Danielle Evans’ sophomore collection of short stories with a timely, prescient eponymous novella is a delightful follow up to Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, whose title alone you have to love.
In The Office of Historical Corrections, we meet Black women who are sexy, dispassionate, cerebral and astute. They come from money and status; the Jack and Jill set, if they wanted to join, but generally, they’re not that interested in what you think of them. From Alcatraz to Wisconsin to the D.C./Maryland/Virginia trinity, these characters traverse the physical landscape while tromping on the generally limited and boundary-laden universes into which they are typically crammed or altogether absent.
One of my favorites in this collection is “Boys Go to Jupiter,” told from the perspective of the clueless white girl Claire who becomes a lightning rod for controversy when she dons a Confederate-flag printed bikini and posts carelessly about it online. In less skilled hands, the story would veer towards tropes that don’t truly vindicate the Black women who are often unheard in these narratives. In Evans’ hands, though, we understand Claire’s indignation clearly, and we know that it is her right to do what she wants as a kind of blind participation in white privilege that of course has come to the fore in public life more recently.
The eponymous novella, however, featuring two frenemies united in their noble profession or recovering or literally re-membering aspects of Black history that are often intentionally lost, is beautiful, timely and thought-provoking. Novellas are still unfortunately rare, but I really love the form and Evans showcases its best features here, underscoring how convenient forgetting can be even for the most conscientious among us. I hope you’ll pre-order the book from my affiliate page on Bookshop.org. I also made a short video review on Black Book Stacks, which you can see here.