- Paperback: 176 pages
- Publisher: Anchor (August 12, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1400030463
- ISBN-13: 978-1400030460
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 6.6 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 8 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,261,370 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Break Any Woman Down Paperback – August 12, 2003
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“You can hear Johnson’s voices ringing long after you put the stories down: No character could stay a stranger long in this writer’s hands.” —Los Angeles Times
“Deftly achieves both art and amusement. Johnson’s ability to coax the heart as much as the mind . . . marks the author as a storyteller at her most potent.” —Seattle Weekly
“A . . . sometimes comical read . . . Johnson’s stories are ultimately bound by a desire to find a place . . . to fit in”—USA Today
“Sharp edged . . . contemporary”—Booklist
“This is an exciting and gorgeous literary debut.” —Jonathan Ames, author of The Extra Man
“Whether it’s an awkward sixth grader with a crush, a pair of brazen Iranian sisters, or a male porno star who bakes a mean ziti, Dana Johnson’s characters breathe authenticity. Johnson has got range and she’s got depth. A remarkable new voice has emerged.”–Dalton Conley, author of Honky
“Rich, unhurried layering showcases [Johnson’s] larger themes. . . Both hip and elegant, these assured stories . . . simmer and resonate.”–Publishers Weekly
“Johnson renders with authenticity a range of ages, nationalities, and perspectives with a verve that leaves the reader wanting more.”–Janet McDonald, author of Project Girl
“These stories are full of the small details and disappointments of life, the missed opportunities and the inopportune moments that change one’s trajectory.”–Library Journal
“Johnson’s narrators are sympathetic and engaging. . . A subtle and sometimes compelling vision of Los Angeleno life.”–Kirkus Reviews
“Dana Johnson’s collection of stories contains so many wonderful women. Living, breathing, making a million mistakes, but you understand every one of them. Sometimes you think your heart will burst, but the pain is illustrated with depth, clarity and beauty.”–Victor LaValle, author of The Ecstatic
From the Inside Flap
In this hip, vital, and sexy debut, winner of the 2001 Flannery OConnor Award for Short Fiction, Dana Johnson launches a fleet of wonderful stories across unexpected terrain, upending notions of race, class and gender in utterly original ways.
An eleven-year-old black girl from South Central LA discovers the strangeness of moving to the suburbs and falling in love with a white boy. A pair of enthusiastic middle-aged Iranian sisters debate whether or not their futures hold children. A punk musician falls for a girl out of his league. A black lap dancer gives up her job to move in with her Greek actor boyfriend, who hasnt managed to get roles in anything but porn movies. Whether bold or rueful, salacious or sweet, each voice in Break Any Woman Down is vibrantly authentic; together they add a fresh and welcome chorus to American literature.
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I look forward to reading more from Dana Johnson. Truly a great read.
The stories in "Break Any Woman Down" occur in the new, multicultural America. A friend or lover might be from any ethnic background. Immigrant associates from Iran or Italy are as common as parents from down South. Some of the stories turn on the tensions inherent in straddling cultural lines. However, the commonalities that bind people are not overlooked. Friendship is a recurring theme, whether overtly or subtlely. For example, in "Melvin in the Sixth Grade," the schoolgirl protagonist must choose between her dream of acceptance by most of her new white classmates and loyalty to the one friend she actually has. In "Break Any Woman Down," an older, but not necessarily wiser, protagonist becomes the odd woman out in a threesome of friends bound by love -- and jealousy.
Another hallmark of Johnson's writing is an explicit approach to sexuality. I have rarely seen the topic written about with such unabashed directness in domestic realism.
This is not a perfect book. My major criticism is the characters often seem to lack substance. Their conversations tend to be too vacuous. One gets the feeling that much of what really matters to the characters is remaining unsaid, probably because the writer does not know how to express it in dialogue.
Still, Johnson has my interest and empathy. As someone from the same multicultural milieu she hails from, I can vouch for the authenticity of how she depicts our lives. I look forward to new and better works from this writer.
Her range of characters is impressive. She gives voice to characters that we don't usually get to hear from, and her characters have dignity. The characters seemed real and I cared about what happened to them. I love that. "Melvin in the Sixth Grade", "Three Ladies Sipping Tea in a Persian Garden", and "Markers" are my favorite stories in this collection.
Dana Johnson is a brave, adept writer. I look forward to reading more from her.
The first story was beautiful, bringing me into the story of the young black girl in white suburbia. This story would be great for my class, especially since my school is predominately white, with a small percentage of black students. Past that, however, the subject matter was too adult. There is one story about a stripper and a pornographic film star that addresses the issue of jealousy very well; it would not be appropriate for minors.
I loved the book and was impressed by the variety of characters (many different ethnicities) and issues. It was a quick read and I would recommend it to my adult colleagues.