Boy, Snow, Bird - Helen Oyeyemi

I tore through this book and then took quite some time to attempt to process it.  In the end I think the best that I can do is to recommend reading this book.

The story could be historical fiction, it could be fantasy, but I think classifying it as one thing is limiting.  It starts in 1953 and within a fairy tale laced framework explores race, gender, and the things people didn't talk about except behind closed doors.  With a step-daughter named Snow and the focus on aesthetics, the connection to Snow White is easy to make, but it's not as simple as a re-telling of that well known story.

I'm not used to reading stories that tackle the issue of racism so close to where I live, and I think that's unfortunate.  I live in a region with a reputation for being progressive, but sometimes that just means prejudice is better hidden.

This exquisite book is definitely worth reading.

Discussion Fodder

  • What fairy tale elements did you notice in the story?  How do they effect the plot and narration?
  • Is Boy Novak an "evil stepmother" (or is someone else)?  What do you think of her choices and outlook on life?  What roles does appearance (and appearances) play in her life?
  • What do you make of the Whitman clan?  Their takes on race and passing?  
  • What do you think about Arturo and his jewelry?
  • How is race discussed in this book?
  • What do you make of Snow?  Of Bird?
  • Mirrors play a prominent role in both this book and in fairy tales.  What role(s) do they play here?
  • Is the Rat Catcher "under a curse"?  Clearly his life has been shaped by trauma, but were the curse to be broken, would the Rat Catcher remain Boy's father or transform into her mother?