From 15-year-old virgins in the suburbs to an Iraq War veteran in Virginia, Danielle Evans’ debut short story collection, Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, features characters who make mistakes, strain relationships, and figure out their own needs and desires along the way.
The eight stories included in this collection are realistic depictions of people of color on the margins in the here-and-now, whether it’s a pair of loudmouth high school girls down the block ("Virgins"), a mercurial, wayward co-ed ("The King of a Vast Empire"), or a mixed-race girl spending the summer with her racist grandmother ("Snakes").
Like Junot Díaz, Evans uses natural language to present the candid thoughts of adolescents and adults used to being objectified, used to struggling with family members. In "Virgins," an underaged girl approached by a slew of cheesy older guys at a bar thinks, "It was easy to be someone else when no one cared who you were in the first place." This uncomfortable truth is echoed in "Harvest," whose newly pregnant heroine thinks, of her pampered egg-donor neighbor, "I needed her to understand what she couldn’t possibly: how it felt to not be her."
The protagonists in these stories all need to feel wanted by friends and lovers, but many end up feeling like there’s nowhere to go but home. For Evans, the family is the cause of stress and, paradoxically, the only way to relieve it.