Danielle Evans's whipsmart first story collection charts the liminal years between childhood and the condition dubiously known as being a grown-up... Fiercely independent, all of Evans's characters struggle for a place in a world intent of fencing them out. But as her title suggests, the biggest obstacles they face are often their own selves.
-New York Times Book Review
Whether she's observing people who work at Ruby Tuesday or Harvard students, Evans is a startlingly good sociocultural mimic. Each story shares a particular female voice: tough, pragmatic, knowing, snappy. . . . There are books that capture our world perfectly, like a scrim over a stage. And then there are books that surprise the audience and go somewhere new, somewhere completely unpredictable. In this collection, Evans paints a picture, sometimes ripping through the fabric. One wonders where she will go next.
-The Boston Globe
Danielle Evans' blisteringly smart short stories offer fresh perspective on being young and black in America. From a vandalizing valedictorian to a rejected biracial child, her characters triumph by surviving without forgetting.
Stories about the trade-offs of early adulthood from a new writer with a fresh, appealing voice... Many of these eight wonderfully melancholy stories mostly set along the East Coast deal with loss-of family, of love, of innocence-and all explore the chasm between what others see and who we really are...Most of Evans' characters are African American, but she doesn't dwell on race, focusing instead on the transitory awkwardness inherent in young adulthood. Readers will understand her characters' mistakes long before they've been made-and recognize that when we have to choose, it is rarely our better selves who win.
The most vivid characters in Danielle Evans's story collection are in- betweeners: between girlhood and womanhood; between the black middle class and Ivy League privilege; between iffy boyfriends and those even less reliable; between an extended family and living on your own. To say they're caught between worlds isn't quite accurate, though; they tend to be hard-headed, sadder but wiser and, most of all, funny.
-The New York Times
This striking debut collection Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self
offers rich slices of African-American life... [Evans's] stories are bolstered by memorable images... Evans's book, meanwhile, carries a strong scent of freshness and promise.
Lit's new It Girl. Critics raved about Danielle Evans's talent solely based on 'Virgins' her bold coming-of-age story...Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self
, her eagerly awaited first collection, proves them right. [Evans] will win you over with eight thoroughly modern, funny and tender stories.
With polished short stories plumbing the intersection of adolescence, race, hormones, and emotional instability, the twentysomething Iowa-workshop graduate threatens to become the season's hot young MFA discovery.
-New York Magazine
Danielle Evans's considerable talents are in evidence on every page of this impressive debut. She finds her often surprising dramatic material in the unexpected asides of modern life, with results that are intense, intelligent, humane, and funny. I look forward to reading more.
-Daniel Alarcon, author of Lost City Radio
Evans's knife-sharp wit and tender but unflinching eye create a range of characters who are entirely sympathetic, even as they tumble headlong into their own mistakes.
-V.V. Ganeshananthan, author of Love Marriage
Danielle Evans is funny as hell. Which only makes all the heartbreak in these stories more surprising and satisfying. The young women in this collection are always on the edge of real trouble but don't be fooled, they're the dangerous ones. Written with wonderful clarity and a novelist's sense of scope, Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self
is a fabulous literary debut.
-Victor LaValle, author of Big Machine
Danielle Evans's stories are fresh, arresting, real. The young women and men in them could be sitting across from you on the subway or strolling past you on a college campus. And the young woman who brings them to us is a writer to watch.
-Martha Southgate, author of The Fall of Rome
Quietly magnetic, Evans's voice draws us into richly-charged worlds where innocence isn't lost but escaped, and where pieces of the past reassemble in the present with the inevitable geometry of kaleidoscope glass. Delivered with a light touch that belies their maturity, these morally complex stories mark the arrival of a gifted new author.
-Sana Krasikov, author of One More Year
Armed with no easy answers but plenty of bad choices, the talented, too-smart- for-their-own-good protagonists are painfully aware of the consequences of their actions, even when they think they have no better choice. . . . The moral ambiguity of Evans's achingly believable world finds its best expression in the devastating final story, 'Robert E. Lee is Dead, ' in which the brainy black cheerleader, CeeCee, jeopardizes her own high-school graduation with a pointless act of vandalism. Although she is instigated by her closest friend Geena, whose future is less bright, CeeCee's decision is her own. She shares this characteristic with the other survivors in this arresting book, along with the regret. A welcome new talent-with a funny and dark take on being black in America.