Title: Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self
Author: Danielle Evans
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Genre: Fiction/Short Stories
Challenges Met: 100+ Reading Challenge, Outdo Yourself, People of Color
Danielle Evans gives us an amazing debut with eight short stories which mainly focus on the experiences of African-American women. The first story is “Virgins,” which was initially published in the 2007 Paris Review, and follows two friends who have differing points of view about the right way to lose your virginity. However, one girl’s right way puts her in a dangerous situation.
The story that stayed with me the most was “Snakes,” where Tara, a bi-racial teen, is sent to visit with her white grandmother and cousin for summer. Her grandmother doesn’t hide her preference for Tara’s cousin (and disdain for Tara’s brown skin and cornrows). The grandmother even goes so far as to introduce Tara as being adopted to her friends at the country club. This story had a thought-provoking, near-tragic twist at the end.
Another story “Harvest” explores the racial and cultural attitudes towards reproductive issues. Evans juxtaposes the preference of fertility clinics for high SAT-achieving, blonde, white college students (no brown or black women need apply) versus the pregnancy of a black roommate of one of the egg donors.
I also enjoyed “Robert E. Lee is Dead” about a black nerdy, honor student and valedictorian dealing with peer pressure and the stress of trying to be and remain popular.
Evans provides a refreshing take on race, gender, and class through this collection and I definitely look forward to reading more by her.