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The Icarus Girl: Helen Olajumoke Oyeyemi

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Source: newbooksmag.com

 

“Writing a sentence makes me happy! Writing a whole novel makes me anxious.”

Helen Oyeyemi

[caption id="attachment_5720" align="aligncenter" width="198"]Source: fictionwritersreview.com Source: fictionwritersreview.com[/caption] Early Life Born 10th December, 1984 in Nigeria, she moved to London with her parents when she was 4 years old (1988). Helen was raised on a council estate in Lewisham, London, and she wrote her first novel, The Icarus Girl (2005), while still in school studying for her A levels at Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School before her 19th birthday. While studying Social and Political Sciences at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, two of her plays, Juniper's Whitening and Victimese, were performed by fellow students and were later published. white is for witching In 2007, Helen’s second novel, The Opposite House, was published; two years later, her third novel, White is for Witching (2009) was published in May. The novel was a 2009 Shirley Jackson Award finalist and it won a 2010 Somerset Maugham Award. Her fourth novel, Mr Fox, was published in June 2011; and in 2013 she was included in the Granta Best of Young British Novelists list.   DID YOU KNOW THAT… 1.      Helen moved out of London, after she was assaulted in broad daylight at a park; she moved to Cambridge, then South Africa, New York, Paris, Toronto, Washington, Prague and Berlin; today she’s still looking for a homeland. 2.      Oyeyemi wrote her first novel, The Icarus Girl (2005) to avoid revising for her A Levels.; which she has identified as her most explicitly autobiographical work. 3.      Oyeyemi is a lifelong Catholic who has done voluntary work for The Catholic Agency For Overseas Development (CAFOD) in Kenya. 4.      Helen has expressed interest in teaching fiction writing in America; as a result, she applied for the revered Creative Writing programme at New York’s Columbia University. 5.      Her fourth novel, Mr Fox (2011) took two years to write; while she was living in Paris. 6.      Mr Fox is loosely based on the French folktale "Bluebeard," about an aristocrat who seduces, marries and kills his wives. 7.      In December 2007, Helen abruptly left her Masters in Creative Writing programme at New York’s Columbia University, as she said it interfered with her writing style. 8.      As a young girl, Helen battled depression, and she tried to commit suicide by overdosing on pills, at the age of 15. 9.      Helen’s mother is an employee of the London Underground and her father is a supply teacher. 10.  Helen can’t bear to watch horror films, but she loves gothic literature, delivered ‘in little doses, skilfully done.11.  She graduated from Corpus Christi College, Cambridge with a second class honours degree. 12.  Helen spent five months in 2006 in Paarl, a village outside Cape Town, volunteering at a centre for children born with HIV. 13.  While she was secretly writing the novel that would become The Icarus Girl, she sent 20 pages to an agent she found in the phone book, he’s remained her agent till date. 14.  Helen started writing short stories when she was 13 years old. 15.  The Opposite House (2007), Helen’s second novel’s title was taken from Emily Dickinson’s poem ‘There’s been a Death in the Opposite House’ and each chapter heading is a reference to the poet’s work. [caption id="attachment_5723" align="aligncenter" width="400"]Source: wikipedia.org Source: wikipedia.org[/caption] Helen Oyeyemi's next novel, Boy, Snow, Bird, will be published in 2014.   By Olusola Agbaje

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