Danielle Evans

Author of
  • Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self
    Riverhead (09/10)

Danielle Evans is the author of the short-story collection Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, which won the 2011 PEN American Robert W. Bingham Prize for a first book. It was a National Book Foundation 5 under 35 selection for 2011, the winner of the 2011 Paterson Prize for Fiction and the 2011 Hurston-Wright award for fiction, and received an honorable mention for the 2011 PEN/Hemingway award. It was named one of the best books of 2010 by Kirkus Reviews and O Magazine, and longlisted for The Story Prize. Danielle’s work has appeared in magazines including The Paris Review, A Public Space, Callaloo, and Phoebe, and has been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories 2008 and 2010, and in New Stories from the South. She received an MFA in fiction from the Iowa Writers Workshop, was the 2006-2007 Carol Houck Smith fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, and now teaches literature and creative writing at American University in Washington DC.

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Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self


Introducing a new star of her generation, an electric debut story collection about young African-American and mixed-race teens, women, and men struggling to find a place in their families and communities.

When Danielle Evans’s short story “Virgins” was published in The Paris Review in late 2007, it announced the arrival of a bold new voice. Written when she was only 23, Evans’s story of two fifteen-year-old girls’ flirtation with adulthood for one night, experimenting with the dangers and temptations of sex and the limits of friendship, was startling in its pitch-perfect detail and fresh examination of race, class, and the shifting terrain of adolescence. Now, with her debut collection, Evans delivers on the promise of that early story. Emotionally honest and bristling with insight and keen observation, the stories that make up Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self feature young African-American and mixed-race women and men and explore the complex dynamics that underlie the relationships between family members and friends.

In “Harvest,” a college student’s unplanned pregnancy forces her to confront her own feelings of inadequacy in comparison to her white classmates. In “Jellyfish,” a father’s misguided attempt to rescue a gift for his grown daughter from an apartment collapse highlights all he doesn’t know about her. And in “Snakes,” the mixed-race daughter of intellectuals recounts the disastrous summer she spent with her white grandmother and cousin, a summer that has unforeseen repercussions in the present.

All of Evans’s stories are striking in their immediacy. Her take on race and class is smart and subtle, these are not the defining aspect of her characters’ lives. Her concern is depicting the way in which the insecurities of adolescence and young adulthood, the tensions of family, and issues of race and class complicate one’s sense of identity and the choices one makes.

Praise for Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self

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 La Valle, author of Big Machine

Danielle Evans makes you laugh with recognition while showing you the consequences of human nature. Her 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

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
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