Book Review: Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

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Rating: 3.5/5

This is the third book by Oyeyemi I have read, and it was definitely the easiest to follow (not to say that I didn’t enjoy her others for their wackiness – Mr. Fox was especially experimental and fun). Oyeyemi tells the story of 3 women; Boy Novak, her step-daughter Snow and her biological daughter Bird. Boy escapes the abuse of her father, the Rat Catcher, and travels to a small town in Massachusetts where she marries a man with a daughter, Snow, and becomes pregnant with her first child. We are under the impression at this point that Boy is a blonde-haired Caucasian woman, and that her husband is also Caucasian. When the child is born, however, the baby is dark skinned. Without spoiling anything for you (the write up I read in advance of reading revealed these details), it turns out the man Boy married is a light-skinned African American whose family has been passing for white for generations. The birth of a dark-skinned child changes how they are viewed by others, and how they view their own skin colours.

There is an element of fairy tale in Boy, Snow, Bird that Oyeyemi has interpreted in her own marvelous way, bringing the story of the evil step mother into a more contemporary setting. Boy pushes Snow away from her family and prevents Bird and Snow from becoming acquainted as the sisters that they are. In the later sections of the book they explore their relationship and become close despite Boy’s hesitations. In the end there is an unexpected and slightly out of place twist that is left unresolved, which is what held me back from really loving this story all the way to the end. But I did thoroughly enjoy Oyeyemi’s writing, as I always do, and liked the characters that she built in this story. She tackles some complex issues regarding race and gender which I thought was great, even if they were explored in slightly flawed ways. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to readers who haven’t yet read any Oyeyemi, and think it is a good place to start before delving into her back catalogue. She is definitely an author I will always look forward to releasing new works!

Book Review: Ruby by Cynthia Bond

imageRead for: Black History Month

Rating: 4/5

Oprah has rebooted her book club after the original format ended in 2011 after running for 15 years. The new club, dubbed Oprah’s Book Club 2.0, began in 2012 but has only selected a paltry 4 titles since then (June 2012, December 2012, January 2014 and now February 2015). I don’t watch Oprah, and admittedly am wary when I find a book with the Oprah stamp on the cover… but I found myself drawn to this selection for a variety of reasons regardless of the Oprah endorsement; Cynthia Bond is an indie writer. She is also a “she” AND is a Woman of Colour. All good things, particularly since Oprah fell firmly into a pattern of white male authors that was fairly irksome given she is a strongly influential WOC herself. Between 2004 and 2011 she included ZERO female authors, and of the numerous male writers she featured only 3 were POC (People of Colour). Womp womp.

So RUBY happened. And oh my goodness does this book ever pack a punch! I am wholly blown away by this literary debut. Ruby tells the story of a woman living with demons, literally, in the South during the 50’s and 60’s. Ephram is a young man who meets Ruby and wants to take care of her in a world where men repeatedly victimize her and the women turn a scornful eye to her suffering. This book ain’t for the faint of heart as there are very graphic depictions of abuse and violence, including violence against children, which may leave readers feeling nauseated. It was a gritty, hard hitting story but I enjoyed it so so much. There are elements of the supernatural that in my mind push this story into the magical realism genre (a genre I love) but with very real depictions of life for POC in the South. There is an interview over on Oprah’s site where Bond explains that she was inspired by the murder of her Aunt in East Texas by the KKK. She also speaks about the ability for anyone to heal the pain that has been inflicted on them, as she experienced in her 15 years as a social worker. The way Bond has built her characters and reflected on how childhood trauma affects survivors in their adult lives is so very powerful and clearly reflects on her time working with traumatized individuals, as well as her own experiences of abuse as a child. I’m not even sure what else to say, I’ve been rendered speechless for the most part. This book is a massive accomplishment for Bond and is destined to be a classic.

New Additions to the House

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The living room is starting to look lived in! We went to Target to see what they had available for their liquidation/close out sale. We did manage to find lots of nice stuff for the house (though lots of people have been complaining that there’s “nothing left”, I’m not sure what they are talking about??) including a super cheap rug, side table, pair of large cushions, geometric vase, curtains and bedding. Adding some cool colour to the living room has really helped to tone down the yellowness of the floor and sunlight – bonus that it’s technically an outdoor carpet so hopefully it will be more durable with all the animals running around on it.

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I Finally Did Some Sewing

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On Monday we gathered a sweet pile of fabrics from Value Village, and yesterday I made a ton of cushion covers! Suze “helped” too.

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Thrifting: Mega Haul

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Yesterday we went into Nanaimo to do some shopping for the house. Our shopping days are few and far between now, but there are some things we need for the house… boring grown-up things like tea towels, napkins and place mats, fresh towels and sheets that actually match. We both had the day off so we headed over to check out Value Village and the liquidation sale at Target (all their locations are closing, Canadians just don’t care about Target apparently haha)

We got some nice stuff at Target that I’ll post about separately, but the biggest scores were made at good ol’ VV. In fact, it was arguably our most successful trip housewares-wise, and definitely the best scores we have gotten at the Nanaimo location, which is to be honest pretty dismal. Lookit all the stufffffffff…

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