Title: Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self // Author: Danielle Evans // Publisher: Riverhead/Penguin // Pub. Date: September, 2010
Danielle Evans’s debut story collection Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self is another of the books I carried with me on my recent car/shuttle/plane trip from the U.S. to McMurdo Station, Antarctica. Like most people, I choose to read books for random reasons at times. Sure, my reading list sticks to some basic themes (nature, outdoors, travel, environment, biography, nonfiction), but then I deviate from these when I like a book’s cover or the book’s author, or when something about its blurb grabs at me. To be honest, I found myself curious about this book when I read its title…and then more interested when I saw that it was a debut story collection authored by a young female writer. I chose to read Wells Tower’s Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned last year for similar, random reasons, and that book really wowed me, so maybe I approached Evans’s book hoping it would do the same. Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self didn’t wow me like Tower’s book, but it’s certainly an impressive literary debut.
All of the stories in Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self capture some aspect of what it’s like to be young and African-American or of mixed race in the modern world. And while most of them focus on the experience of a female character, their plots move in a variety of ways and take surprising turns, morphing into stories that are shocking or tragic or just plain honest in the end. In each of these stories, Evans gives her readers something that extends well beyond the entertainment value of a story well told, and she emerges as a smart, funny and strong new voice in fiction. Final word: The range of this collection might feel a bit limited to some, but Evans does great justice to her characters and her readers in telling the stories of these people who keep on living despite the gulf that exists between who they are and who they want to be.
To read my less spastic review of Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, click here for the more fully formal version of it on the About.com Contemporary Literature website.
Photo credit: Riverhead/Penguin