Black History Month: Helen Oyeyemi

Black History Month: Helen Oyeyemi

Helen Oyeyemi is the black British author of The Icarus Girl, a critically acclaimed novel she wrote as a teenager studying for her A levels. She is without doubt a young black British talent of note.

The Icarus Girl tells the story of Jessamy or, “Jess” Harrison, an eight-year-old girl who is half Nigerian and half English living in the UK. Jessamy has a wonderful imagination but struggles to fit into her society, to school. When she goes to Nigeria for the first time she meets TillyTilly, a young street girl. The story is an imaginative, disturbing tale of dealing with being cross-cultured. Nigerian mythology, psychosis, and dealing with the stresses and tribulations of being a young mixed-race child in the UK. Helen Oyeyemi presented a vivid, striking novel to great acclaim.

Her second novel  The Opposite House, was is inspired by Cuban mythology , while her third, White is for Witching, was described as having “roots in Henry James and Edgar Allan Poe. It was a 2009 Shirley Jackson Award finalist and won a 2010 Somerset Maugham Award. Her fourth came out in 2001 , entititled Mr Fox, followed by a fifth, Boy, Snow, Bird in 2011, a magical, inventive story about a boy Novak who arrives in a town in Massachusets, marries a local widower and his daughter, both black but struggling to live as white. Boy becomes stepmother to his difficult daughter, Bird.

Described as one of the most original and dynamic literary voices of our time, Helen deserves to be highlighted and recognised for such magical achievements And we can’t wait for the rich, creative promises to come from this young talented black UK writer.

photo credit: Numero Cinque Magazine


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