Literature: Before You Suffocate…

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 Contemporary Literature website.

Oh, and click here to see what I wrote on “Down and Out” about Wells Tower’s Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned.

Photo credit: Riverhead/Penguin


2 responses to “Literature: Before You Suffocate…

  1. I have this on my list to read, you beat me to it! 🙂 I’m reading Margaret Atwood’s Moral Disorder right now, also a collection of short stories focusing on the various stages of one woman’s life. It’s pretty good!

  2. Traci,
    Hi. I hope that you are doing well. So I know you like to read. I don’t know whether you enjoy reading Debbie Macomber or not, but she has a new book out, called “One Simple Act: Discovering the Act of Generosity.” You can purchase it from Amazon. She generally writes fiction books, but this book is a non-fiction book. It has several good short true stories in it. Your mom might like it too. I don’t have her e-mail address though to share with her so you might pass the book along to her. I got a Bichon Frise puppy last Christmas. She was 1 in October and I will have had her a year Christmas Eve. You can keep in touch with my e-mail or my blog either one.

    Take care

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