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Helen Oyeyemi and Stephen Sparks
March 15, 2019 @ 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm UTC+0
Helen Oyeyemi discusses her new novel, Gingerbread with Stephen Sparks.
The prize-winning, bestselling author of Boy, Snow, Bird and What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours returns with a bewitching and inventive novel.
Influenced by the mysterious place gingerbread holds in classic children’s stories—equal parts wholesome and uncanny, from the tantalizing witch’s house in “Hansel and Gretel” to the man-shaped confection who one day decides to run as fast as he can—beloved novelist Helen Oyeyemi invites readers into a delightful tale of a surprising family legacy, in which the inheritance is a recipe.
Perdita Lee may appear to be your average British schoolgirl; Harriet Lee may seem just a working mother trying to penetrate the school social hierarchy; but there are signs that they might not be as normal as they think they are. For one thing, they share a gold-painted, seventh-floor walk-up apartment with some surprisingly verbal vegetation. And then there’s the gingerbread they make. Londoners may find themselves able to take or leave it, but it’s very popular in Druhástrana, the far-away (or, according to many sources, non-existent) land of Harriet Lee’s early youth. The world’s truest lover of the Lee family gingerbread, however, is Harriet’s charismatic childhood friend Gretel Kercheval —a figure who seems to have had a hand in everything (good or bad) that has happened to Harriet since they met.
Decades later, when teenaged Perdita sets out to find her mother’s long-lost friend, it prompts a new telling of Harriet’s story. As the book follows the Lees through encounters with jealousy, ambition, family grudges, work, wealth, and real estate, gingerbread seems to be the one thing that reliably holds a constant value. Endlessly surprising and satisfying, written with Helen Oyeyemi’s inimitable style and imagination, it is a true feast for the reader.
Praise for What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours
“Magical and show stopping.” —Elle.com
“Oyeyemi so expertly melds the everyday, the fantastic, and the eternal, we have to ask if the line between ‘real’ and ‘unreal’ is murkier than we imagined—or to what extent a line exists at all. . . .The deeper one descends into the fabulist warrens of these stories, the more mystery and menace abound, and with each story I had the delightful and rare experience of being utterly surprised. . . .Transcendent.” —The New York Times Book Review
“It is, in a word, flawless. . . .Oyeyemi seems to be incapable of writing anything that’s not wholly original. . . .Oyeyemi manages to make the story both realistic and fantastical, and the characters are rendered with grace and compassion. . . .What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours is a lot of things: dreamy, spellbinding, and unlike just about anything you can imagine. It’s a book that resists comparisons; Oyeyemi’s talent is as unique as it is formidable.” — Michael Schaub, NPR
“Oyeyemi’s fictional world is scintillating and eccentric, an ‘implosion of memory,’ as one character puts it.”—The New Yorker
“What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours. . . boasts ambitious stories written masterfully by an adventurous author, and is another example of Oyeyemi’s skill at finding inspiration in the smallest and most ephemeral details.” —Women in the World, in association with The New York Times