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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 357

This complex novel, presented in three parts, is set in Flaxill, Massachusetts. The main character is a white girl named Boy Novak. The novel explores race, racism, gender, and family relations through the lives of Boy and her family members. Boy narrates most of the novel.

When the novel begins, Boy lives with her abusive father, Frank, but she is determined to escape her miserable life. Frank is violent and volatile; he also catches rats for a living. (At the end of the novel, Boy discovers that Frank is actually her mother, Frances, who had decided to live as a man for years.)

Boy decides to take a bus to a small town, Flaxhill, where she begins her new life in a boarding house. Boy finds employment through different jobs and begins to date various men. She eventually meets and marries Arturo Whitman.

Arturo is widower and has one daughter named Snow. Arturo is jewelry maker who used to be a professor of history. Snow is very accepted and popular in the town.

Bird is the daughter of Arturo and Boy. While Snow is blonde and light-skinned, Bird is dark-skinned. Boy speaks with Arturo and inquires about his family legacy. She discovers that the Whitmans have strong African-American roots.

Eventually, Boy faces pressure to send Bird away to live with one of Arturo's sister (Clara) who is also dark-skinned and has been shunned by the family. However, Boy successfully resists such pressure and eventually sends Snow away instead. Arturo continues to favor Snow, and he visits her twice a month.

Bird narrates Part II of the novel, where readers find her trying to navigate the complex relationships of her family. Bird begins correspondence with her sister, Snow, in an attempt to learn more about their family dynamics. Bird finds that Snow continues to find preference among many. The sisters eventually find peace between them.

Mia is a journalist and friend of Boy; she investigates Boy's family background and discovers much about Boy's mother, Frances. Mia instigates the confrontations at Thanksgiving.

At a Thanksgiving gathering, the layers of family relationships, dynamics, and connections are explored, exposed, and acknowledged.


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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 200

Boy, Snow, Bird is a novel written by English author Helen Oyeyemi, and is somewhat based on the classic fairy tale Snow White. The story is set in the United States in the 1950s, and involves issues of race relevant to this time period.

Boy Novak is a young white woman who leaves her abusive household at the age of twenty. She marries Arturo Whitman, and has a daughter with him.

Arturo Whitman is a widower who marries Boy. He is the father of Snow, and eventually also the father of Boy's daughter, Bird. He and most of his family are African Americans that pass for white.

Mia is an investigative journalist who becomes friends with Boy.

Snow is the blond-haired, white-passing daughter of two white-passing African Americans, Arturo and his first wife Julia.

Bird is the daughter of Boy and Arturo, who does not pass for white, and is treated unfairly because of her "colored" features.

Clara is Arturo's estranged sister, who becomes Snow's caretaker for a while. She does not pass for white, and so was rejected by her family.

Olivia is Arturo's mother.

Frank is a transgender man who was originally called Frances, and Boy's abusive father.

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