Author: Helen OyeyemiSummary: 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 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 breathtaking feats of imagination, Helen Oyeyemi confirms her place as one of the most original and dynamic literary voices of our time. ~powells.com
Publication Date: March 6, 2014
Genre: Fairy Tale
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Review: Boy, Snow, Bird is an expertly written novel that takes the fairy tale of Snow White and spins it 180 degrees. What if Snow wasn't as pure as the driven snow? What if the step-mother wasn't really evil? What if the truth is somewhere in between? Ms. Oyeyemi explores this and how a family deals with the issue of race within society and themselves.
This story belongs to both Boy and Bird, with Snow being both a catalyst and a symbol. Boy is somewhat of an enigma throughout the whole book and even at the end. She's aloof, cool and bit frigid. That doesn't mean I didn't like her because I did. I felt that when the story was told through her she was honest. Honesty doesn't always make you the most well liked person. You never really know what Boy's intentions are with Arturo. Does she truly love him? Does she know how to love? I never really figured it out.
Bird is a wonderful character. She's full of life and love and curiousity that will serve her well in life. She aspires to be a investigative reporter. What I find interesting is that in someways she is shunned by her own family but is embraced by the community. She is cautious to get to know her sister, Snow. Why was she sent away? What is it about Snow that people seem to revere here? Why is she treated like an artifact in a museum?
Snow remains an enigma for the whole novel. Is that the purpose? Yes. It makes us question if someone can be pure good or have they been put on a pedestal to suit the needs of the family? Is Snow adored because she doesn't show the family's true race? Are they proud to call her their own because she's so white? Is she symbolic of the pressure we put on black people to be more white? Maybe it doesn't speak to now but it certainly was true back in the 50s and 60s.
There are some loose ends that were never tied up or never fully came to fruition. What was the deal with the mirrors? Why drop the bombshell and not really do anything with it? Was the point to help us understand Boy and her upbringing? While I enjoyed the dropped bomb, I'm not sure if it helped me understand at all.
Ms. Oyeyemi writes a truly beautiful and lyrical novel. She weaves a story and pulls you into her spell and doesn't release you until the final word. I look forward