In her debut short story collection, “Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self,” Danielle Evans tackles heavy themes like race, growing up, lost love and childhood camaraderie — all told through a wide range of characters from all over the world. And yet, despite the variety, Evans’ writing gives the immediate impression that it is she who is not only telling the story, but has lived it.
“A lot of what I do is borrowing from life and running with it,” says Evans.
Take, for instance, the story “Jellyfish,” which reflects “what it means to salvage something and put some projection onto an object and go from there.” The story stems from the true-life tale of Evans’ father, whose office building in the World Trade Center Plaza was destroyed in the 9/11 attacks, and a blender he wanted to give her.
“Every week for months I would hear about this blender and when they were going to give it back to him and when it was going to be cleared,” she says. “That was a small part of the story.”
Dozens of publications, ranging from Essence to New York Magazine, have praised “Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self,” making the collection one of the most buzzed-about books of the season. And while she’s enjoying the attention that most authors would kill for, Evans, a creative writing professor at American University, is taking it in stride. “It’s exciting [being called a new talent], but you see how people have their first book come out and you realize that for six months you get to put on your pretty dress and go to the party and then you go home and go back to your life.
Luckily, I like my life more or less these days.”