Reviews for The office of historical corrections : a novella and stories

Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

The author of Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self (2010) looks at loss, relationships, and race in America in short fiction and a novella. A summary of the first story in this collection might go like this: Lyssa, a woman working in the gift shop of a Titanic-themed attraction, gets a small part in a music video. That covers the bare bones of the plot, but it offers no insight into what “Happily Ever After” is really about: It’s Lyssa losing her mother to cancer, and it’s how being Black shapes—and contorts—experiences in which race most likely seems irrelevant to people who aren’t Black. Most of the pieces in this volume have a similar shape. Regardless of what the story is ostensibly about, it’s also about race because there is no escaping or eliding race. Evans writes about injustices large and small with incredible subtlety and, often, wry wit. “Boys Go to Jupiter” is a standout, largely because it feels so timely. When a boy she’s hooking up with posts a photo of her wearing a Confederate-flag bikini on social media, Claire becomes a viral villain and a pariah at her small Vermont college. On the defensive, Claire goes from being clueless to willfully obtuse and ignorantly hurtful. Scenes from her past add depth and complexity while leaving the reader to decide how these revelations affect their understanding of this character. The eponymous novella that closes the book is a stunner. Cassie works at the Institute for Public History, a federal agency designed to address “the contemporary crisis of truth.” It’s her job to correct the historical record, whether that means correcting a tourist who’s getting their facts wrong or amending a bakery’s advertisement for a Juneteenth cake. When her boss asks her to look into the work of another field agent, Cassie steps back into her own past and into a murder mystery that might not involve a murder. To say much more would only detract from storytelling that is gripping on every level. Necessary narratives, brilliantly crafted. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Library Journal
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Claimant to PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize, Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and National Book Foundation "5 Under 35" honors for her debut story collection, Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, Evans returns after nine bit-chomping years with another collection weighing issues of race, culture, and history. For instance, in "Boys Go to Jupiter," a white student seeks to redeem herself after she's seen in cyberspace wearing a Confederate-flag bikini.


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

The author of Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self (2010) looks at loss, relationships, and race in America in short fiction and a novella.A summary of the first story in this collection might go like this: Lyssa, a woman working in the gift shop of a Titanic-themed attraction, gets a small part in a music video. That covers the bare bones of the plot, but it offers no insight into what Happily Ever After is really about: Its Lyssa losing her mother to cancer, and its how being Black shapesand contortsexperiences in which race most likely seems irrelevant to people who arent Black. Most of the pieces in this volume have a similar shape. Regardless of what the story is ostensibly about, its also about race because there is no escaping or eliding race. Evans writes about injustices large and small with incredible subtlety and, often, wry wit. Boys Go to Jupiter is a standout, largely because it feels so timely. When a boy shes hooking up with posts a photo of her wearing a Confederate-flag bikini on social media, Claire becomes a viral villain and a pariah at her small Vermont college. On the defensive, Claire goes from being clueless to willfully obtuse and ignorantly hurtful. Scenes from her past add depth and complexity while leaving the reader to decide how these revelations affect their understanding of this character. The eponymous novella that closes the book is a stunner. Cassie works at the Institute for Public History, a federal agency designed to address the contemporary crisis of truth. Its her job to correct the historical record, whether that means correcting a tourist whos getting their facts wrong or amending a bakerys advertisement for a Juneteenth cake. When her boss asks her to look into the work of another field agent, Cassie steps back into her own past and into a murder mystery that might not involve a murder. To say much more would only detract from storytelling that is gripping on every level.Necessary narratives, brilliantly crafted. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

In this collection of six short stories and a novella, Evans (Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, 2010) solidifies her reputation as one of the most thought-provoking contemporary storytellers. She introduces each of her protagonists, all women, on the brink of a life-altering crossroads. Whether these women react or respond to life’s curveballs is steeped in the complexities of their moral compasses. Themes of grief, trauma, sisterhood, and love influence their choices, and the ways in which they evolve. Classism also serves as a thread, as they make concessions in their struggles to solidify their places in the world. These women display a bold dedication to living full lives despite societal pressures. Evans writes with a wealth of knowledge of American history, serving as a catalyst for both the prisons and the freedoms her characters are allowed to explore. She dives into the generational wounds from America’s violent racial past and present, and crafts her stories with a surgeon's precision. Each detail meticulously builds on the last, leading to satisfying, unforeseeable plot twists. The language is colorful and drenched with emotion. Readers won’t be able to look away from the page as Evans captivates them in a world all her own.


Publishers Weekly
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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. (Nov.)

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