Gingerbread by Oyeyemi and Food Stories that Aren’t About Food

Helen Oyeyemi’s Gingerbread has the literary strengths of Boy, Snow, Bird, but the madcap, quirky, otherworldliness of Terry Pratchett. In the story, a young British girl, Perdita, make amazing, awesome gingerbread and they might not be of this world.

This book is much anticipated. Oyeyemi is a PEN open book award winner. And, the book holds up to the buzz. It is terribly enjoyable, in the way of a buddy, roadtrip movie. This book feels like a short jaunt. At moments, I found myself chuckling out loud, like when a gingerbread shiv is mentioned.

This book, like Boy, Snow, Bird, has a linguistic simplicity that lulls the reader into the world. While Oyeyemi’s story lack the creepiness of Murakami, the sparseness of her language as well as the way her story slips between our reality and a different one is similar to the Japanese writer. In gingerbread, Oyeyemi takes a classic of English youth, and with a twist of her pen, or her wrist at the typewriter, subverts it.

What are some other books about food that aren’t about food?

  • The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray: I have only read the preview at First to Read, but this book seems to speak to the ways that food and feminity intertwine powerfully, emotional, and irrevocably. (Amongst other issues.)
  • An Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood: Like Gray’s book in some ways as it deals with the challenges of being a woman in young adulthood in our society. This was one of my favorite books in my early twenties, as the protagonist was my age. I still vividly remember the feelings of camaraderie with the MC.
  • Sourdough by Robin Sloan: About the same length as Gingerbread, Sloan’s book also presents a world nearly like ours. The foodstuff in Sloan’s book is magical sourdough.
  • The Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust: I read this book in a fit of youthful stupidity. I wished I had waited to enjoy the book. His meditation on a madeleine became much more interesting to me years later when I used to make them for my daughters. Perfection is hard to achieve, if not impossible. But, striving for the impossible is human.
  • The Monk of Mokha by Dave Eggers: I got to see Eggers speak about this book and taste the Yemeni coffee. Eggers is a wonderful writer, anyway, but this story with its central success is particularly compelling.

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