What's in a Page: Helen Oyeyemi on her fantastical family novel Gingerbread
Helen Oyeyemi‘s new book Gingerbread is nothing like how it sounds. At first glance, it would be reasonable to assume that it’s a quaint novel about a homey holiday carb. And the early chapters seem to lead the reader to believe that — it follows a multi-generational family as seen through the lens of their inherited affinity for gingerbread. But it quickly evolves into a fantasy about a mythical country and the family’s roots.
Oyeyemi has made a name for herself in spinning classic tales in modern ways (in 2014 she famously retold the Snow White story in Boy, Snow, Bird), and Gingerbread is currently enjoying placement as March pick at Belletrist — Emma Roberts’ book club. Below, Oyeyemi fills EW in on her writing routine and what you should know about Gingerbread.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What is the first thing — ever — that you remember writing?
HELEN OYEYEMI: I think it was either a breathlessly derivative tale based on ‘What Katie Did’, or something featuring characters from the Chalet School book series.
What is the last book that made you cry?
Elizabeth Taylor’s Mrs. Palfrey At the Claremont.
What is your favorite part of Gingerbread?
The final two chapters.
Which book is at the top of your current To-Read list?
Deaf Republic by Ilya Kaminsky.
Where do you write?
In bed, usually!
Which book made you a forever reader?
I’m going to pick the book (more the curation of writings, really) that was probably the first I read and re-read in puzzlement and wonder: All those stories crammed with blinding light and dark, echoing strangeness…anyway, it was the Old Testament.
What is a snack you couldn’t write without?
There is no snack I can’t write without. ::hides honey butter chips::
What was the hardest part to write in Gingerbread?
Really it was all equally difficult to do. And enjoyably so.
If you could change one thing about any of your books, what would it be?
It’s too late for all that, so I don’t dare fantasize in this way.
If Gingerbread had a movie poster tagline, it would be:
Only for the Faint of Heart.