What a gorgeous, sad, amazing book.
Helen Oyeyemi has twisted the Grimmest version of Snow White – emphasis on twisted.
The story takes place in America, in the time of segregation in the south, Vietnam, the civil rights movement. When Boy Novak, a nordic blonde (fairest of them all) with a troubled past leaves New York behind for small town life, she meets and marries a local widower, becoming stepmother to his daughter, Snow. It is only when Boy gives birth to her own daughter, Bird, who is born with brown skin, that she (and the rest of the town) discover that the Whitman family are light-skinned African Americans, who have been passing for white, and the prejudice and turmoil barely concealed beneath the surface of the town and family come to light.
Oyeyemi plays with appearance, perception, and prejudice through the whole story, and does a masterful job of it. Although the story is dark, it is ultimately hopeful, and definitely worth reading. I highly recommend this fantastic piece of writing. Read it when you have some quiet time, so that you can really focus on the beauty of the writing, and the absorbing plot. Give yourself time to contemplate the concepts. I am itching to find someone else who has read this so we can discuss it – it would be a perfect book club pick. The themes of appearance, beauty, perception are very much in tune with so much of what is happening in the world today. I loved this.
Happy (introspective) reading.