Boy Snow Bird

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Boy Snow Bird

by Helen Oyeyemi

Penguin Canada | March 4, 2014 | Trade Paperback

Boy Snow Bird is rated 2.5556 out of 5 by 9.
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 lightskinned  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.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 320 pages, 8.23 × 5.62 × 0.87 in

Published: March 4, 2014

Publisher: Penguin Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0143187430

ISBN - 13: 9780143187431

Found in: Fiction and Literature
When was the last time you read a book that made you want to call a friend and insist they read it, not just because it was a fantastic read, but because you absolutely, immediately needed someone you could talk to about it? Boy, Snow, Bird is that book. Helen Oyeyemi’s new novel is a fascinating, brilliant, and surprisingly charming story of a mother and two daughters struggling to invent themselves while fumbling and failing to understand each other. Boy is the mother, a woman with nerves of cold steel, Snow is the beautiful, enigmatic step-daughter, and Bird is the precocious, dark-skinned child whose birth reveals the mixed-race heritage her family worked so hard to hide. Together Boy, Snow, and Bird tell a story that echoes Snow White, full of mirrors and masks, jealousy and suspicion, and all the ways we hide from ourselves. It’s a relentlessly original re-imagination, a matryoshka doll of a book with truths nesting inside lies, and characters who reveal themselves momentarily before Oyeyemi wraps them in another layer of mystery. Boy, Snow, Bird is not a book you’ll be able to keep to yourself. It’s a stunning puzzle that will leave you thinking, sharing, and talking – it is a book that refuses to let go of you.

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Reviews

Rated 2 out of 5 by from Not worth the read This book was recommended by so many people and was on the bestseller list that I decided to give it a try. I didn't find the book to be engaging enough. My interest was lost very easily and it was such a boring read. I would not recommend.
Date published: 2014-07-31
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Mediocre Story, hollow characters I bought this book based on the great reviews and was excited to read it. My excitement faded throughout the novel. The storyline had great potential, yet the characters were barely developed. It was difficult to understand the motivations of the character's actions because I didn't "know" them. They were merely shells to me. I was happy to see that something big happened in the final act; however, it so was rushed that it let me waiting for more detail and explanation.
Date published: 2014-06-30
Rated 1 out of 5 by from SueA One of the worst books I have ever read, skipped 75% of it and had a hard time getting through the remaining 25%. A friend warned me that it was not good but thought I'd try reading it anyway, big mistake.
Date published: 2014-06-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Heather's reads bought this as a gift for my sister. So many people have said it was a good read. It's different from others and has come highly recommended from many people
Date published: 2014-05-29
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Very Disappointing! Each year my book club and another comes together to read and share our thoughts on one book, this year we chose Boy, Snow, Bird. The description and synopsis sound so wonderful, I really looked forward to this book and so wanted it to be good. However I found the story and the writing difficult to follow. It is not my style to be so negative, but this not only gets a thumbs down from me but of the twelve of us only 2 marginally liked it. I would recommend anyone considering this to pass on it.
Date published: 2014-05-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Almost fabulous I read some wonderful reviews and was eager to dive in to what promised to be a gratifying read. The first two parts did not disappoint. Elegantly written, original, and thought-provoking, Oyeyemi's story of Boy, Snow, and Bird had me captivated. Sadly, the final Act felt hastily thrown together and poorly resolved. What could have been an interesting layer to the stories of these generations of women felt more gratuitous than enriching. After such a rich, enjoyable start, the book left me feeling disappointed and somewhat cheated. Overall, Boy, Snow, Bird is worth the read.
Date published: 2014-04-28
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Great premise, but didn't like the main character The premise of the book was very appealing to me, a white woman marries a man who appears to be white and then gives birth to a coloured daughter. Lots of possibilities begging to be explored. Unfortunately, I didn't like the main character Boy Novak. Beyond being pretty and fair, there just wasn't anything to her. I couldn't relate to her in any way. She had no convictions, nothing that she believed in , nothing she championed, nothing to like about her. She was just as transparent as the mirrors and shiny surfaces she kept gazing into. Boy's in laws were only concerned with image, what other people saw them as. Not my kind of people in the least. So very careful about everything they did so as not to rock the false boat that they found themselves living in. I can understand why they choose to live that way, but to not have included Boy in their secret, that was wrong. I did enjoy the character of Bird. She seemed like a delightful child who was able to be herself, though she was conflicted by the obsessions of her family. Of all the people in the book, she struck me at the one most capable of being truly happy. I do think that I would have enjoyed this book more if I'd been reading it with a group and been able to discuss the whats and whys and the historical context of the events. It would be a wonderful selection for a book club.
Date published: 2014-04-24
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Looked interesting. Too long, too detailed, boring. Sorry.
Date published: 2014-04-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A book that refuses to let go When was the last time you read a book that made you want to call a friend and insist they read it, not just because it was a fantastic read, but because you absolutely, immediately needed someone you could talk to about it? Boy, Snow, Bird is that book. Helen Oyeyemi’s new novel is a fascinating, brilliant, and surprisingly charming story of a mother and two daughters struggling to invent themselves while fumbling and failing to understand each other. Boy is the mother, a woman with nerves of cold steel, Snow is the beautiful, enigmatic step-daughter, and Bird is the precocious, dark-skinned child whose birth reveals the mixed-race heritage her family worked so hard to hide. Together Boy, Snow, and Bird tell a story that echoes Snow White, full of mirrors and masks, jealousy and suspicion, and all the ways we hide from ourselves. It’s a relentlessly original re-imagination, a matryoshka doll of a book with truths nesting inside lies, and characters who reveal themselves momentarily before Oyeyemi wraps them in another layer of mystery. Boy, Snow, Bird is not a book you’ll be able to keep to yourself. It’s a stunning puzzle that will leave you thinking, sharing, and talking – it is a book that refuses to let go of you.
Date published: 2014-03-03

– More About This Product –

Boy Snow Bird

Boy Snow Bird

by Helen Oyeyemi

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 320 pages, 8.23 × 5.62 × 0.87 in

Published: March 4, 2014

Publisher: Penguin Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0143187430

ISBN - 13: 9780143187431

Read from the Book

***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof.*** Copyright © 2014 by Helen Oyeyemi1 Nobody ever warned me about mirrors, so for many years I was fond of them, and believed them to be trustworthy. I’d hide myself away inside them, setting two mirrors up to face each other so that when I stood between them I was infinitely reflected in either direction. Many, many me’s. When I stood on tiptoe, we all stood on tiptoe, trying to see the first of us, and the last. The effect was dizzying, a vast pulse, not quite alive, more like the working of an automaton. I felt the reflection at my shoulder like a touch. I was on the most familiar terms with her, same as any other junior dope too lonely to be selective about the company she keeps.Mirrors showed me that I was a girl with a white-blond pigtail hanging down over one shoulder; eyebrows and lashes the same color; still, near-black eyes; and one of those faces some people call “harsh” and others call “fine-boned.” It was not unusual for me to fix a scarf around my head and spend an afternoon pretending that I was a nun from another century; my forehead was high enough. And my complexion is unpredictable, goes from near bloodless to scalded and back again, all without my permission. There are still days when I can only work out whether or not I’m upset by looking at my face.I did fine at school. I’m talking about the way boys reacted to me, actually, since some form of perversity caused me to spend most lessons pretending to a
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From the Publisher

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 lightskinned  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.

About the Author

H elen Oyeyemi  is the author of five novels, most recently White Is for Witching, which won a 2010 Somerset Maugham Award, and Mr. Fox, which won a 2012 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. In 2013, she was named one of Granta’s Best Young British Novelists. She lives in Prague.



 

Editorial Reviews

“Helen Oyeyemi is one of the few storytellers who seems on intimate terms with the language of myth, swims in it with apparent ease, and teases exciting possibilities from the old stories with her hypnotic command of prose.” - Globe and Mail“Oyeyemi is hugely talented, as fearless as she is funny.” - Toronto Star“Another potent and vividly written tale by Helen Oyeyemi.” - NOW Magazine“Oyeyemi wields her words with economy and grace, and she rounds out her story with an inventive plot and memorable characters.” - Publishers Weekly (starred review)“Oyeyemi has fully transformed from a literary prodigy into a powerful, distinctive storyteller…. Transfixing and surprising.” - Entertainment Weekly“The outline of [Oyeyemi’s] remarkable career glimmers with pixie dust…. Her latest novel, Boy, Snow, Bird, continues on this bewitching path … the atmosphere of fantasy lingers over these pages like some intoxicating incense…. Under Oyeyemi’s spell, the fairy-tale conceit makes a brilliant setting in which to explore the alchemy of racism, the weird way in which identity can be transmuted in an instant—from beauty to beast or vice versa.” - The Washington Post“Oyeyemi’s writing is gorgeous and resonant and fresh … Charm is a quality that overflows in this novel, and it works under its best definition: as a kind of magical attraction and delight. Oyeyemi casts her word-spell, sentence by sentence, story by story, and by the end, the oppressive lair has opened up into a shimmering
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Bookclub Guide


 
1.       Helen Oyeyemi’s novel Boy, Snow, Bird was inspired by the story of Snow White but ultimately takes the imagery from that famous fairy tale in a direction of its own to explore big ideas not just about beauty, but also race, gender, and identity. How did you approach the novel? What drew you to it? Were the storytelling elements or themes that kept you reading the same ones that brought you to Boy, Snow, Bird in the first place? Did your perception of the story change as you read it?
 
2.       Stylistically, Oyeyemi mixes social history and everyday reality with fable, folklore, and magic realism, allowing them to collide. Discuss the use of these different elements and the overall effect of their combination.
 
3.       Helen Oyeyemi carefully works through various arguments that might be made about “passing” as white. What are some of those arguments? What do you think about the Whitmans decision to pass and the way they go about it? Is passing dishonest if it isn't an active decision?
 
4.       Consider Boy’s initial reactions to Snow. Why is she drawn to her? How does their relationship change once Boy marries Snow’s father? How does it change after Bird is born?
 
5.       When Boy sends Snow away, what is her motivation? Who is she doing this for? Snow? Bird? Boy? Why? Do you see her decision as an act of love or cowardice? Is she treating Snow cruelly or is she showing compassion for Bird?
 
6.       This is a novel inspired by the fairy tale, not a retelling. Where do you see the influences of the Snow White tale? Which characters, which plot points? Where does it differ? Did the moments of similarity or divergence surprise you?
 
7.       The original Snow White story, like most fairy tales, has a clear villain. Is the same true of Boy, Snow, Bird? Do you see Boy as a villain, in the wicked stepmother role? Or Boy's abusive father? Or even Snow?
 
8.       We read Boy and Bird’s perspectives, but we never hear directly from Snow. Did you miss hearing her perspective? Why do you think it was omitted? What do you think her own story might tell us?
 
9.       The book ultimately asks: what is it that identifies us racially? Is it our color? Our genes? Our history? Our culture? Having now read the book, how would you answer this question?
 
10.   Mirrors figure prominently in the story, as they do in Snow White, but Oyeyemi uses them differently and takes the idea of doubles and reflection much further. Consider all the different ways she uses the idea of reflection and mirrors. Which example struck you as most powerful?