WINNER OF THE 2021 JOYCE CAROL OATES PRIZE
A WASHINGTON POST NOTABLE BOOK OF THE YEAR
An O, THE OPRAH MAGAZINE BEST BOOK OF 2020
FINALIST FOR THE STORY PRIZE
FINALIST FOR THE ASPEN WORDS LITERARY PRIZE
FINALIST FOR THE CHAUTAUQUA PRIZE
ONE OF THE NEW YORKER BOOK CRITIC’S FAVORITE FICTION OF THE YEAR
“Sublime short stories of race, grief, and belonging . . . an extraordinary new collection . . .” —The New Yorker
“Evans’s new stories present rich plots reflecting on race relations, grief, and love . . .” —The New York Times Book Review, Editor’s Choice
“Danielle Evans demonstrates, once again, that she is the finest short story writer working today.” —Roxane Gay, The New York Times–bestselling author of Difficult Women and Bad Feminist
The award-winning author of Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self brings her signature voice and insight to the subjects of race, grief, apology, and American history.
Danielle Evans is widely acclaimed for her blisteringly smart voice and X-ray insights into complex human relationships. With The Office of Historical Corrections, Evans zooms in on particular moments and relationships in her characters’ lives in a way that allows them to speak to larger issues of race, culture, and history. She introduces us to Black and multiracial characters who are experiencing the universal confusions of lust and love, and getting walloped by grief—all while exploring how history haunts us, personally and collectively. Ultimately, she provokes us to think about the truths of American history—about who gets to tell them, and the cost of setting the record straight.
In “Boys Go to Jupiter,” a white college student tries to reinvent herself after a photo of her in a Confederate-flag bikini goes viral. In “Richard of York Gave Battle in Vain,” a photojournalist is forced to confront her own losses while attending an old friend’s unexpectedly dramatic wedding. And in the eye-opening title novella, a black scholar from Washington, DC, is drawn into a complex historical mystery that spans generations and puts her job, her love life, and her oldest friendship at risk.
Evans (Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self) brings her usual wit and keen eye to her latest collection, which offers seven stories that explore the complexity of human emotions and relationships. While every story offers a discrete narrative, recurring themes of pain, loss, fear, and failed relationships give the collection a sense of unity. The title novella is the crowning jewel, a historical mystery centered around a Black historian whose job in Washington, D.C., is complicated when she is sent on a dangerous assignment to the site of a 1937 lynching in Wisconsin. The rest of the stories, however, are hit-or-miss. "Why Won't Women Just Say What They Want" is a witty exploration of a male artist's love life and his bizarre project of apologizing to the women he hurt. "Alcatraz" is a sad, touching story that explores how an unjust incarceration destroys a family. However, "Boys Go to Jupiter," in which a white college student deals with "collective anger" after a photo of her in a Confederate-flag bikini goes viral, fails to say anything of note about race or racism. Despite its shortcomings, this is a timely, entertaining collection from a talented writer who isn't afraid to take chances.