Boy, Snow, Bird: 3


This one was unsettling. It was also, again, dazzling: family, skin color, sisters, fairy tales, snakes, gender, generations.

Here are a few passages, so you might get a sense of the range:

“Where does character come into it? Just this: I’ve always been pretty sure I could kill someone if I had to. Myself, or my father: whichever option proved more practical. I wouldn’t kill for hatred’s sake; I’d do it only to solve a problem. And only after other solutions have failed. That kind of bottom line is either in your character or it isn’t, and like I said, it develops early.”

(Oyeyemi, p. 7)

“Bird enjoys the stealthy company of the spiders, and in all other respects her room is tidy. Her mom has asked her if she thinks she’ll continue to enjoy the stealthy company of the spiders after one of them has taken a bite out of her, and Bird answers: ‘We’ll see.’ In the evening, when the street lamp just outside Bird’s window switches on, the gray cobwebs quiver and glow around the blue moons. It’s the kind of view that Bird doesn’t mind risking a spider bite for. Back when she used to say bedtime prayers, right after she’d prayed for her mom and her dad and her grandparents and the Chens and Aunt Mia and Snow and anybody who was sick or in trouble, or all alone, Bird would throw in seven words for herself: Let spiders spin webs in my hair.

(Oyeyemi, p. 178)

“A week later Dad made another trip to Boston and brought me back a gift from Snow– a small, square, white birdcage with a broken door. I hung the cage from the ceiling and watched it swing, and I was happy. I can’t explain, maybe it isn’t something that needs explaining, how the sight of a broken cage just puts you up on stilts. The promise that the cage will always be empty, that its jailhouse days are done.”

(Oyeyemi, p. 199)


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