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Boy, Snow, Birdby Helen Oyeyemi
Synopses & Reviews
Named one of 2014's most anticipated books by CNN, The Huffington Post, Bookpage, Time.com, The Chicago Tribune, Vulture, Philadelphia Inquirer, Real Simple, The Millions and Flavorwire
From the prizewinning author of Mr. Fox, the Snow White fairy tale brilliantly recast as a story of family secrets, race, beauty, and vanity.
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 Whitmans 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 breathtaking feats of imagination, Helen Oyeyemi confirms her place as one of the most original and dynamic literary voices of our time.
"The latest novel from Oyeyemi (Mr. Fox) is about a woman named Boy; her stepdaughter, Snow; and her daughter, Bird. Set in the 1950s Massachusetts, the novel is a retelling of the 'Snow White' tale that plays on the concept of 'fairest of them all,' complete with mirrors as a recurring motif. The story begins with Boy's headlong escape from her abusive father in New York City. She washes up in a small New England town where she meets Arturo Whitman, a widower who becomes her husband. When their daughter, Bird, is born, she is noticeably 'colored,' though her half-sister, Snow (Arturo's daughter), appears not to be. Boy, who is white, discovers that her husband's family are African-Americans passing as white. Snow is sent away to be raised by an aunt, and the book's middle section is narrated by Bird, who is as whip smart, wry, and irresistible as Boy. Oyeyemi wields her words with economy and grace, and she rounds out her story with an inventive plot and memorable characters." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“With her fifth novel, 29-year-old Helen Oyeyemi has fully transformed from a literary prodigy into a powerful, distinctive storyteller…[Boy, Snow, Bird is] transfixing and surprising.” Entertainment Weekly
“The outline of [Oyeyemi's] remarkable career glimmers with pixie dust....Her latest novel, Boy, Snow, Bird, continues on this bewitching path…the atmosphere of fantasy lingers over these pages like some intoxicating incense….Under Oyeyemis spell, the fairy-tale conceit makes a brilliant setting in which to explore the alchemy of racism, the weird ways in which identity can be transmuted in an instant — from beauty to beast or vice versa.” Ron Charles, The Washington Post
“By transforming ‘Snow White' into a tale that hinges on race and cultural ideas about beauty — the danger of mirrors indeed — Oyeyemi finds a new, raw power in the classic. In her hands, the story is about secrets and lies, mothers and daughters, lost sisters and the impossibility of seeing oneself or being seen in a brutally racist world….[Oyeyemi] elegantly and inventively turns a classic fairy tale inside out.” Los Angeles Times
“Oyeyemi is something rare — a born novelist, who gets better every book. Boy, Snow, Bird is an enchanting retelling of Snow White that mixes questions of beauty and vanity with issues of race.” Cosmopolitan
“[Boy, Snow, Bird] explores powerful themes, such as self-perception, race relations, and the role appearance plays in relationships.” Real Simple
“Riveting, brilliant and emotionally rich…with fully realized characters, startling images, original observations and revelatory truths, this masterpiece engages the readers heart and mind as it captures both the complexities of racial and gender identity in the 20th century and the more intimate complexities of love in all its guises.” Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Helen Oyeyemi is a freaking genius. Her books are so bizarre and brilliant….Write this one down somewhere you'll remember — like your forehead — because you don't want to miss it.” Bookriot
“Boy, Snow, Bird is Helen Oyeyemi's fifth novel, and it just might be her finest. It's certainly her most readily accessible….How [her characters] try and tragically fail to relate to one another proves particularly powerful, as exemplified by the perversely gratifying last act…I couldn't have stopped reading at this point if I'd wanted to.…[A] beautiful book.” Tor.com
About the Author
Helen Oyeyemi is the author of five novels, most recently White Is for Witching, which won a 2010 Somerset Maugham Award, and Mr. Fox, which won a 2012 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. In 2013, she was named one of Granta's Best Young British Novelists.
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