Second-Generation Nigerians in England: Helen Oyeyemi’s The Icarus Girl (2005) and the Negative Experience of Hybridity

  • Maximilian Feldner
Part of the African Histories and Modernities book series (AHAM)


Several novels of the Nigerian diaspora revolve around the experiences of children who have to negotiate their hybrid identities that result from both British and Nigerian cultural influences, hybrid identities that are experienced as negative and accompanied by psychological problems. Discussing Helen Oyeyemi’s The Icarus Girl (2005), this chapter charts the young protagonist’s attempts to come to terms with the various racial and continental influences that she is exposed to. The novel itself is an example of hybrid literature, elaborately layered and informed by a mixture of English and Nigerian cultural references and employing different discourses, including Western psychology, Yoruba folk traditions, and postcolonial ghost stories.


  1. Adebayo, Diran. 1996. Some Kind of Black. London: Virago Press.Google Scholar
  2. Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. 2009. Half of a Yellow Sun [2006]. London: Harper Perennial.Google Scholar
  3. Bhabha, Homi K. 2004. The Location of Culture [1994]. London/New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  4. Boehmer, Elleke. 2009. Achebe and His Influence in Some Contemporary African Writing. Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies 11 (2): 141–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bryce, Jane. 2008. “Half and Half Children”: Third-Generation Women Writers and the New Nigerian Novel. Research in African Literatures 39 (2): 49–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cole, Teju. 2012. Open City. London: Faber & Faber Ltd.Google Scholar
  7. Cooper, Brenda. 2008. Diaspora, Gender and Identity: Twinning in Three Diasporic Novels. English Academy Review 25 (1): 51–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Evans, Diana. 2006. 26a [2005]. London: Vintage.Google Scholar
  9. Freud, Sigmund. 1993. Das Unheimliche. In Der Moses des Michelangelo. Schriften über Kunst und Künstler, 135–172. Frankfurt am Main: Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag.Google Scholar
  10. Habila, Helon. 2007. Measuring Time. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  11. Hron, Madelaine. 2008. “Ora Na-Azu Nwa”: The Figure of the Child in Third-Generation Nigerian Novels. Research in African Literatures 39 (2): 27–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Mafe, Diana Adesola. 2012. Ghostly Girls in the “Eerie Bush”: Helen Oyeyemi’s The Icarus Girl as Postcolonial Female Gothic Fiction. Research in African Literatures 43 (3): 21–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Morrison, Toni. 2005. Beloved [1987]. London: Vintage Books.Google Scholar
  14. Okojie, Irenosen. 2015. Butterfly Fish. London: Jacaranda.Google Scholar
  15. Okri, Ben. 1992. The Famished Road [1991]. London: Vintage.Google Scholar
  16. Ouma, Christopher. 2014. Reading the Diasporic Abiku in Helen Oyeyemi’s The Icarus Girl. Research in African Literatures 45 (3): 188–205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Oyeyemi, Helen. 2005. The Icarus Girl. London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  18. ———. 2007. The Opposite House. London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  19. ———. 2009. White Is for Witching. London: Picador.Google Scholar
  20. ———. 2012. Mr Fox. New York/London: Picador.Google Scholar
  21. ———. 2014. Boy, Snow, Bird. London: Picador.Google Scholar
  22. ———. 2015. What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours. London: Picador.Google Scholar
  23. Quayson, Ato. 2006. Fecundities of the Unexpected: Magical Realism, Narrative, and History. In The Novel. Volume 1. History, Geography, and Culture, ed. Franco Moretti, 726–756. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Selasi, Taiye. 2013. Ghana Must Go. London: Viking.Google Scholar
  25. Stouck, Jordan. 2011. Abjecting Hybridity in Helen Oyeyemi’s The Icarus Girl. Ariel 41 (2): 89–112.Google Scholar
  26. Sullivan, Joana. 2006. Redefining the Novel in Africa. Research in African Literatures 37 (4): 177–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maximilian Feldner
    • 1
  1. 1.University of GrazGrazAustria

Personalised recommendations