|Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-10-06 01:31Z by Steven|
Oyeyemi, Helen, Boy, Snow, Bird: A Novel (New York: Riverhead Press, 2014)
Oyeyemi’s fifth novel finds her treating the horrors of racism in 1950s America with gentle, magical style
Helen Oyeyemi, a Granta best of young British novelist, was born in Nigeria, grew up in London and has lived around Europe and North America. She specialises in unorthodox, freewheeling plots, rooted in myth and narrated in an innocent-seeming style. Her fifth novel is a historical narrative of American racism set in the 1950s and 60s.
At the start a woman named Boy Novak tells us how she ran away aged 20 from New York to escape her rat-catcher father, Frank, a drunk who beat her (her mother was absent). She pitches up in a small town in Massachusetts to marry a widowed jeweller and former historian, Arturo, who has a seven-year-old daughter, Snow, whose mother died after complications in childbirth.
The central crisis of the novel comes when Arturo has another daughter, with Boy – named Bird – and she is born dark-skinned. Arturo’s family accuse Boy of being unfaithful but the truth, as they all know, is that they have been passing for white. What follows is the painful background to that decision, as Arturo’s family recount the horrors of life in the south and their disappointed hopes for how things might improve when they moved north…
Read the entire book review here.