What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours, by Helen Oyeyemi


Four stars, read in November 2016.

This ended up being my choice for fiction for the Goodreads Choice Awards. 

I am still a little torn because I loved this book, and I didn’t understand itnot all of it, anyway, and it’s hard for me to not be able to understand completely. It took me until the third story to see that they’re all connected, because even going back and looking, I can’t figure out who connects the first story to the rest of them. I feel like it’s a book I need to read over and over again.

Also, for the record: If the way a book feels in your hand is something that matters to you, you’ll want to try this (I hope it’s the same from publishers outside the U.S.). I almost always prefer paperback to hardcover, but this binding was perfect in a way I don’t have the expertise to describe. I hated to return it to the library after finishing, because I just loved picking it back up again.

I’ve intended to read Boy, Snow, Bird and The Icarus Girl for a long time now, so it’s funny that this is the one I reached first. I’m now looking forward to the others even more.

From one of the strangest stories, a beautiful phrase that made me picture something carved from marble:

I think the soul must be heavy and smooth, Myrna: I deduce this from the buoyant, jerky movements of puppets, which lack souls.

In one of the most straightforward stories, describing the beginnings of an altercation on the subway:

Day saw something interesting: Chestnut Hair and Blue Almond Eyes were no longer eating cake and had tensed up too. Not the way you tense up when you’re about to run away, but the way you tense up when you’re not about to have any nonsense.

And from the same story, this poignant description of a scenario we’ve all been party to at some point:

She could just about imagine putting on a slinky dress and going along to this little dinner, making the acquaintance of his brothers in charisma and the boys and girls they’d brought along. But she could also picture the looks that some of the diners would give other diners, the words that’d be murmured when the subject of evaluation left the room. Really . . . her? Or Nice, nice. Both possibilities made her feel weary. With boys there was a fundamental assumption that they had a right to be therenot always, but more often than not. With girls, Why her? came up so quickly.

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