The “Ibadan-born, London-raised, Prague-inclined” author Helen Oyeyemi spoke with Broadly’s Lauren Oyler recently, just in time for the release of her newest book, her only book of short stories (so far), What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours:
You do a lot with women’s issues and racial issues. Do you see your work as political in any way?
Am I doing a lot with women’s issues and racial issues? Or is it just that there are women and black people in my stories?
I think a lot of people would argue that it’s not possible to put women and black people in a story and not have it be political.
I don’t know. That’s basically like saying that my life, the very life that I’m living, and my body are political, and sometimes I think that I’m just living. I think that art and politics are inseparable in lots of different ways, but you can’t force these things, and you can’t separate things out into these categories, like, Oh, this work of fiction deals with this or that. If a novel is good, then it should contain as much of life as possible. Some of that is the way that we try to live through all of these structures that attempt to control and separate us, but some of it doesn’t fit into any category at all. I think a novel is a big mix of things.
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