Boy, Snow, Bird

Oyeyemi, Helen

Book - 2014
Average Rating: 3 stars out of 5.
Boy, Snow, Bird
"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."-- "A reimagining of the Snow White story set in the United States during the 1950s and 1960s"--

Publisher: New York :, Riverhead Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA),, 2014
ISBN: 9781594631399
Branch Call Number: FIC O
Characteristics: 308 pages ; 22 cm


From Library Staff

Comment by: BCD2013 May 06, 2014

Oyeyemi, named one of Granta’s Best Young British Novelists, reimagines the Snow White fairy tale as a story involving African Americans passing as white.

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Mar 22, 2015
  • brangwinn rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Oyeyemi has created a book that combines reality with fairy tales and at times, they clash and at times they meld together. It is difficult to discuss this book without giving away key elements of the novel. An abusive parent forces Boy to flee New York City for the small town of Flax Hill in New England. Read with an open mind being aware continually that truth shifts and nothing is as it seems. This original story will stay will you after you’ve read it, for you’ll be thinking of all the threads that ravel in this story of very original characters

Jan 24, 2015
  • Ravenya03 rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

Anyone who thinks this is a retelling of the Snow White fairy tale (as I've seen it described multiple times) is going to be disappointed. This is a novel *inspired* by Snow White, but following no familiar plot trajectory.

Set predominantly in 1950s America, the book focuses on the lives of three women and the nature of beauty as it exists in black, white and mixed race individuals. What better fairy tale to base all this on than the one whose heroine's beauty is quite literally exalted in the whiteness of her name?

Boy Novak plays the role of the Wicked Stepmother (such as it is), a young white-haired woman who flees an abusive father for the New England town of Flax Hill, where her new friends eventually introduce her to Arturo Whitman. He's a widowed father with a little girl called Snow, the apple of her extended family's eye. She's adored by everyone who meets her – save Boy, who is a little unnerved by the child and the veneration in which she's held.

She marries Arturo and all seems well until she gives birth to their first child. It's only then that she realizes her husband's family have been keeping a secret from her: that they are light-skinned African-Americans passing as white, and newborn Bird is a genetic throwback to their forebears.

What follow is an exploration of the family's dynamics and how they're shaped and challenged by race.

Helen Oyeyemi is a beautiful writer, creating two distinct voices for Boy and Bird, and scattering her prose with insights that are moving, profound or funny. That said, it's not perfect. The conclusion in particular does not *end* so much as it *stops* – so abruptly that I was flicking through the final blank pages, searching for more.

I enjoyed it, though it's certainly not going to appeal to everyone - particularly not those searching for a straightforward Snow White retelling.

Nov 19, 2014
  • foxylady31 rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

Very confusing due to it was hard to know who was narrating the story most of the time--Boy or Bird or Snow. Also the "Boy" section is so full of her unhappiness and guilt .. To my feeling Bird was the strongest of the three. The ending was unrealistic to my taste.

Aug 28, 2014
  • KateHillier rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

I'm not even sure if I know where to start with this one. The first mistake that's probably made here is the heavy emphasis in marketing that this is a retelling of Snow White. Bare elements are present but disguised so anyone expecting a modern retelling is probably going to leave disappointed.

Boy (who is a girl) flees from her abusive father and starts up from scratch in a different town in a different state. She eventually marries and becomes step mother to a girl named Snow, who is just pleased to have a mother and Boy enjoys hanging out with her. When Boy gives birth to her own daughter, Bird, who is of a noticeably darker complexion the family is upset that they could now be outed as people of colour when they were passing for white all this time. This takes place in the 50s and 60s by the way.

I feel like the book tries to take on race and identity but there are just too many symbols and not enough punch to make any of it stick. The writing to me seems delicate. There's obvious lots of time and care put into the words on the page but if you're not careful with your reading you could shatter it. I am curious to read anything else by the author, I will say that.

The ending revelation also seems a bit hurried and tacked on to me. It sort of explains some bits of the plot, and also a few of the magical realism bits, but it just doesn't seem to belong there anyway.

Interesting read, glad I read it, but probably not something I plan to revisit.

Aug 09, 2014
  • Theresa M Lotz rated this: 1 stars out of 5.

I. Couldn't make heads or tails of this story. It was all over the place. Very confusing

Jul 30, 2014
  • BookluvrShPk rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

Interesting read. Storyline seemed disjointed and sometimes confusing. Had to re-read sections to figure out what perspective was being addressed.

Jul 07, 2014

A patron review from the Adult Summer Game: "Great book! Intriguing and well-spun storyline. Definitely shows that the author has lots of creativity and imagination."

May 14, 2014
  • gvlee rated this: 2 stars out of 5.

Supposedly a twist on Snow White, this tale has almost no bearing on the fairy tale. This story is about Boy, a white woman who sends away her beautiful white looking stepdaughter, when Boy's own baby is born looking black. The story is told incoherently and the few references to the Snow White fairy tale just confuse matters. The "ending" is deeply unsatisfying and there is no resolution to the story. I strongly do not recommend this book.

May 10, 2014
  • shannon40 rated this: 1 stars out of 5.

Great writing. Illogical plot (if you can even call it a plot). There is a story waiting to be told about the culture of light-skinned African-Americans during the 1930-1960 period. This isn't it.

May 06, 2014

Oyeyemi, named one of Granta’s Best Young British Novelists, reimagines the Snow White fairy tale as a story involving African Americans passing as white.

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Oct 02, 2014
  • baretta rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

We live in a little suburb called Twelve Bridges....People don't make too much money around here, but what comes with that is a different definition of what it means to be well-off. You're chairman of the board if you need twelve dollars a week and you make twelve dollars a week. If you've also got someone within ten minutes' walk who can make you laugh and someone else within a five-minute walk who can help you mourn, you're a millionaire. If on top all that you've got a buddy or three who'll feed you delicious things and paint you pictures and dance with you, and another friend who'll watch your kids so you can go out dancing...that's the billionaire lifestyle.


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