Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

// don’t know if this book is in Oprah’s rebooted reboot of her book club, but Helen Oyeyemi is clearly aspiring towards a coveted position there. From the dumb-but-attempting-to-be-deep title to the overabundance of complex human issues, Boy, Snow, Bird essentially makes a parody of itself from trying too hard. Spoilers ahead, but go ahead and read anyway; knowing their nature will stop you from wasting your time.

Set in the 1950s, Boy Novak (who is a young woman) runs away from a troubled life with her single father, landing herself in Massachusetts. She finds herself a nice man from a wealthy family and gets hitched. The husband is widowed and has a daughter from his first marriage named Snow. Boy loves Snow, until Boy has a daughter of her own called – you guessed it – Bird.

This is where things get cumbersome. Bird’s is black, which comes to a shock to Boy, but not to her husband and his family. They are all black, but were light-skinned enough to pass in society so they went for it. Boy’s in-laws had one daughter who could not pass, so she was sent away, and it is suggested that the same be done with Bird. Boy sends Snow away instead. While I found the dynamics of this to be fascinating, Oyeyemi decides to switch gears and focus on Boy’s long-absent father instead. Mind you, this picks up years after this guy has even been mentioned. Snow is finally permitted home for Thanksgiving and Bird is a tween. Boy has a friend who is a reporter who randomly snoops on Boy’s upbringing to discover that Boy’s father is really a woman.

Yeah. There are so many places that I thought this story was going to go, but it didn’t. Oyeyemi drops her discussion of race relations to tackle gender inequality. That could work, but she does nothing to tie the issues together, instead crudely dropping both of them with a hit-and-run ending that left me scratching my head. Then I physically threw the book in the trash. I don’t throw away books, but I couldn’t bring myself to have this one on my shelf.


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