This week, I'm getting really pumped about a mature re-imagining of a classic story, transplanting a well-worn fairy tale into 1950s suburbia, called Boy, Snow, Bird, by Helen Oyeyemi, set to be published March 6th.
The story follows ex-New Yorker Boy Novak as she fruitlessly searches for the kind of beauty that she couldn't find in the big city - or in any other place, for that matter - until she lands in a small town in Massachusetts. Once there, she quickly falls for a widower, and suddenly finds herself the new stepmother to young, beautiful Snow Whitman. However, in a new and dramatic twist on the classic tale of crippling disgust for an aesthetic aberration on the part of an evil stepmother, Boy's condemnation of her new family stems from the birth of her own daughter with distinctly dark skin... resulting in the revelation that the Whitmans themselves are actually light-skinned African Americans, only passing themselves off as white to survive in the heated social scheme of mid-century East Coast life. This is the 1950s, and America is far from colorblind, but Boy has to look deep into the mirror for herself to figure out how much reflection really matters.
Why I'm excited?Um, if you know me, then you definitely know that fairy tales? They're my jam. And not just the Disney version... I 4.0'd my class last quarter on Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales without bothering to go to half of the actual classes (and if you don't think that stuff is dark enough for you, go look up "The Story of a Mother." Seriously, I dare you). I feel like Oyeyemi is reinventing the fairy tale in such a revolutionary way here, by harkening back to the darkness of "Snow White" in a way that's totally modern, calling out the horrifying aspect of violent familial aversion through the scope of one of the darkest periods of America's sucky track record for social equality.
Also, it's supposed to be beautifully written, and I believe it. Helen Oyeyemi is a British-raised, Nigerian-born novelist and playwright whose take on the subject will be very noteworthy, I can just feel it.
What novels are you waiting on this Wednesday?