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Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self Hardcover – September 23, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
The territory Evans covers in her debut collection may be small, but she owns it. Her main characters are almost all teen girls and young women who struggle with disorder, and the reader is given close access to each one's interior, from which the muted plots originate. "Jellyfish," one of the better stories, starts out with the plight of middle-aged William, whose roof has just collapsed, before settling on his adult daughter, Eva, and examining her life. The two friends in "Virgins," the opening and best story, maneuver unsteadily through the minefield of casually predatory men and boys. "Snakes" looks back on a consequential summer in the lives of two little girls. "The King of a Vast Empire" is the biggest departure from form and is narrated by good son Terrence, who frustratedly tells the story of his free-spirited sister, Liddie. The stories are beautifully observed, though their similarities in theme and voice make them better read individually than together. Evans has some great chops that would really shine with a little more narrative breadth.
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Evans’ first collection of short stories deals thoughtfully and incisively with considerations of class, race, and coming-of-age. That six of the stories are told in their female or male protagonists’ first-person voices brings them immediacy and emotional resonance. Sometimes, though, this device results in narrative voices that sound too much alike while the stories they tell lack thematic originality. Interestingly, two of the best stories—“Someone Ought to Tell Her There’s Nowhere to Go,” about a deeply troubled veteran of the Iraq War, and “Jellyfish,” about the fraught relationship of a young woman and her father—are told in third person. Yet, whether told in first or third person, what all of the stories share is a demonstration of the profound influence of the past on the present-day lives of their characters and the intricacies of relationships among African American, white, Hispanic, and mixed-race young people. Clearly, Evans lives up to her reputation as an important new voice in literary fiction. --Michael Cart
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That brilliant quote, ladies and gentleman, is from Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self. Specifically from my favorite story, Robert E. Lee is dead. I related to this story the most, because I too felt ostracized for being the smart black girl and quiet. All of the stories were great and really made you think about life, the human condition and how our view on life greatly affects how we live.
At first I was under the impression that these were essays by different people on their experiences, until I see the "this is a work of fiction" disclaimer. I couldn't believe one person, Danielle Evans, was able to tell eight different stories that felt so real. Even if I personally didn't go through what each character went through, I empathized with them so greatly.
One thing I noticed in review for this book were about the endings. Yes, not every ending was clear or the story had a lot of ambiguity, but life is all about no clear ending. And you don't immediately get a happy-ever-after. You have to overcome personal hurdles before you get that luxury just like the characters in this book.
Every story in here is interesting and really makes you think about the people in your life and how the characters deals with their problems and makes you wonder: would I do that? Have I? Will I?
I was feeling, feelings reading this book! I'm so glad I gave this a chance. It's a great coming-of-age book, for all races. I'm sure many adults will be reminiscent of their adolescent or new adult years while reading.
One last thing: I had been going through a reading funk and was told to read something completely different than what I've previously read. This was my first short story book and I have to say I'm now a fan of short stories. For anyone going through a reading funk,explore all kinds of options:)
My personal faves were:
Robert E. Lee Is Dead
Someone Ought to Tell Her There's Nowhere to Go
The King of the Vast Empire
Wherever You Go, There You Are
I love this book! Recommended read!
Looking at Evans's stories, I can surmise why she chose this quote and title. The characters often find themselves in some sort of trouble, but never the same kind of trouble, whether it's being honest about being a virgin pretending/wanting to handle grown-up relations, like Erica in the story "Virgins," or Tara nearly dying the summer she lives with her white grandmother and her cousin in "Snakes."
You might be wondering why I pointed out the grandmother is white. The characters in Suffocate are, more often than not, black. Evans doesn't come out and say this; instead she leaves room for the readers to figure it out, which doesn't take long if the character is younger, around teen aged...
Read the rest of my review at http://grabthelapels.weebly.com/home/before-you-suffocate-your-own-fool-self