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What is Not Yours is Not Yours

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3.64  ·  Rating details ·  10,911 ratings  ·  1,779 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 Villainy ⚔️ 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 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 that s…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)

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Average rating 3.64  · 
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Taryn
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
...more
Anmiryam
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
Lala BooksandLala
Apr 01, 2019 rated it liked it
Some stories were great. Some, confusing.
Michael
Aug 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, favorites
Strange and surreal, What is Not Yours is Not Yours provokes thought and amazement at every turn. Across nine loosely interlocked tales a wide cast of characters, mostly queer and of color, navigate an alternate reality full of fantasy, violence, and desire. Teenaged puppeteers rapidly fall in and out of love with each other, a tyrant tries to literally drown out dissent in his kingdom, a son frets over taking his father’s place as maintenance man at a labyrinthine hotel. All the pieces are satu ...more
Nat
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
Velma
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.)


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I received an advanced reader's copy of this title from the publisher in exchange for an
...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
Zara
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.
karen
Jul 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
congratulations! semifinalist in goodreads' best fiction category 2016!

 photo IMG_9111_zpsax0todxe.jpg

books and roses

"sorry" doesn't sweeten her tea

is your blood as red as this?

drownings

presence

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
...more
Cheri
Mar 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories, 2016

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
...more
Jill
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
...more
Ioana
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
...more
Kelly
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
Scarlet
3.5

I am so conflicted about this book. My overall impression is positive because Oyeyemi has one hell of an imagination and writes like a master storyteller. Yet there were many instances when I felt hopelessly lost. Each story has a strong start, is wonderfully absurd and rich in details, but the endings are too vague. Most stories don't even end really - they veer off into tangent after tangent, then meander into nothingness. It's like watching someone swim around in circles for a long time be
...more
Nenia ⚔️ Queen of Villainy ⚔️ 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 entire d
...more
Suzanne
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
...more
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
...more
Karen Brown
May 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
So impressed with Oyeyemi's writing. One of the strongest short story collections I've read in a while. Enjoyed her previous book, "Boy, Snow, Bird" and will place all of her future work on my TBR list. Highly satisfying read.
Read By RodKelly
Mar 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Amanda
Oct 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audible
4.5 stars

Short stories and collections are not usually my jam but these are wonderful, entertaining and completely not what I was expecting. Helen Oyeyemi successfully mixes folklore, fairy tale, and modern life to create stories that are engaging, weird, and at the same time address very current issues of race, gender, identity and family. The story within a story structure works really well and showcases Oyeyemi's writing talent. I now want to read everything she has written!
Ellie
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
Puck
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 searc
...more
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
...more
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
Eilonwy
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
...more
Lotte
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
imts
Dec 25, 2016 rated it liked it
"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."

This book is... rather hard to rate, honestly. There were some parts that I liked, some that flew way over my head, even if I read them thrice over, and some I couldn't stand. Keys form a great portion of this book, and leave the reader wondering whether using a key to unlock a secret is a good thing, or if ignorance really is bliss. I think I'll l
...more
·Karen·
Sep 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-of-2019
A wild and exceptional talent, untamed and richly imaginative.
Julie
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
...more
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.
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3,569 followers
Helen Oyeyemi is a British novelist. She lives in Prague with an ever-increasing number of teapots, and has written eight books so far.

Articles featuring this book

The imaginative author of Boy, Snow, Bird returns with a new collection of interlocking stories, What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours, about the power an...
16 likes · 10 comments
“It was the usual struggle between one who loves by accepting burdens and one who loves by refusing to be one.” 48 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.” 31 likes
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