Boy, Snow, Bird

Helen Oyeyemi's readers have come to expect the unusual from her--rendered in virtuoso prose. Boy, Snow, Bird delivers once again, though it is in many ways more down-to-earth than her previous offerings. While it has surreal fairy-tale echoes, as well as some nearly implausible plot twists, Boy, Snow, Bird feels like a venture into more mainstream accessibility. In Mr. Fox, Oyeyemi reconfigured the tale of Bluebeard; here she takes on Snow White, cleverly weaving together the "white" obsession inherent in the well-known story to explore questions of identity, specifically with regard to race and gender.

Set in 1950s America, much of Boy, Snow, Bird is narrated from the perspective of Boy Novak, a pale blonde girl from New York City. Boy flees the city to escape her abusive father, and the random bus she boards takes her to Flax Hill, Mass. Soon she meets the symbolically named Arturo Whitman, and his stepdaughter, Snow.

When Boy and Arturo have a child, his secret (and the irony of his last name) is revealed. Questions of identity whirl about in the events that unfold--in the character of Bird, their free-spirited, dark-skinned daughter; in Snow and her enigmatic appearance of perfection; and in Boy herself, whose behavior toward Snow shows all the markers of the wicked queen from the fairy tale. But like all the characters in Boy, Snow, Bird, Boy's identity is mercurial, ever-changing; she retains a choice until the end as to what she will ultimately become. --Ilana Teitelbaum, book reviewer and author

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