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paradox_dragon ([personal profile] paradox_dragon) wrote in [community profile] 25book_pwd2011-03-08 04:27 am

White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi

This is one of the most haunting books I've read in a long time. [personal profile] zahrawithaz's review is what made me pick it up in the first place, and she says it all better than I can, but I definitely recommend the book. I'll be reading Oyeyemi's other work as soon as possible.

Miranda, the protagonist, has pica, a condition which causes her to eat chalk and other non-food substances in lieu of actual food (Just a warning: I can definitely see this book being triggering for people with ED). She also exhibits signs of mental illness and is institutionalized for a number of months. It's hard to critique the treatment of disability in the book, since it's all tied up in the horror story; Miranda's conditions, as well as her personality, are supernaturally influenced, and there's a certain monstrousness and otherness and victimization to her that would trouble me more in other circumstances. As it stands, I found the novel very compelling, and would recommend it.

On Oyeyemi:

Her back-story runs thus: born to teacher parents in Nigeria, her family moved to London when she was 4. Living on a council estate and discouraged from socialising with local kids, she read precociously and played with Chimmy, her imaginary friend, who “died” — hit by a car on Lewisham High Street while out buying a sausage roll — when Oyeyemi was 9. (“It was traumatic at the time, but seemed sort of suicidal on his part.”) School was difficult — disruptive behaviour and suspension dovetailed with bouts of clinical depression, culminating in an attempted overdose on pills at 15. After time spent with relatives in Nigeria, she began The Icarus Girl (involving a young British-Nigerian girl who encounters a secret companion), and earned a book deal with her first few pages, writing it on the sly while her parents assumed she was wrestling with A-level coursework.

And a quote from her:

“Female craziness is something I’m very interested in,” Oyeyemi says, “how it can manifest itself, what it means, what pressures force someone into these behaviours. I’m pretty much obsessed with madness.”

From The Times interview.

So, in conclusion: not unproblematic, but really fascinating; will read again.