Received a copy of Boy,Snow,Bird By Helen Oyeyemi through the First Reads Giveaway
1933 Lower East Side Manhattan- This is a story of a little girl named Boy who decides one day to leave the life of an abused caucasian child in search of beauty and freedom at a boardinghouse for coloured woman in Massachusetts. In this story their are racial dynamics that are rarely contemplated let alone written about within literary fiction. The writing is highly imaginative, elegant, resonant, and its innovation goes beyond the realms of my bookshelves. This book was so compelling that upon completion I had to reread some of the earlier passages to reaffirm my comprehension. This story as a rehashing of some of fairy tales more important symbols is magically realistic. While reading at times the references to tokens of enchantments seem a little forced eventually it all comes together harmoniously.
"You don't return people's smiles- it's perfectly clear to
you that people can smile and smile and still be villains."
Ultimately I believe this story to be based on perception vs. reflection vs. reality and the strive for objectivity. Throughout this story these themes seem to manifest with respect to a characters insecurity, vanity or shame. One instance of misunderstanding happens when a character is reflecting on the fact that after a period of unhappiness she is transfixed by the fact that she can smile again. The other character perceives this as vanity when in reality the character wants to understand all the mental and physical feelings involved with how a smile emanates from dormancy.
Another object of reality found in the lead family is that of interracial prejudices. Darker shades of pale, different shades of black. The underlying but pronounced feeling of "colourism" within the Whitman family is one that should not be taken lightly by the reader. Although less prevalent in the 20th century the idea that lighter is treated more favourably than darker exists in this story.
"Vanity is the handmaid of the devil."
Fairy Tales are regarded as an efficient demonstration in moral values for educating the youth of the world. This story being best suited for adults could be regarded in the same vein. Philosophers view fairy tales as a way of espousing lies and enabling a harmful way of affecting the way a child views the real world. From my perspective it is a perfect way to educate them in a way that is not so plain or ordinary. Think of the literary equivalent of blending broccoli into a tomato sauce to ensure the consumption of nourishing vegetables. Brain food and they didn't even realize. Boy,Snow,Bird reinforces the power of magical realism in the way readers gain a better understanding of racial problems.
One aspect of the book that I disliked was that of the very leading conclusion. I understand when author's let the audience draw their own conclusions, but if their was ever a novel that required more it was Boy,Snow,Bird. Their is a general consensus fluttering around in my head but it never settles due to the unanswered questions. Of course it definitely adds to the mysticism and maybe my lack of knowledge and experience with fairy tales is rearing its ugly head, but I would have liked a little bit more, just a tiny bit more...pleeeeeaaaassssseeeee.
I recommend this book to people that enjoy a socially conscious and challenging read to upset the queue in your next "to read" contemplations. This will not be like many books you have read and requires a narrow focus but wide perspective.Enjoy!!!!