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Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self

3.9  ·  Rating Details ·  2,251 Ratings  ·  415 Reviews
Introducing a new star of her generation, an electric debut story collection about mixed-race and African-American teenagers, 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 major new American short story writer. Written
ebook, 305 pages
Published September 1st 2010 by Riverhead Books
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Mar 21, 2011 Tamara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was excited to read this after coming across an AV Club Review calling it “a remarkable short-story collection in a good year for short-story collections.” But what made me especially eager to read it was something the reviewer said that didn’t sit right with me: "The biggest issue with Suffocate is that nearly every story features a similar protagonist. Evans writes this protagonist—a young African-American or mixed-race woman who’s trapped between her past and a more promising future—extreme ...more
Nov 17, 2010 jo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
i found this book exceptional. do you remember when jhumpa lahiri debuted with Interpreter of Maladies and everyone went WHOA? Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self is that good, though i'll be surprised if everyone goes WHOA, because, let's face it, the readership for young African American female writers is different from the readership for young Asian American female writers. and by different i don't only mean different, but i mean smaller, something i invite all readers of this teensy ickl ...more
Nov 20, 2014 Melissa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you, like me, have been picking books up for weeks, starting them & realizing about 30 pages that you do not care whatsoever about what is going on (Constant Gardener I am looking in your direction), perhaps you should give this book a try. It is scrumptious and excellent and has renewed my faith in the printed word. Thank you, Danielle Evans. Now hurry up and write some more stuff, please.
Feb 04, 2015 Didi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I usually have trouble loving short story collections but this one really won me over. Evans has constructed each story on large than life characters that we care about immediately. I've never read short stories like that before. The stories are longer than the usual 5-7 pages and maybe that's why I had the chance to really get into each story. The themes vary from race, to women issues to family and so forth. This is definitely 4,5 stars. I'm docking it a half star because I just didn't want it ...more
May 05, 2012 Rion rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Suffocate is a collection of short stories about the Black experience in America. Every story dealt with a sensitive and taboo subject (especially within the African American community). Virginity, abortion, and post traumatic stress disorder are just a few of the subjects Suffocate discusses.

Some of the stories (Snakes, Harvest, Someone Ought to Tell Her There's Nowhere to Go), are spectacular. As with most short stories, you are left with a sense of longing. You're left wanting more. You NEED
"I didn't feel anymore like being myself was something for which I owed the world an apology."

That brilliant quote, ladies and gentleman, is from Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self. Specifically from my favorite story, Robert E. Lee is dead. I related to this story the most, because I too felt ostracized for being the smart black girl and quiet. All of the stories were great and really made you think about life, the human condition and how our view on life greatly affects how we live.

At fi
Feb 16, 2015 Obsidian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This book has a collection of 8 short stories. These are the following: "Virgins," "Snakes," "Harvest," "Someone Ought to Tell Her There's Nowhere to Go," "The King of a Vast Empire," "Jellyfish," "Wherever You Go, There You Are," and "Robert E. Lee is Dead."

If I have to pick my favorite short story I think I am going to have to go with "Robert E. Lee is Dead." That's because the main protagonist of that story reminded me of my school days as the "smart one" in my high school. It was tricky for
Danielle Evans is like a breath of fresh air in the current offerings of short fiction. Her stories are in the here and now, told by your friends and neighbors whose voices are rarely heard. Evans has an exquisite talent at evoking the true essence of a character with just a few swift strokes. A few of the later stories (Jellyfish, Wherever You Go) tend to bog down in an overwritten explanation of an extremely grafted family tree, reading more like a diary entry than prose, but her best stories ...more
Feb 03, 2014 Nakia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
What can one say about a collection of short stories, each one of them delicious enough to hope that they never end? I almost feel bad for only giving this book 3.5 stars (I gave the extra .5 on Visual Bookshelf, but GoodReads and Shelfari won't allow for that...I wonder why). The only reason it didn't receive a perfect score of 5? I didn't want any of the stories to end so soon, if that makes any sense. These stories should be novels!

I especially loved "Virgins", the story of two teen girls in
Dec 19, 2010 Candace rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First, I hate short stories. Had I known when I picked this book up that it was a collection of short stories, I never would have done so. I read the second story thinking that it was the second chapter and struggled to find some kind of common thread linking it to the first "chapter". Never happened. Naturally. However, having said all this, I found that I couldn't put this book down.

I chose this book randomly because the title spoke to me. As a Parisian-dwelling-native-of-Virginia (you can tak
Sep 15, 2011 Monica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: genrex, 2010
4.5 really. Danielle Evans pushed me through my current sad pattern with short fiction collections. Usually I start out loving them and then I'm so exhausted keeping up with all of the new characters and all the new empathy that I'm ready to give up half way through.

Not so here. Evans writes about (mostly) young black women with brains and agency and fully realized characters. Everyone felt fascinating and familiar from paragraph one.

Seriously, she is really talented. I'll definitely be reading
Rita Reinhardt
Standing right here in my B-Girl stance, got my hands on my hips like I don’t care! Who's bad? What a collection of throwbacks, memories and tales similar our everyday lives - the life we have allowed to become a surrounding surface of familiarity. When first introduced to before you suffocate your own fool self I was less than impressed, however I picked up this collection and eventually found myself intrigued. Honest Review: Some of the stories are great! While others left me underwhelmed. Vir ...more
Thanks to the Borders closing sale, I got the book for $2.59!!
Ron Charles
Nov 26, 2013 Ron Charles rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I hope Danielle Evans is a very nice person because that might be her only defense against other writers' seething envy. At 26, this D.C.-area author has already graduated from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, earned praise from Salman Rushdie and Richard Russo, and appeared in two (two!) volumes of "Best American Short Stories." Now comes the publication of her first collection, "Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self," eight quietly devastating stories that validate the hype. No, she's not the Ame ...more
Jenny Shank
Nov 09, 2010 Jenny Shank rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Book review: 'Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self' by Danielle Evans

12:00 AM CDT on Sunday, October 3, 2010

By JENNY SHANK / Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News
Jenny Shank's first novel, The Ringer, will be published in March. She is the books editor of NewWest.Net.

Danielle Evans' debut story collection examines the lives of young black people in contemporary America and does so with a ringing authenticity in eight moving, funny and insightfu
Dec 15, 2010 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like a lot of readers, I have a kind of mixed relationship with short stories. While I often do enjoy them, I also often find them unfulfilling, either in terms of characterization or narrative closure. And in the case of American authors, I often encounter a kind of overly fussy style that (at least to me) reeks of endless workshopping, MFA programs, and hard-to-pin-down emptiness in spirit. As a result, I sometimes go for long stretches (6 months) of not reading any short stories at all. My la ...more
I would love to read a novel based on any of these eight stories, because the author has such a singular, strong voice. It most often takes the form of a smart, African-American girl in her late teens, who is struggling to fit in even though she knows she doesn’t quite belong where she is. Two of the stories in particular jump out at me: “Harvest”, which is about a girl and her white roommate in their first year of college in New York City, where they become friends because they both don’t have ...more
Alex Templeton
Feb 22, 2011 Alex Templeton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's true that a good short story collection will rarely, if ever, get as much attention as novels. That leads me to hearing about more novels, and therefore reading more novels. Fortunately, I heard about this well-received collection, and was therefore reminded of the great pleasure a good short story can bring. Each of these stories featured a young African-American struggling with identity and sense of self, but I never felt like I was reading the same story over again. The opening story, "V ...more
Nov 11, 2010 Jodi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010-read
Sometimes when I read short story collections I try to figure out what the author’s thing is. By thing I mean the big issue they address in their writing. While it’s easy to extrapolate from there that it’s the big issue the author him or herself is dealing with in his/her own life, I try not to make that assumptive leap.
For instance, I always thing of Mary Gaitskill’s thing as trying to reconcile sexuality with intelligence; Raymond Carver is sensitive men who cope with their sensitivity by dri
Sep 05, 2011 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult-fiction
To say that this is a collection of short stories about "young and African-American or mixedrace in modern day America", as the dust cover does, is to seriously underestimate and limit the scope of this work. This is a book about individuality, about growing up, about families, about disappointment, about being different, about being left behind, about leaving others behind -- in short, this is a book about life, applicable to every race, creed and color.

The author has an amazing skill in portra
I just don't think I'm a short story person. I'm sure these stories are good, but for the most part I didn't enjoy them. Partly because they tend to be rather dark, as short stories often are, and partly because I didn't feel that ring of truth or recognition in many of them. I really enjoyed the first story, about two teenage girls trying to figure out their place with men and boys. There were some very real-feeling moments, and even though I wouldn't call it a happy story, it made sense to me. ...more
Sonia Reppe
My favorite stories were Snakes and Harvest. The writing is really good but the tone is a little too cynical for me. You might argue that Evans is just being realistic, and I like realism, don't I? Yes, and I don't shy away from realism that makes you squirm a little when you see your own shortcomings, mistakes and/or misbehavior mirrored by the characters. But with realism you could take your characters down the redemptful (redemptive?) road or leave them in a state of hopelessness which I thin ...more
Sara Femrite Mitchell
Let me start out by saying that I'm not a huge fan of short stories. In fact, I never read them if I can help it. But this was a book club read picked by one of my friends and I will say that a couple of people in our club didn't care for it. I was skeptical, too. Their criticisms were that they were left wanting more after each story. I didn't feel that way. I thought the book was brilliant. It might not make a ton of sense to a lot of people but to me, it was inspiring. It was sort of a "comin ...more
Tanya Patrice
Apr 26, 2012 Tanya Patrice rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
4.5 - so rounding up.

What an AMAZING short story collection! I actually meant to return this book to the library unread because I was a bit burnt out on short-stories after reading We Others, After the Apocalypse & Teeth back to back. But while waiting somewhere or another, I cracked this book and read the 1st story - Virgins ... I was blown away and kept reading. Every single story is worth reading - even the 2 that seemed a bit unfinished to me, Jellyfish & Wherever You Go There You Ar
Shanika Carter
"Before You Suffocate..." was my introduction to dramatic short stories in one book. Although I found the stories to be very well written, I felt like each story kind of left me hanging to a certain extent. I thought all were good stories and perspectives that fit the title very well, but I was so drained after completing the book! I think the nature of the characters clashed with my mostly positive outlook on situations, and I found myself talking and fussing back at the characters as I read. T ...more
Aerial Nun
Oct 28, 2010 Aerial Nun rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Couldn't wait for this book to come out, and didn't want it to end. Evans keenly depicts adolescence and young adulthood in a very specific time (okay, mine) and place (sometimes also mine). Most praise I've read for this book mentions its "African American narrators," but it's a mistake to think that if you don't fall into a certain group, this book is not for you. This book is the quiet kid in the classroom, the one who, when you finally talk to her, cracks you up. It's for the person in betwe ...more
What a refreshing collection of short stories--some of the most decidedly modern stories I've ever read. My favorite story was "Snakes," which has a bit of Flannery O'Connor to it (which is the best compliment I can give a short story). Other stand-outs were "Harvest," "Robert E. Lee Is Dead" and "Virgins." I especially liked those stories that navigated the waters of adolescence as opposed to those characters treading the shallow waters of early adulthood, but all had thoughtful things about fa ...more
Brian TramueL
Jun 05, 2011 Brian TramueL rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A well put together series of completely unique short stories, a perfect way for me to refine and broaden my emotional palette. The common theme to me was about choices and how our environment; immediate and extended effects us. Family and community are often the BIGgest deterrent when faced with insecurities about ourselves. I appreciate that Danielle didn't write only about girls and women, she tells the stories of brothers and fathers.

Another take away for me is that she tells the Black pers
Nov 08, 2015 Nikki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This is one of the best short story collections I have read. These are coming to age stories about young women. The stories all have fully developed characters that are both likable and flawed. It's in the flaws that draw me into the story and reinforces that we are all far less than perfect. Memories of my adolescence came rushing in and reminded me of some positive and negative things that I did, leaving me to contemplate if any had more of an impact than I'd like to admit.
Michael Livingston
A wonderful collection of shorts, mostly featuring young black women as protagonists. Evans is content to leave things unresolved in these stories, and the characters are what hold the collection together. There were a couple of stories that felt like slight missteps to me, but the collection in general is fantastic.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • A Taste of Honey: Stories
  • Drinking Coffee Elsewhere
  • You Are Free
  • Alone With You
  • Glorious
  • Third Girl from the Left
  • Orange Mint and Honey
  • Annie Allen
  • Burning Bright
  • Leaving Atlanta
  • Gorilla, My Love
  • The First Person and Other Stories
  • Death Is Not an Option
  • Daughter
  • What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us
  • Vida
  • More of This World or Maybe Another
  • Flight to Canada
If you have gotten here by accident, I am not the Danielle Evans who won Americas Next Top Model, Danielle Evans the martial arts champion, Danielle Evans the photographer, or any of the other people who share my surprisingly popular name. I am a fiction writer and professor of creative writing and literature. My work has appeared in magazines including The Paris Review, A Public Space, Callaloo, ...more
More about Danielle Evans...

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“Appreciate the liars. When people don’t hide things, it means they don’t care enough to be afraid of losing you.” 3 likes
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