The stories in Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self are based in a world where inequality is reality but where the insecurities of adolescence and young adulthood, and the tensions within family and the community, are sometimes the biggest complicating forces in one's sense of identity.
Told from a close distance, these stories lack the rich patina of hindsight, their pleasures coming instead from an immediacy and an engaging voice. They evoke the thrill of an all-night conversation with your hip, frank, funny college roommate ... Rather than limiting the collection’s gaze, this perspective amplifies the universal pitfalls of coming of age in 21st-century America ... Evans hits a deep vein just below the Mason-Dixon, especially in her exploration of how an immigrant population has tangled the color line.
There’s a palpable vision at work here, and it makes for a thematically incisive and cohesive, if occasionally redundant, collection that examines the lives of intelligent, highly sensitive young black and biracial women (and, occasionally, men) struggling to progress beyond transient, indeterminate states of youth ... The archetypical friendship between two teenage girls...is also examined here ('Virgins,' 'Robert E. Lee Is Dead') with a steady and unwavering realism that elevates these stories from more conventional studies ... There is an inherent loneliness to these characters—an inability to make lasting connections with the people they most love, to bridge identities and personal history into an optimistic and cohesive view on the future, an apartness sometimes rendered from unconscionable failures of personal judgment and morality ... A thematically potent collection, whose promise is realized by Evans’s remarkable ability to fashion dramatic, even devastating narrative moments from so-called ordinary life.
Whether she’s observing people who work at Ruby Tuesday or Harvard students, Evans is a startlingly good sociocultural mimic ... Each story shares a particular female voice: tough, pragmatic, knowing, snappy ... The tension to keep control is especially painful in the most dramatic stories because the characters are just steps away from losing it all ... There are books that capture our world perfectly, like a scrim over a stage. And then there are books that surprise the audience and go somewhere new, somewhere completely unpredictable. In this collection, Evans paints a picture, sometimes ripping through the fabric. One wonders where she will go next.