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What is Not Yours is Not Yours
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What is Not Yours is Not Yours

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  8,715 ratings  ·  1,454 reviews
The key to a house, the key to a heart, the key to a secret—Oyeyemi’s keys not only unlock elements of her characters’ lives, they promise further labyrinths on the other side. In “Books and Roses” one special key opens a library, a garden, and clues to at least two lovers’ fates. In “Is Your Blood as Red as This?” an unlikely key opens the heart of a student at a puppetee ...more
Hardcover, 325 pages
Published March 8th 2016 by Riverhead Books
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Nenia ✨ Queen of Literary Trash, Protector of Out-of-Print Gems, Khaleesi of Bodice Rippers, Mother of Smut, the Unrepentant, Breaker of Convention ✨ Campbell It's a collection of short stories. It's difficult to explain since each story is so different, but each character is seeking something that may be…moreIt's a collection of short stories. It's difficult to explain since each story is so different, but each character is seeking something that may be beyond their reach (hence the title, maybe). Many of the characters are LGBT or people of color, too, which is also cool. It's an interesting collection!(less)
Sara I also have a paper copy, but in addition to June's response: Tyche shows up in "sorry doesn't sweeten her tea" as well, and Aisha & Day are in…moreI also have a paper copy, but in addition to June's response: Tyche shows up in "sorry doesn't sweeten her tea" as well, and Aisha & Day are in that story plus "the homely wench society". Radha and Myrna are also in "presence" and "homely wench."
Also Myrna is not a puppet; maybe June was thinking of Rowan?(less)

Community Reviews

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3.63  · 
Rating details
 ·  8,715 ratings  ·  1,454 reviews

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Some writers sideswipe you below the knees and knock you over. There you lie, breathless, with the world looking strange and incomprehensible, until you realize it's pretty amazing seeing ordinary things become extraordinary. That's as close as I can come to describing the experience of reading Helen Oyeyemi. I love her reliance on stories within stories which take her work to unexpected and untamed places. She seduces you so that when you finish reading you surface someplace unexpected that you ...more
Taryn Pierson
Sep 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Reading Helen Oyeyemi is like working out with a friendly but very aggressive personal trainer. At some point, you’re going to find yourself splayed out on the mat, panting like an animal and protesting that it’s too hard, you can’t do one more set. And then she'll blow her whistle in your face and cheerfully scream at you to get a move on.

In much the same way as a good, hard workout eventually leads to an endorphin-fueled breakthrough, Oyeyemi’s short stories eventually clarified for me, and w
The short stories in this collection are inherently weird, but Oyeyemi makes it work with her transformative, deeply moving, and well-crafted style. These are stories about a variety of characters—from different backgrounds, religions, ethnicities, sexualities—and I loved how certain characters were woven into each other's lives. Recognizing a character in a newly told tale and feeling connected to them for having known other parts of them in a previous story was the best feeling. And also impor ...more
Helene Jeppesen
This was my first read by Helen Oyeyemi, and it was definitely an interesting one. However, I must admit that her way of telling a story doesn't appeal strongly to me. Her stories are all entwined in some way, so that characters from one story suddenly appear in another, and that part was fine with me. It was the fact that her stories are quite messy and confusing that I didn't really like. I'm okay with open endings - I actually prefer them to closed endings - but I don't like it when the story ...more
Jan 28, 2016 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: fans of obtuse poetry, puppeteers, locksmiths
One astonishing, gulp-it-down, re-read it for deeper truths story ('books and roses', the opener) then just a long, slow ride of WTF? and thoughts of "what am I missing?" told in beautiful but impenetrable prose. Phrases caught me repeatedly (although none that feel shareable out of context), but overall I just didn't have the key to this house. (You'll get the reference if you've read it.)

I received an advanced reader's copy of this title from the publisher in exchange for an
Mar 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016, short-stories

3.5 Stars

Weird, sometimes wonderful, but… just as often crazy-weird, as in if she was sitting across from me telling me these stories, I would either suspect she had taken some magical mystery tour courtesy of Timothy Lear’s medicine cabinet, or she needed drugs of another kind.

“books and roses” – This was my favorite, and the reason I kept reading the remainder of the stories. What’s not to like about a story including a mysterious library and a locked garden?

“A library at night is full of so
Jul 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
congratulations! semifinalist in goodreads' best fiction category 2016!

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books and roses

"sorry" doesn't sweeten her tea

is your blood as red as this?



a brief history of the homely wench society

dornička and the st. martin's day goose

freddy barrandov checks ... in?

if a book is locked there's probably a good reason for that don't you think
Feb 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
Helen Oyeyemi may be one of the most imaginative writers working today so it is no surprise that her story collection astounds and amazes. Using the metaphorical (and often literal) conceit of keys, the stories tackle themes of discovery, connections, and belonging.

The first story – my personal favorite – is entitled Books and Roses and reveals Ms. Oyeyemi at her finest. It begins (as do many in this collection) as a fabler: “Once upon a time in Catalonia a baby was found in a chapel.” As the st
Sep 30, 2016 rated it it was ok
Gave up. Really sorry, book clubbers. But, I'm gonna die one day, and I just can't waste my precious reading time on stuff that's trying so painfully hard to be weird and shocking.
Feb 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
bigarurre: "a medley of sundry colors running together" and/or "a discourse running oddly and fantastically, from one matter to another"

I was mesmerized by Oyeyemi's dizzying imagination from the start. Her stories flow seamlessly and morph into unexpected shapes within the turn of a sentence. You come to think you're reading about an abandoned baby left at a monastery, but by then you're following the life of a laundress, getting lost in a library where books whisper and rustle in the night, an
Mar 03, 2016 rated it liked it
3.5 stars rounded down to 3.

A somewhat mixed but still magical bag from Helen Oyeyemi. Although her prose is memorable and unparalleled and her ability to craft a story is a thing of wonder, there's always a severe degree of disconnect from her narrative that keeps the reader from being fully immersed - something where the pieces are all there on the page, all the key elements of a good story, but it leaves me wanting something more, a more tangible way of understanding the motives of her charac
I love, love, loved Mr. Fox. I did not love this one quite as much, but I did like it quite a bit. It's about the ghosts of connection and missed opportunities and prejudice and metaphors that are more real than reality. It's about people who love shadows, people who are trying to understand and getting in their own way, people who can't quite trust and are eaten up inside. It's got modern issues without ever being about "modern life" in an annoying way, it stays mythic and has a wide ranging le ...more
Nenia ✨ Queen of Literary Trash, Protector of Out-of-Print Gems, Khaleesi of Bodice Rippers, Mother of Smut, the Unrepentant, Breaker of Convention ✨ Campbell

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There are two kinds of literature in the world: the kinds that make sense & the kinds that don't. In recent years, the kind of literature that don't make sense have become popular, lining the shelves in hipster bookstores, as devoted hipster-lit aficionados have long arguments about "what the author really meant." (And don't tell me that Helen Oyeyemi isn't hipster-lit, because I was in a hipster bookstore recently, & she had an ent
Doug Bradshaw
Apr 25, 2016 rated it liked it
This is a collection of short stories, each with interesting and somewhat magical settings that are refreshing and fun to read. However, I found myself a little lost in some of the stories wondering how I missed a turn here and a clue there, and my biggest problem with the tales is that they didn't end with quite the umph I imagined or wanted.

A few concepts that describe some of the action: puppets that come alive, orphans left with benefits, evil rulers, female lovers, magical lands, dreams tha
Tiffany Reisz
May 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
These were some weird ass stories. I like weird.
Oh wow, how I love Helen Oyeyemi's writing. Her novels are like labyrinths: disorienting and a little scary, but they leave you with such a charming impression that you'll always remember them once you're finished. The same goes for these short stories, and although I didn’t love all of them, I did find them hard to forget.

In What is Not Yours is Not Yours you’ll find a collection of stories wherein a variety of characters – from different ethnicities, sexualities, religions – are all searchi
Lucy Banks
Feb 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

4.5 stars

An engrossing, often elusive collection of short stories...

I'd heard great things about this book, so was very excited to hear that I'd received a copy. I wasn't quite sure what to expect though; some reviewers raved about it, others seemed a little baffled, so my curiosity was piqued!

My opinion? Oyeyemi is a highly original writer, and I love the fact that she's uncompromising. She doesn't simplify things f
Three stars isn’t a bad rating and this isn’t a bad short story collection, but I have to say, I’m disappointed. I knew that I liked Helen Oyeyemi’s writing going into this (and I still do!), plus, the blurb sounded super intriguing and all the right people (aka people whose opinions I trust) liked it – all of this combined and I had very high expectations going into this collection. And while there were some pretty great stories, quite a few of them left me more confused than anything else. I d ...more
I mostly enjoyed this collection of stories, all of which feature locks and keys (although I'm not sure I actually noticed that myself ...), and all of which contain some speculative or magical realism element. Many of the stories have the same characters popping up on the edges, so they're all in the same universe. I did enjoy seeing how characters from one story were viewed by the main character of another story.

However, while I found these all gripping and incredibly well-written, at the sam
Arielle Walker
This gorgeously undulating collection of stories sits somewhere on the edges of this world, where magic exists unquestioned and unexplained, lurking horrors softened by the veil between reality and fantasy and always overcome - just like the old fairytales. These could even be new fairytales, for all that they disregard the tropes of Masculine and Feminine segregated into clearly defined roles. There is even a retelling, of sorts, of Little Red Riding Hood - though the wolf is not a wolf and Red ...more
You told me about how stories come to our aid in times of need. You'd recently been on a flight from Prague, you told me, and the plane had gone through a terrifyingly long tunnel of turbulence up there in the clouds. "Everyone on the plane was freaking out, except the girl beside me," you said. "She was just reading her book--maybe a little bit faster than usual, but otherwise untroubled. I said to her: 'Have you noticed that we might be about to crash?' And she said: 'Yes I did notice that act
Read By RodKelly
Mar 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-owned
Alright...I'm a legitimate fan now!

Boy, Snow, Bird is the only other work of hers that I've read and it left me sort of indifferent and slightly put off. This collection takes all of the whimsy and unpredictable elements of that novel and the result is a beautiful and playful mess of storytelling that impressed me from the first story to the last. Oyeyemi's writing is pure joy, and enchantment; surprise and haze; clarity and impressionism. You can NEVER predict where the stories will go; they ne
Nusrah Javed
Mar 21, 2016 marked it as abandoned
Disclaimer: Do not let this somewhat of a review stop you from trying this. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the writing or the book in fact, the abandoning is a consequence entirely of my own tastes.

I couldn't do it. In the beginning I was intrigued but six stories in and I was just left scratching my head. I cannot take it! I CANNOT! This is for sure the last of Oyeyemi's work I am going to try.
I found these stories difficult, enthralling, fairy-tale-like, and haunting. Whether it's a group of puppeteers and their life-like (just "like"?) puppets or a husband and wife trying out a new way of invoking the missing or dead, each story is a jewel, hard and glittering. Some were less enchanting than others but all were interesting and of value. I got a little weary at times of the fairy tale tone which is why I'm rating 4 stars instead of 5. 4.5 would probably be most accurate. I loved Oyey ...more
Feb 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
By just a few pages into the first story, I was reminded again of how much I love Oyeyemi's fabulous storytelling style. I'm generally not a fan of short stories and, though I've read a few collections, I often don't make it all the way through a book of short stories because I get too bored with them or the quality varies too much between stories. Not so with Oyeyemi's collection. Each story is meaty enough to feel completely satisfying; I love that she weaves a couple of common themes through ...more
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
This is a lovely book of short stories: they are often surreal and occasionally baffling, but nonetheless beautiful. Oyeyemi’s free-flowing imagination results in a wholly original collection of stories: one never knows what will happen next, or what byways the story might take us down before the end. Locks and keys are a recurring motif, but not the only commonality – six of the nine stories are set in contemporary England, and characters from earlier stories regularly reappear. This isn’t your ...more
Mar 10, 2016 rated it liked it
Το What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours είναι από εκείνα τα βιβλία που μπήκαν στην λίστα μου αυθωρεί, παίρνοντας την σειρά άλλων με τσαμπουκά. Έπεσα πάνω σε σχόλια που διάβαζα διαγώνια και που μετέφεραν με ομοφωνία έναν ενθουσιασμό άκρατο: μια νέα φωνή που πρέπει να την ακούσεις. Ευφάνταστη, καλλίγραφη, γυναικεία, αλλά με πυγμή που φέρνει τα πάνω-κάτω στην μιρκή φόρμα.


Λοιπόν, όχι τόσο καλά. Όχι τόσο όσο περίμενα. Δεν είναι πως οι υποσχέσεις ήταν αβάσιμες. Η φαντασία υπάρχει και με το παραπάνω,
Apr 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant. Allusive and elusive. Oyeyemi's writing here has refined and smoothed—the flashy pyrotechnics of White is for Witching and condensed beyond even Mr Fox into a deeper, more internal power of story, dream, desire. Need to ruminate on higher meaning here, if there is any beyond the title and: keys open locks.
May 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
Enchanting, Impressive, Wonderful, Incredible and Super Weird.
books and roses - 3.5/5 stars
'sorry' doesn't sweeten her tea - 4/5 stars
is your blood as red as this? I: (no) - 3.5/5 stars
II: (yes) - 3/5 stars
drownings - 4/5 stars
presence - 4/5 stars
a brief history of the homely wench society - 4/5 stars
dornicka and the st martin's day goose - 3.5/5 stars
freddy barrandov - 3/5 stars
if a book is locked there's probably a good reason for that, don't you think - 4/5 stars
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
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  • By Light We Knew Our Names
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  • Silver Threads (Memory House #5)
  • Spirits Abroad
Helen Oyeyemi is a British novelist. She lives in Prague with an ever-increasing number of teapots, and has written eight books. Her novel Gingerbread will be out in early 2019...
“It was the usual struggle between one who loves by accepting burdens and one who loves by refusing to be one.” 41 likes
“A library at night is full of sounds: the unread books can't stand it any longer and announce their contents, some boasting, some shy, some devious.” 26 likes
More quotes…