Monday 27 December 2010

Helen Oyeyemi - a young Deptford writer

More on the theme of random 'South-East London' connections...

© Sarah Wood
I came across this young Deptford author who everyone but me has probably heard about. A 2009 Times online interview includes this bit of intriguing detail:

"Oyeyemi is not weird. Nor is she haunted. Her back-story runs thus: born to teacher parents in Nigeria, her family moved to London when she was 4. Living on a council estate and discouraged from socialising with local kids, she read precociously and played with Chimmy, her imaginary friend, who “died” — hit by a car on Lewisham High Street while out buying a sausage roll — when Oyeyemi was 9. (“It was traumatic at the time, but seemed sort of suicidal on his part.”) School was difficult — disruptive behaviour and suspension dovetailed with bouts of clinical depression, culminating in an attempted overdose on pills at 15. After time spent with relatives in Nigeria, she began The Icarus Girl (involving a young British-Nigerian girl who encounters a secret companion), and earned a book deal with her first few pages, writing it on the sly while her parents assumed she was wrestling with A-level coursework. She studied social and political sciences at Cambridge and wrote The Opposite House (involving a pregnant Afro-Cuban singer from London, and featuring Yoruba folklore."

There's a short story published here at the New Statesman. She writes with a highly personal, internal voice which draws you in very quickly. I think the The Icarus Girl has to go on the reading list...

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