Monday, November 8, 2010
Books: "Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self" by Danielle Evans
A few years ago, I read a short story entitled "Virgins" that appeared in the Paris Review. I'm not sure if it was her well-developed characters or her writing style but Danielle Evans's story stuck with me. When I looked her up, I was excited to learn that she was working on a short story collection and a novel. Last week, I finally got my hands on a copy of her collection, Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self. It took me about a week to read it, only because every time I finished a story, I realized I was closer to the end and made myself slow down.
I rationed the stories because I knew early on that these were stories that I would remember for a long time. Sometimes, when I read a collection, I find it difficult to recall all of the individual pieces after I am finished. With Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, I remember all of the characters and the details of their lives. I'm still worried about CeCe at the end of "Robert E. Lee is Dead" and I want to know what happened to Angel from "Harvest." Evans is so honest, sharing the best and worst of all characters with her readers, and I appreciated that so much. These stories are about people that I know--I empathized with them, identified with them, pitied them and even envied them. But the best part was that I never doubted that they were real and I loved that.
Danielle Evans is about a year younger than me. Right now, she is teaching at American University as part of the MFA program that I so desperately want to attend. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to read honest, thoughtful fiction that deals with life, laced with some realistic humor. Real issues are the true focus of this collection, including race, abortion, drugs, poverty and death, and the stories reflect so much of what I am trying to do with my own work. If my stories turn out half as well as hers, I'd be a very lucky writer. Until then, I'll keep reading Danielle Evans's work and hope to work with her someday in the future.