Fresh off a PEN/Open Book award for her 2016 story collection, What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours (Riverhead Books), author Helen Oyeyemi continues to emerge as a voice of global importance. At just 32 years of age, Oyeyemi is already a veteran author of six highly acclaimed books. Oyeyemi was born in Nigeria in 1984 and moved to London with her family when she was four. In her teens, she suffered from clinical depression and did not believe she would make it to age 30. In addition to Nigeria and London, she has lived in New York, Paris, Berlin, and her current city of Prague.
Oyeyemi set on a writing career while she studied for her A-levels in Britain. Before she headed to Cambridge, she had penned her debut novel, The Icarus Girl (Anchor Books, 2006). She also saw two of her plays produced on Cambridge’s campus. Her creations borrow from global mythologies, American masters of suspense and even Latin American folklore. The Icarus Girl launched Oyeyemi in 2006 and she has enjoyed an unusually prolific career since. Her other novels include: The Opposite House (Anchor, 2007), White is for Witching (Riverhead, 2009), Mr. Fox (Riverhead, 2012), and Boy, Snow, Bird (Riverhead, 2014). White is for Witching won a 2010 Somerset Maugham award.
What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours introduces a new dimension to the author’s body of work: short fiction. Oyeyemi told NBC late-night talk show host Seth Meyers that short stories are “more fun,” and they allow her to show her range as a writer who reads “so many different styles of books.” What sets Oyeyemi apart from her contemporaries is a magical imagination and resistance to politically-charged narratives. Instead, Oyeyemi’s books give mystical—and even horror—treatments to coming-of-age, migration and domestic tales. For Oyeyemi, a nation’s politics are mere background noise to the stories she tells, and not their defining centers.