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Helen Oyeyemi: Making Gingerbread

Helen Oyeyemi is the author of the story collection What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours, along with five novels, most recently Boy, Snow, Bird, which was a finalist for the 2014 Los Angeles Times Book Prize. She was the recipient of a 2010 Somerset Maugham Award and a 2012 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. In 2013, she was named one of Granta's Best Young British Novelists.

Hear Oyeyemi discuss her bewitching and inventive new novel, Gingerbread with Jessica Johnson.

Perdita Lee may appear 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 Gretela--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 teenage Perdita's search for her mother's long-lost friend 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, Gingerbread is a true feast for the reader.

This event is free, but registration is required. Q&A and book signing to follow. Books available for purchase.