Title: White Is For Witching51ggkdnfrdl
Author: Helen Oyeyemi
Specs: 230 pages, hardcover
Publishing Information: Nan A. Talese (Doubleday Imprint), 2009

Diverse Elements: Written by a WoC featuring a mixed race protagonist (Haitian & European) with mental illness.  Major supporting characters are PoC, including an African housekeeper, a Middle Eastern girl, and an adopted young woman from Nigeria who is a lesbian.  Elements of juju included.

Miranda Silver (aka Miri) has pica, a rare eating disorder that makes her crave non-food items like chalk and plastic.  When her mother Lily dies unexpectedly on a trip to Haiti, Miranda and her twin brother Eliot handle this loss in dramatically different ways.

Miri’s pica problem explodes in the aftermath, and she is sent away to a clinic for treatment.  When she comes back to the family home, a Bed & Breakfast on the Dover coast of England, she is changed.  She sees this change as being “more perfect,” but those around her are concerned and almost threatened by it, helplessly watching as her illness leads her down the tunnel of madness.

Or is it madness, exactly?  After all, the family home, The Silver House, is not the father’s home, but his late wife’s Lily.  The house knows who belongs to it and who doesn’t, who it allows and who it won’t.  And when Miranda tries to extricate herself, the house makes a final stand that will change everything–forever.

What I Liked: This book!  Wow!  It was so confusing, but in the best way.  I thoroughly enjoyed not having a clue where it was leading, not knowing which characters were “good” or “evil,” not knowing if this is actually a ghost story or just a really spooky bad trip into the world of mental illness.  But as the book says, “Who do you believe?  Our talk depends upon the fact that you weren’t there and you don’t know what happened.”  Shivers of delight and terror.

What I Disliked:  Splitting hairs here.  The book has multiple POVs.  Eliot speaks first-person, Miranda speaks third-person, the Silver House speaks first-person.  In the second half of the book, another first-person narrator is added without warning which was a bit confusing.  But there were enough context clues added that I was able to figure it out in a few pages.

What I Loved:  I wrote a post a few weeks ago about what I love to read and want to find represented in diverse books.  This book checked all those boxes.  It’s spooky and maddening and heart-stopping.  It is NOT melodramatic.  It achieves its horrific nature by stating events and actions.  And every page brought me both closer to the truth and further from understanding.  This is the neo-Gothic masterpiece I was searching for.  And now I want to read ALL HER BOOKS.

Favorite Lines:
“Why do people go to these places, these places that are not for them?  It must be that they believe in their night vision.  They believe themselves able to draw images up out of the dark.  But black wells only yield black water.”

“(How excellent a body
that stands without a bone)”

“This house is bigger than you know!  There are extra floors, with lots of people on them.  They are looking people.  They look at you, and they never move.”

Why It’s Important: Speaking from a personal place here, until this book was recommended to me after the post I made, I really had no idea that a WoC had written a neo-Gothic novel of this caliber.  Whenever I’ve Googled “modern gothic books,” it’s always Rosemary’s Baby, The Night Circus, The Mists of Avalon, Interview With The Vampire, etc.  Not that these aren’t good books–I’ve read most of them and really enjoyed them.  But these lists do not include authors of color.  I’d never even heard of Helen Oyeyemi until I actively began seeking out diverse representation in literature.  So this book is really important to me because of two things:
it’s another example of how white authors get more “press time” and status in the publishing world;
2) it shows that authors of color write more than just “issue” or “political” or “activism” books (even though a little of that is in there because it’s pretty impossible to separate that out from one’s daily experiences, but it’s done in a way to add to the characters as dynamic and round people).

Recommended For: lovers of all things understated and terrifying; fans of Poe, Henry James, and Stephen King would love it.



If you have any other suggestions of books to read in this genre, comment and let me know!  If you’ve also read this book, tell me what you thought ^_^.