Double Consciousness in the Work of Helen Oyeyemi and Diana Evans

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United Kingdom, Women on 2010-03-25 18:19Z by Steven

Double Consciousness in the Work of Helen Oyeyemi and Diana Evans

Women: A Cultural Review
Volume 20, Issue 3 (December 2009)
pages 277-286
DOI: 10.1080/09574040903285735

Pilar Cuder-Domnguez, Associate Professor
University of Huelva, Spain

The first novels published by Helen Oyeyemi and Diana Evans feature twins of mixed-race parentage—a Nigerian mother and an English father—growing up in Britain. Eight-year-old Jessamy in Oyeyemi’s The Icarus Girl is unaware that she was born a twin, but on travelling to Nigeria she encounters TillyTilly, a troublesome girl she seems unable to shake off. Georgia and Bessi in Evans’s 26a are identical twins who share all their experiences until a visit to their mother’s homeland of Nigeria opens a breach in their perfect union. Both novels were published in 2005 and display certain commonalities of plot, characterisation, location and stylistic choice. Oyeyemi and Evans both explore Yoruba beliefs surrounding the special nature of twins—half way between the world of humans and gods. If one twin dies, parents commission a carving called ‘ibeji‘ to honour the deceased and to provide a location for their soul. The specialness attributed to twins by the Yoruba is compounded in both novels by the fact that they are mixed-race and by the diverging locations, cultures and languages of their parents. Thus, this article addresses how the two writers deploy Yoruba beliefs in order to raise questions about the cultural grounding of their characters’ identities, and how being twins becomes a metaphor for the ‘double consciousness’ of being black and British.

Read or purchase the article here.

Tags: , , , , ,