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Break Any Woman Down

4.04  ·  Rating Details  ·  167 Ratings  ·  26 Reviews
In this hip, vital, and sexy debut, winner of the 2001 Flannery O’Connor 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
Paperback, 176 pages
Published August 12th 2003 by Anchor (first published January 1st 2001)
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Break Any Woman Down by Dana Johnson is a modern classic. Winner of the 2001 Flannery O'Connor Award for short fiction, these stories are authentic and honest. Sometimes honest in the most painful of ways, but all the better for it. Johnson easily captures the voices of black women of all ages--from the earliest days of elementary school to the older woman sitting on her porch and reminiscing about her child- and young adulthood. These stories are raw and emotional and will strike a chord with a ...more
Jun 13, 2016 Andrea rated it really liked it
The common theme throughout this book is what it’s like to be a black woman. In almost every story, the main character is a young black woman and you see the world through her eyes. Through her stories, Johnson is trying to show the humanity of black women and their everyday struggles in a predominantly white world. In “Melvin in the Sixth Grade”, you meet eleven year old Avery, she is in middle school and though she may not realize it fully, the other children are nasty to her. She is constantl ...more
Oct 21, 2010 Casey rated it really liked it
The characters in the nine stories that make up Dana Johnson's Flannery O'Connor award winning debut collection, Break Any Woman Down, are primarily struggling with their place in the world and how their class and race inform their cultural identity. Many of the characters struggle with and against their families, while others fight against their environment. However, it's not fair to reduce these wonderful stories to simple themes. They are about this issues, but they are so much more than that ...more
Aug 09, 2012 Emily rated it liked it
Recommended to Emily by: bookshelf at work
This was another book I picked up off of the borrow shelf at work (and another 3.5 rating). It had a sticker on the front noting that it won the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. I like short stories and had recently read a few from my high school sister's "collection of short stories" she had for English class. They are nice to read at night because you can feel like you accomplished something. ANYWAY, back to the collection. This is a collection of short stories with distinct voice. A ...more
Sian Jones
The title story, "Break Any Woman Down", is really one of the best short stories I've ever read. The voice of it is amazing, genuine and sharp, and I love how subtextual the conflict is, so inexorable, and the ending is both a real ending and well-earned. Just amazing stuff. There are a couple of other good stories in the collection -- "Melvin in the Sixth Grade" and "Mouthful of Sorrow" -- but unfortunately even these suffer from the underdevelopment that characterizes the rest. Most of the sto ...more
May 17, 2015 Brian rated it really liked it
Johnson succeeds where so many other short-story writers fail: She writes eight first-person narrators, each with a distinct voice. These stories -- told from the point of view of black women both young and old -- capture the thoughts and feelings of people simply trying to get by. It's not desperation that drives them forward, but the desire to find out who they really are.
Mar 05, 2015 Alison rated it it was amazing
This is one of my go-to story collections for reading and for teaching -- love the humor, the dialogue, and the eye for detail!
Feb 21, 2014 Naomi rated it it was amazing
This was an amazingly powerful collection of stories. The characters are all so real and so personal.
Sep 26, 2015 Nic_nacks rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic character analysis, thoughtful and surprising. Thoroughly enjoyed.
Christine Palau
Aug 02, 2012 Christine Palau rated it it was amazing
Perfect antidote for Avery withdrawal. I suggest reading the beautiful/funny/sad novel Elsewhere, California (my review coming soon) first to fully appreciate the rich voice, psychology of identity, and overall awesomeness which is Dana Johnson as a story teller.

My favorite stories in this collection are Melvin in the Sixth Grade, Break Any Woman Down, Clay's Thinking, and Markers--really love that one! They're all so different, but equally affecting. Makes me want to re-read Elsewhere, CA.
Dec 31, 2010 Pamster rated it really liked it
Compelling and really painful short stories. Like, a woman driving her mom to get food stamps and the whole time she is kind of pissed at having to do it even though she knows she's being an asshole, and snapping at her mom for not correctly knowing the way to get there, and you are just hurting for the mom. But it's such a real dynamic and not one you see in fiction a lot. Really good.
Nov 24, 2009 Valerie rated it liked it
I was bored. I feel a bitbad for saying that, but it's true. There was only story that sticks with me from the whole collection of stories. A Mouth Full of Sorrow. That was an excellent story. the rest of them however, I just didn't connect to. I was really disappointed, I looked forward to reading this one. oh well...
Alicia Beale
May 19, 2007 Alicia Beale rated it really liked it
She won the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction. She deserved it. A diverse collection of stories centered around Los Angeles and its suburbs with a vast array of characters. Dana switches races, class, and background with ease.
Mar 16, 2009 Katie rated it it was amazing
One of the most honest books I've read. It's much more cohesive than a typical collection of short stories. There is a definite undercurrent about the joys and pains of any woman's life.
Jan 05, 2015 Leesa rated it it was amazing
in love w/every single one of these stories. dana is My Girl.
Jul 16, 2008 Kristi rated it it was amazing
Exciting new short story writer. Each story takes on a new character so fully, you would never guess that the same person created each one.
Nov 09, 2012 Kerry rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I think this author has a way with character and voice. I thought the book was very engaging.
Precious Williams
Dec 04, 2009 Precious Williams rated it really liked it
Read this some years ago. I remember nothing about it other than that it was excellent.
Victoria Patterson
Sep 13, 2007 Victoria Patterson rated it it was amazing
A great collection of short stories. I look forward to reading more from this author.
Austin Hubert
Jul 30, 2012 Austin Hubert rated it it was amazing
Brilliant collection that is inspiring to both readers and writers alike!
Aug 12, 2012 Eunice rated it it was ok
I had high hopes for this book and found it a bit of a disappointment.
Apr 28, 2012 Khadijah rated it it was amazing
These stories make you laugh, cry, talk back to them. Seriously good.
Only read a few stories not the whole book of shorts.
Zoë Miller
Jan 16, 2013 Zoë Miller rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
a must read! read it all in a night. beautiful work.
Jul 29, 2011 Sara marked it as to-read
01 flannery o'connor award for short fiction
Mar 01, 2007 aditi rated it really liked it
This book made me cry.
Sonja Hennessy
Sonja Hennessy marked it as to-read
Aug 22, 2016
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Aug 19, 2016
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