Helen Oyeyemi

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Helen Oyeyemi
Born Helen Olajumoke Oyeyemi
December 1984 (age 30)
Occupation Novelist
Genre Fiction

Helen Olajumoke Oyeyemi (born 10 December 1984) is a British novelist.[1]

Oyeyemi wrote her first novel, The Icarus Girl, while still at school studying for her A levels[2] at Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School. While studying Social and Political Sciences at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, two of her plays, Juniper's Whitening and Victimese, were performed by fellow students to critical acclaim and subsequently published by Methuen.

In 2007 Bloomsbury published Oyeyemi's second novel, The Opposite House, which is inspired by Cuban mythology.[3][4]

In 2009 Oyeyemi was recognized as one of the women on Venus Zine’s "25 under 25" list.

Her third novel, White is for Witching, described as having "roots in Henry James and Edgar Allan Poe" was published by Picador in May 2009. It was a 2009 Shirley Jackson Award finalist and won a 2010 Somerset Maugham Award. A fourth novel, Mr Fox, was published by Picador in June 2011.[1]

In 2013 she was included in the Granta Best Of Young British Novelists list.[5]

Oyeyemi is serving as a judge for the 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize.[6]

Oyeyemi is a lifelong Catholic who has done voluntary work for CAFOD in Kenya.[7]

Boy, Snow, Bird[edit]

Oyeyemi's fifth novel, Boy, Snow, Bird (Picador, 2014), is her first since being named to the Granta list. Set in segregated Massachusetts and New York's Lower East Side in the 1950s, the plot is rooted in the Snow White tale, and takes whiteness and 'passing' for white as central themes, blending contemporary concerns like racial and gender identity with reinvigorated myth. The New York Times called it "gloriously unsettling".[8] Fairytales, for Oyeyemi, "have this really weird logic: the kind of logic that you only really experience when you’re not feeling very well, or as a child. There is an amorality that I find quite absorbing, so I like to take the pieces apart and put them back together in my own way."[9]



  • The Icarus Girl (2005)
  • The Opposite House (2007)
  • White is for Witching (2009)
  • Mr Fox (2011)
  • Boy, Snow, Bird (2014)[1]


  • Juniper's Whitening
  • Victimese


  1. ^ a b c Quinn, Annalisa (7 March 2014). "The Professionally Haunted Life Of Helen Oyeyemi". NPR. 
  2. ^ Jordan, Justine (11 June 2011). "Mr Fox by Helen Oyeyemi – review". Guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 30 January 2012. 
  3. ^ "Oyeyemi's 'Opposite House'". NPR. 26 June 2007. 
  4. ^ D'Erasmo, Stacey (27 February 2014). "Helen Oyeyemi's 'Boy, Snow, Bird' turns a fairy tale inside out". The Los Angeles Times. 
  5. ^ Granta.com
  6. ^ "The Giller Prize expands its jury to five people ", The Globe and Mail, 14 Jan 2015.
  7. ^ Cafod.org.uk
  8. ^ Khakpour, Porochista (Feb 27, 2014). "White Lies: 'Boy, Snow, Bird' by Helen Oyeyemi". The New York Times Sunday Book Review. The New York Times. Retrieved 9 April 2015. 
  9. ^ Nicol, Patricia. "Helen Oyeyemi’s Boy, Snow, Bird challenges notions of race and beauty". metro.co.uk. Metro. Retrieved 9 April 2015. 

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