The author rewrites the official record by way of fiction. Evans is particularly gifted at depicting character, especially female protagonists ... Evans’s Black female characters often start out on the periphery: The worker at the Titanic hotel muses that 'she was backdrop.' Literature offers a kind of corrective to history by drawing these figures into the foreground ... Evans’s propulsive narratives read as though they’re getting away with something, building what feel like novelistic plots onto the short story’s modest real estate.
In her second collection of stories, Danielle Evans maintains the blend of levity and sorrow that marked her debut. Violence, abandonment and racism abound in The Office of Historical Corrections; the characters’ senses of humor surface as a kind of salve ... The prose is too strong for the occasional excess of plot, or flashes of cinematic dialogue, to detract from the work ... Evans pays close attention to the power of appearance—not only the visibility of race, but also glittery notions of femininity, the princess-themed birthdays and “hot-pink” bachelorette party games ... In Evans’ stories, the most intriguing moments are the fissures in these willfully built narratives.
The book, which follows the critically lauded Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, from 2010, examines alienation and the phantasmagoria of racial performance—how certain interactions can seem so forced and strange that they might as well take place underwater ... Evans evinces a special vigilance toward threats that are familiar, in the sense of both inherited and routine. To read her is to become aware of ambience, of the peculiar iridescence that short fiction can sometimes offer: the stories are infused with many things but not precisely “about” any of them ... It’s not spoiling much to say that the twisting, turning novella finally drops the collection off back where it began: with a woman yearning to be treated as human. But Evans, reprising her fairy-tale motif, offers no cartoonish certainties. She regards her characters with real curiosity and edges their discoveries with real terror ... I was moved, reading Evans’s stories, by a sudden, flooding feeling of familiarity. Here were themes from childhood picture books, problems that seemed native to the past, and yet they rushed back, louder than ever. Metaphors amount to their own form of passing, obscuring realities that can only hide for so long. Is it worth surrendering your voice to be safe? Conversely, is it worth sacrificing your life to be heard? Suppose that the creature weighing these things is a mermaid. Now suppose that she’s been human from the start.
... a magnificent, searing collection ... What struck me throughout the book was Evans’s courage in examining such fraught and inescapable points of intersection between Black and White lives ... stories also cover a full spectrum of parallel and overlapping White and Black lives, while looking unflinchingly at the impact of multiple forms of violence and constraint ... considerable range, particularly for original, affecting portrayals of grief and intimacy ... One of the many narrative pleasures of the...collection overall, is the true-to-life language of the characters; the quick, persuasive interplay of dialogue ... Another such pleasure, though, is the meticulously paced, suspenseful, page-turning aspect. Without spoiling the end, I can promise this book will make readers face the news with renewed emotion, emotion all the more potent for the devastation that history has wrought on Evans’s characters, and on all of us.
What makes a good short story? Danielle Evans' dynamite new collection proves a study in the form. Slices of life, each piece in Corrections captures its own mood, hums to distinct rhythms, and locates unique spaces for empathy and pain and catharsis. They're also delectably readable, propulsive accounts of loss and fear and redemption that twist with O. Henry-level glee.
... draws on the current zeitgeist with provocative narratives examining race, female friendship, and privilege ... The stories are tightly structured, compact and efficient, driven by wry wit and Evans’s keen observations ... The stories are strengthened by the use of sarcasm and droll observation ... The brilliance of Evans’s writing is in the ability to both generate sympathy for this cringe-worthy white girl while simultaneously eviscerating her ... a collection for the moment. Evans skillfully interprets cancel culture, fake news, and political cults in order to craft a unique critique of the country’s underlying racism. The success of the collection stems from balancing the gloom of racism with Evans wry commentary. The snarky narrative voice cuts deeply. These stories are now even more necessary.
Evans seems to use the shorter stories in Historical Corrections as an extended overture to the novella that concludes the book, with each story embodying a particular problem faced by Black people in this country: invisibility, classism, the tensions of being multiracial and the whitewashing of history ... One of the saving graces of the last few years is the abundance of sharp fiction that deftly dramatizes racial injustice and division in this country. Evans goes further than most, though, in exploring divisions within the Black community — including the sort of 'internalized capitalism' that could, for instance, make a Black celebrity support a racist president ... Evans calmly and expertly navigates the limits and possibilities of short stories. Yet here they risk being given short shrift because they work as a preamble to the novella, which combines uncommon storytelling with rare wisdom. Evans jokes in her Acknowledgements that her editors at Riverhead didn’t 'yell' at her when she said she wanted to release another volume of short fiction. That’s probably because they were too busy cheering her on, knowing that her eventual novel will be worth the wait. The Office of Historical Corrections certainly has been.
Five of the six stories in her new collection, The Office of Historical Corrections, are as good as the best stories in her first book ... it’s good to see that her talent extends to longer work, as the best story in this book is the novella and social satire ... All of Evans’s characters are sharply and realistically drawn; and she has no problem, as her novella proves, manipulating the intricacies of plotting longer work ... I can’t wait for her first novel. Let’s hope it’s less than 10 years away and certainly no more than that.
This is a topical conflict and the stories perceptively touch on current controversies like cancel culture and the disputes over historical monuments. But these are, first and foremost, character-driven stories, and the arguments play out most forcefully in the minds of the young black women searching for some livable balance between guilt and forgiveness. As such, the stories are expository rather than dramatic—that is, they tell more than they show. This works for Ms. Evans because her writing is remarkably fast, conveying information and moving across time periods with a velocity that can induce whiplash ... Ms. Evans is also funny in a droll, puncturing way, as inclined to mine trauma for mordant humor as for sentimentality.
The characters grow up in a world shaped by America’s long history of racism and sexism, but many are also living with personal grief ... Despite the seriousness of these themes, Danielle Evans writes with a great deal of stylishness and wit. Her short stories feel expansive despite their few pages, often taking readers through a series of surprising revelations and major plot twists inserted in unexpected places. These shifts can leave readers gasping as they race to keep up with the prose. The volume’s concluding novella has a more thoughtful pace and a more conventional in its narrative structure, but it is equally stunning ... Danelle Evan’s book will leave readers with their hearts exposed, eager to see what she produces next.
There is a rhythm to Danielle Evans’s writing that can, on the surface, betray the tensions roiling beneath the stories she tells. She writes about the haunting nature of memory, grief, and desire with a piercing subtlety that refuses any sort of cliché terms of closure ... Evans’s narrative style is one of precision, oscillating between the first- and close-third-person perspectives. Such tightness allows her to get underneath the sadness or trauma or regret or anger her characters wear. They are followed by their ghosts, and this propels them into action, for better or for worse ... There is a frailty to resolution that rejects prescription or guarantee. Tending to this fragility is part of Evans’s mastery, and it just might be the way to traverse the gap.
... an accomplished short story writer. Here she explores a staggering number of contemporary issues through the lens of her primarily black female protagonists, from the many different facets of race (racial disparities, respectability politics, passing, microaggressions, white supremacy) and class, to abuse and relationships. In the hands of a lesser writer, it might have felt breathless and overburdened, but in each of the works here, Evans delves into these themes with care, nuance and a sharp wit ... Each story in this superb collection offers an observation of modern life that feels urgent and vital, and confirms Evans’ place as one of the most electric and insightful voices writing today.
Racism is an insidious beast. It can find its way into any situation, as Danielle Evans shows in the stories and novella in The Office of Historical Corrections. Evans emerged as an important voice in American literature with her 2010 debut short story collection, Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, and she once again demonstrates impressive artistry and humor as she chronicles shocking episodes of discriminatory behavior ... the sharpest piece is the title novella, about a government agency that adds emendations to incorrect placards at historical sites, a job that becomes surprisingly dangerous. As a child, the novella’s protagonist consoled a Black friend who had lost a debate tournament, declaring her a better debater than her white competitors. 'But it’s never going to be enough,' replied the friend. Evans’ book shows that that painful truth hasn’t disappeared.
... a narrative that skillfully walks the line between satire and reality (a line that is all too blurry in 2020!) ... Throughout, these considerations of our country’s history are intertwined with the more personal history of the characters Evans so sensitively draws ... Evans’ stories are emotionally authentic and perceptive, extraordinarily accomplished in their approach to characterization and theme, and refreshingly free of gimmicks. The pieces collected here feel both perfectly of the moment and classic, the kinds of stories that students will be studying and cherishing decades from now in order to understand not only the work of a skillful practitioner of the craft but also this particular moment in our nation’s history.
In the wrong hands, the marshaling of so much sociological material risks didacticism, a morally salutary but lifeless march to a preordained conclusion. But Evans is interested in the nuances and contradictions of the characters she depicts. She wants to understand the messy, contingent processes through which history is created, and her curiosity and empathy extend, throughout the collection, to characters buffeted by personal and political crosswinds.
... a new collection that is so smart and self-assured it’s certain to thrust her into the top tier of American short story writers. Evans’ stories feel particularly urgent at this moment of national reckoning over race. While they aren’t specifically about being Black any more than Alice Munro’s are about being white, many of the characters are shaped by the social, economic and cultural conditions unique to African American life ... she brings an anthropologist’s eye to the material conditions of her characters’ lives ... The hands-down masterpiece of the collection is the title novella ... Reading these stories is like [an] amusement park ride—afterward, you feel a sense of lightness and exhilaration.
The Office of Historical Corrections addresses the complexity of grief while also exploring issues of race, the stripping of Black culture and history, and sex through a woman’s perspective ... Each story except for the last is told in a third person perspective. This allows for readers to interpret each story from a different lens, yet Evans’ quick-witted voice unifies each narration. Aside from trauma, another theme heavily discussed is the use of sex as a means of escaping grief ... effortlessly blends the impact of trauma into what otherwise may be seen as a mundane story ... Originally, I was critical of the endings of each chapter because they felt unfinished and left endless questions unanswered. However, as I continued reading, I realized that Evans most likely intended for the audience to feel a lack of closure.
These stories are wonderfully varied, with settings like a life-sized Titanic replica to an Alcatraz tour. In each piece, Evans contends with grief, loss, race, and the sometimes-echoing, sometimes-shattering effects of the past, though 'collection' oversimplifies the care and craft evidenced within these pages ... Here’s the real power nestled within the pages of this collection: many of the characters from its all-woman cast, like Cassie, will stay with you even after you’ve moved to the next story, and the next ... Each woman springs off the page and into the mind with subtle ease, belying the craft of creation and eluding fiction’s artifice. Master musicians and writers share this, at least—making the difficult seem effortless ... What follows is an exploration of the modern American psyche (appropriately prefaced with a James Baldwin quote) as endearing and humor-filled as it is disturbing and horrifyingly inevitable ... With such placement, this story is asked to bear the weight of the title, to hold the other stories that have come before within itself. It does not disappoint ... Evans’ collection is more than an assemblage of stories; it is a rich, nuanced, and fluid display of writerly range and precision of language.
... bristles with the author’s signature wit and precision ... Those excited about writers who tell the truth about Black women’s lives should not let the 'fiction' label deter them. These stories are as real as it gets.
Evans solidifies her reputation as one of the most thought-provoking contemporary storytellers ... 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.
Evans writes about injustices large and small with incredible subtlety and, often, wry wit ... The eponymous novella that closes the book is a stunner ... storytelling that is gripping on every level ... Necessary narratives, brilliantly crafted.
Evans brings her usual wit and keen eye to her latest collection ... 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 ... The rest of the stories, however, are hit-or-miss ... Despite its shortcomings, this is a timely, entertaining collection from a talented writer who isn’t afraid to take chances.