In her new collection of mostly linked stories, What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours
, Helen Oyeyemi succeeds in wholly reimagining the fairy tale. You won't find any sanitized, Disney-esque versions here: Oyeyemi's fables are sensual and mysterious, like the Brothers Grimm stories that inspired them. But unlike the originals, they deliver no clear moral messages. Repeatedly, our sense of the familiar is toyed with, revealed to be nothing more than a shadow, a continually morphing apparition, a trickster memory. Take, for example, the peculiar way we learn about the titular Dornicka in "Dornicka and the St. Martin's Day Goose," Oyeyemi's take on "Little Red Riding Hood." By the time we find out the source of the cut of meat she buries in her backyard, we are reading as children, our own curiosity and fears putty in the hands of the storyteller.
What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours is old-world in its subject matter and locales, but modern in its diversity of characters—there is a bountiful mix of races, sexualities, religions, ages, personae, and concerns. Oyeyemi has let the world in, which is part of the enchantment that keeps us reading these tales of self-discovery and connectedness with ever deepening fascination, and sometimes alarm. Devour them at bedtime and prepare to dream.