow Whitman.
A wicked stepmother is a creature Boy never imagined she’d become, but elements of the familiar tale of aesthetic obsession begin to play themselves out when the birth of Boy’s daughter, Bird, who is dark-skinned, exposes the Whitman’s as light-skinned African Americans passing for white. Among them, Boy, Snow, and Bird confront the tyranny of the mirror to ask how much power surfaces really hold.
Dazzlingly inventive and powerfully moving, Boy, Snow, Bird is an astonishing and enchanting novel. With breath-taking feats of imagination, Helen Oyeyemi confirms her place as one of the most original and dynamic literary voices of our time.
Nobody ever warned me about mirrors, so for many years I was fond of them, and believed them to be trustworthy.
WHAT I THOUGHT
This fantastic book took me by surprise. Judging by the blurb and cover I was expecting an original take on Snow White. This isn’t quite the case. There are elements of the beloved fairytale; we have the wicked stepmother and a child cast aside. The core of Boy, Snow, Bird is racism, ingrained fear of being hated that leads to trying to pass as white and the fear of something alien to us. If we don’t need to look directly at the object of our fear, hatred and confusion we can convince ourselves this isn’t real. Part of me wanted to hate Boy for her fear of Bird but I found myself able to sympathise with her. She was misled so she’s allowed to feel the way she does, just a little bit. I liked how the book has different narrators letting you get inside the head of different characters. Boy, Snow, Bird is incredibly sad at times. I found this hugely enjoyable, original and unmissable.