Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self by Danielle Evans
Riverhead • $25.95 • September 23, 2010
I was first drawn to Danielle Evans’ debut book—short story collection Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self—because of the title, which is taken from “The Bridge Poem” by Donna Kate Rushin. I can’t think of a single title from 2010 that has made me more interested to keep reading. (And I’m not the only one. Last week, I took my copy of the book with me on vacation, and the friend I was visiting promptly took it away from me so she could read the stories before I returned to Nashville.)
The characters in Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self are African-American or mixed race. As Lauren Bufferd writes in her BookPage review, they are “people in transition”:
adolescents, children split between divorced parents, college graduates drifting between partners and jobs. Erica in “Virgins” is a prototype for several of the other young women who appear in these pages—independent but longing for connection, educated but not savvy enough to avoid the hurts of love and life.
As I mentioned when I blogged about Yiyun Li’s Gold Boy, Emerald Girl, I have been on a short-stories-written-by-women kick, and I am so glad I discovered Evans’ volume. Her stories are alternately funny and heartbreaking, and I can’t stop thinking about the characters.
Here’s an excerpt from “Virgins,” the story that’s had the most acclaim. (It was originally published in the Paris Review and then The Best American Stories 2008.)
Inside at Michael and Ron’s house, they put me on the downstairs couch and gave me a blanket. When Ron said good night and went into his bedroom in the basement, I thought maybe I’d only imagined the look he gave me earlier. I unlaced my shoes and took down my hair and curled up in the blanket, trying not to think about Jasmine and what kind of mess I’d left her in. I thought of her laughing, thought of the look on her face when she had closed her eyes and let that man kiss her, and for a second I hated her and then a second later I couldn’t remember anything I’d ever hated more than leaving her. I was sitting there in the dark when Ron came back and put an arm around me.
What are you reading today?