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Danielle Evans

Recipient of the National Book Foundation's 'Under 35' award and author of Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self and The Office of Historical Corrections

  • About Danielle Evans

    Danielle Evans is an acclaimed writer and an award-winning author. A graduate of Columbia University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, her stories have appeared in The Paris Review, A Public Space, and The Best American Short Stories anthologies. Her debut book, Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, is met with critical acclamations, winning the 2011 PEN American Robert W. Bingham Prize for first book, the Patterson Prize for fiction, and the Hurston-Wright award for fiction. An honorable mention for the PEN/Hemingway award, Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, is a collection of short stories about mixed-race and African American teenagers, women, and men and their struggle to belong. In her book, The Office of Historical Corrections, Evans continues to the discussion on the subject of race in American history. In this collection of short stories, Evans provokes us to think about the truths of American history–about who gets to tell them, and the cost of setting the record straight.

    Majoring in anthropology and African American studies, Evans transitions these passions into her contemporary fiction in a post-Civil Rights America. A relevant and engaging speaker, Evans opens discussions with academic and library audiences about the children of the Civil Rights Movement and their struggles to find a place within their families and communities, especially when their loyalties to place, to family, and to self are often divided. She also speaks on the continuum of American history intersecting with race, gender, and class, and how often history is reshaped for the sake of comfort over truth.

    Evans is a 2011 National Book Foundation “5 Under 35” honoree and a 2020 National Endowment for Arts fellow. She currently lives in Baltimore and teaches the John Hopkins University’s creative program, The Writing Seminars.

  • Speaking Topics

    Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self

    Danielle Evans examines a world where inequality is reality but where the insecurities of adolescence and young adulthood, and the tensions within family and the community, are sometimes the biggest complicating forces in one’s sense of identity and the choices one makes, in this talk on Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, her highly praised debut short story collection. The story and her discussion, follows her characters of mixed-race and African-American teenagers, women, and men struggling to find a place in their families and communities.

    The Office of Historical Corrections

    Through the lens of her collection of short stories, The Office of Historical Corrections, winner of the 2021 Joyce Carol Oates Prize, Danielle Evans offers insights into her characters and their relation to larger issues of race, culture, and history. 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. With acute sensitivity of issues around race and power, Evans talk chronicles her work on identity, grief, and the line between micro- and macroaggressions. This talk reshapes our national narrative and reveals how we all must reckon with our personal and shared histories through the work of her famous stories.

    Fiction in Post-Civil Rights America

    The focus of this talk begins with the children of the Civil Rights Movement and their struggles to find a place within their families and communities, especially when their loyalties to place, to family, and to self are often divided. She also speaks on the continuum of American history intersecting with race, gender, and class, and how often history is reshaped for the sake of comfort over truth.

  • Video

  • Praise for Danielle Evans


    Everyone was extremely pleased with everything about Danielle Evans’ visit. She delivered an impressive and well balanced talk and got a real conversation going during the Q&A. The MFA students found meeting her incredibly useful. She was just brilliant in every way.

    Washington University in Saint Louis

    Praise for The Office of Historical Corrections

    The most astonishing thing I’ve read this fall.


    If the week of November 3 leaves you gasping for something a little more palatable . . . . luckily Danielle Evans’s exceptionally wise new story collection will be on its way to your mailbox, ready to remind you that there are still some Good Things out there. Every story . . . . is on point . . . but the ancestral thriller novella that spawned its title is completely transformative.


    stories that chronicle how history — racial and cultural — continue to reverberate through daily life. . . . provocative fiction about people of color, raising questions about who gets to dictate our national narrative.

    The Chicago Tribune

    one of the year's most timely releases. . . . brings plenty of pondering to your nightstand this fall.


    A hotly anticipated new story collection, exploring the subjects of race, American history and grief with her signature insight.

    USA Today

    With the seven brilliant stories in The Office of Historical Corrections, Danielle Evans demonstrates, once again, that she is the finest short story writer working today. These stories are sly and prescient, a nuanced reflection of the world we are living in, one where the rules are changing, and truth is mutable and resentments about nearly everything have breached the surface of what is socially acceptable. These stories are wickedly smart and haunting in what they say about the human condition… Her language is nimble, her sentences immensely pleasurable to read, and in every single story there is a breathtaking surprise, an unexpected turn, a moment that will leave you speechless, and wanting more.

    Roxane Gay, New York Times-bestselling author of Difficult Women and Bad Feminist

    Danielle Evans writes stories that make the world stop. Her work is so good that when you sit down with it, everything else ceases to exist. The stories in The Office of Historical Corrections move and breathe. The book is a beating heart. Magnificent.

    Kristen Arnett, New York Times-bestselling author of Mostly Dead Things

    To say that Danielle Evans is one of the best writers of her generation ignores the simple fact that she is one of America’s best writers, period. And to limit her to her own generation overlooks the keen eye Evans has placed on the continuum of American history and all its attendant complications of race, gender, class, popular culture, and representation. Evans wields these issues like a sly, acerbic blade, and she uses it to cut to the quick.

    Wiley Cash, New York Times-bestselling author of The Last Ballad

    A dazzling collection. Contemporary life in Danielle Evans's stories has a kind of incandescent and dangerous energy: even in moments of somberness or isolation, her characters crackle with heat, light, and self-awareness.

    Kelly Link, author of Get In Trouble

    One is truly never the same after reading a short story by Danielle Evans.

    Lit Hub

    [P]romises more of Evans’ wisdom and finely honed ability to tell distinct, compelling tales that also say something about larger issues.


    The eponymous novella that closes the book is a stunner…To say much more would only detract from storytelling that is gripping on every level. Necessary narratives, brilliantly crafted.

    Kirkus (Starred review)

    A timely, entertaining collection from a talented writer who isn’t afraid to take chances.

    Publishers Weekly

    Praise for Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self

    Danielle Evans’s whipsmart first story collection charts the liminal years between childhood and the condition dubiously known as being a grown-up… Fiercely independent, all of Evans’s characters struggle for a place in a world intent of fencing them out. But as her title suggests, the biggest obstacles they face are often their own selves.

    New York Times Book Review

    Whether she’s observing people who work at Ruby Tuesday or Harvard students, Evans is a startlingly good sociocultural mimic. Each story shares a particular female voice: tough, pragmatic, knowing, snappy. . . . There are books that capture our world perfectly, like a scrim over a stage. And then there are books that surprise the audience and go somewhere new, somewhere completely unpredictable. In this collection, Evans paints a picture, sometimes ripping through the fabric. One wonders where she will go next.

    The Boston Globe

    Danielle Evans’ blisteringly smart short stories offer fresh perspective on being young and black in America. From a vandalizing valedictorian to a rejected biracial child, her characters triumph by surviving without forgetting.


    Stories about the trade-offs of early adulthood from a new writer with a fresh, appealing voice… Many of these eight wonderfully melancholy stories mostly set along the East Coast deal with loss-of family, of love, of innocence-and all explore the chasm between what others see and who we really are…Most of Evans’ characters are African American, but she doesn’t dwell on race, focusing instead on the transitory awkwardness inherent in young adulthood. Readers will understand her characters’ mistakes long before they’ve been made-and recognize that when we have to choose, it is rarely our better selves who win.

    People (4 stars)

    The most vivid characters in Danielle Evans’s story collection are in- betweeners: between girlhood and womanhood; between the black middle class and Ivy League privilege; between iffy boyfriends and those even less reliable; between an extended family and living on your own. To say they’re caught between worlds isn’t quite accurate, though; they tend to be hard-headed, sadder but wiser and, most of all, funny.”

    The New York Times

    This striking debut collection Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self offers rich slices of African-American life… [Evans’s] stories are bolstered by memorable images… Evans’s book, meanwhile, carries a strong scent of freshness and promise.”

    Entertainment Weekly

    Lit’s new It Girl. Critics raved about Danielle Evans’s talent solely based on ‘Virgins’ her bold coming-of-age story…Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, her eagerly awaited first collection, proves them right. [Evans] will win you over with eight thoroughly modern, funny and tender stories.


    With polished short stories plumbing the intersection of adolescence, race, hormones, and emotional instability, the twentysomething Iowa-workshop graduate threatens to become the season’s hot young MFA discovery.

    New York Magazine

    Danielle Evans’s considerable talents are in evidence on every page of this impressive debut. She finds her often surprising dramatic material in the unexpected asides of modern life, with results that are intense, intelligent, humane, and funny. I look forward to reading more.”

    Daniel Alarcon, author of Lost City Radio

    Evans’s knife-sharp wit and tender but unflinching eye create a range of characters who are entirely sympathetic, even as they tumble headlong into their own mistakes.

    V.V. Ganeshananthan, author of Love Marriage

    Danielle Evans is funny as hell. Which only makes all the heartbreak in these stories more surprising and satisfying. The young women in this collection are always on the edge of real trouble but don’t be fooled, they’re the dangerous ones. Written with wonderful clarity and a novelist’s sense of scope, Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self is a fabulous literary debut.

    Victor LaValle, author of Big Machine

    Danielle Evans’s stories are fresh, arresting, real. The young women and men in them could be sitting across from you on the subway or strolling past you on a college campus. And the young woman who brings them to us is a writer to watch.

    Martha Southgate, author of The Fall of Rome

    Quietly magnetic, Evans’s voice draws us into richly-charged worlds where innocence isn’t lost but escaped, and where pieces of the past reassemble in the present with the inevitable geometry of kaleidoscope glass. Delivered with a light touch that belies their maturity, these morally complex stories mark the arrival of a gifted new author.

    Sana Krasikov, author of One More Year

    Armed with no easy answers but plenty of bad choices, the talented, too-smart- for-their-own-good protagonists are painfully aware of the consequences of their actions, even when they think they have no better choice. . . . The moral ambiguity of Evans’s achingly believable world finds its best expression in the devastating final story, ‘Robert E. Lee is Dead,’ in which the brainy black cheerleader, CeeCee, jeopardizes her own high-school graduation with a pointless act of vandalism. Although she is instigated by her closest friend Geena, whose future is less bright, CeeCee’s decision is her own. She shares this characteristic with the other survivors in this arresting book, along with the regret. A welcome new talent-with a funny and dark take on being black in America.

    Kirkus (starred)
  • Books by Danielle Evans

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