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The Office of Historical Corrections
Cover of The Office of Historical Corrections
The Office of Historical Corrections
A Novella and Stories
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WINNER OF THE 2021 JOYCE CAROL OATES PRIZE NAMED A BEST BOOK OF 2020 BY O MAGAZINE, THE NEW YORKER, THE WASHINGTON POST, REAL SIMPLE, THE GUARDIAN, AND MORE  FINALIST FOR: THE STORY PRIZE, THE...
WINNER OF THE 2021 JOYCE CAROL OATES PRIZE NAMED A BEST BOOK OF 2020 BY O MAGAZINE, THE NEW YORKER, THE WASHINGTON POST, REAL SIMPLE, THE GUARDIAN, AND MORE  FINALIST FOR: THE STORY PRIZE, THE...
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  • WINNER OF THE 2021 JOYCE CAROL OATES PRIZE
    NAMED A BEST BOOK OF 2020 BY O MAGAZINE, THE NEW YORKER, THE WASHINGTON POST, REAL SIMPLE, THE GUARDIAN, AND MORE 
    FINALIST FOR: THE STORY PRIZE, THE L.A. TIMES BOOK PRIZE, THE ASPEN WORDS LITERARY PRIZE, THE CHAUTAUQUA PRIZE
    “Sublime short stories of race, grief, and belonging . . . an extraordinary new collection . . .” —The New Yorker
     
    “Evans’s new stories present rich plots reflecting on race relations, grief, and love . . .” —The New York Times Book Review, Editor’s Choice


    “Danielle Evans demonstrates, once again, that she is the finest short story writer working today.” —Roxane Gay, The New York Times–bestselling author of Difficult Women and Bad Feminist

    The award-winning author of Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self brings her signature voice and insight to the subjects of race, grief, apology, and American history.
    Danielle Evans is widely acclaimed for her blisteringly smart voice and X-ray insights into complex human relationships. With The Office of Historical Corrections, Evans zooms in on particular moments and relationships in her characters’ lives in a way that allows them to speak to larger issues of race, culture, and history. She introduces us to Black and multiracial characters who are experiencing the universal confusions of lust and love, and getting walloped by grief—all while exploring how history haunts us, personally and collectively. Ultimately, she provokes us to think about the truths of American history—about who gets to tell them, and the cost of setting the record straight.
    In “Boys Go to Jupiter,” a white college student tries to reinvent herself after a photo of her in a Confederate-flag bikini goes viral. In “Richard of York Gave Battle in Vain,” a photojournalist is forced to confront her own losses while attending an old friend’s unexpectedly dramatic wedding. And in the eye-opening title novella, a black scholar from Washington, DC, is drawn into a complex historical mystery that spans generations and puts her job, her love life, and her oldest friendship at risk.
 

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Excerpts-

  • From the book

    Happily Ever After

     

    When Lyssa was seven, her mother took her to see the movie where the mermaid wants legs, and when it ended Lyssa shook her head and squinted at the prince and said, Why would she leave her family for that? which for years contributed to the prevailing belief that she was sentimental or softhearted, when in fact she just knew a bad trade when she saw one. The whole ocean for one man. Not that she knew much about the ocean; Lyssa had been born in a landlocked state, and at thirty it seemed the closest she might get to the sea was her job working the gift shop in the lobby of the Titanic. It was not a metaphor: it was an actual replica of the Titanic, with a mini museum on the lower level, though most of their business came from weddings and children's birthday parties hosted on the upper decks.

     

    The ship-shaped building was a creation of the late nineties, the pet project of an enterprising educational capitalist who wanted to build an attraction both rigorous in its attention to historical detail and visually stunning. To preserve history, he said to the public; to capitalize off of renewed interest in the disaster, he said to his investors. He had planned to build to scale, but that plan hadn't survived initial cost estimates. They'd only ever had a quarter of the passenger rooms the actual Titanic had, and most of those rooms were now unfurnished and used as storage closets, their custom bed frames sold secondhand during the last recession.

     

    At the end of the summer season, a second-tier pop star rented the whole structure for a music video shoot, shutting down normal operations for three full days. Lyssa had been planning on having the time off, but when the video's director came to finalize the plans for the space, he'd stopped in front of the shop glass, stared for a minute, then walked in and said, "You-you're perfect."

     

    She agreed to remain on-site for the filming and canceled the doctor's appointment she'd already rescheduled twice, giving herself in her head the lecture she imagined the doctor would have if he answered his own phone. Her coworker Mackenzie sulked around the ship for the rest of the afternoon, flinging herself into the director's line of vision without success. Mackenzie sometimes worked the gift shop counter with her, but only sometimes. Whenever there was a princess party, Mackenzie wore the costume dress and chaperoned as the princess-on-deck. Lyssa never worked parties; the one time anyone had bothered to give her an explanation for this (she hadn't asked), it was a supervisor who mumbled something about historical accuracy, meaning no Black princesses.

     

    "We'd hate for the six-year-olds having tea parties on the Titanic to get the wrong idea about history," Lyssa said, so straight-faced that the supervisor failed to call her out for attitude.

     

    "I guess they must want diversity," Mackenzie said after the director left, using air quotes for diversity even though it was the literal word she meant.

     

    The next day, and, as Mackenzie went, genuinely conciliatory: "Maybe he wants to fuck you? He was cute, in a New York way. I bet he thinks you're exotic."

     

    Exotic, not so much: the theme of the music video was sea monsters; everyone in it, including the pop star and Lyssa, would be painted with green body paint and spritzed with shimmer and filmed through a Vaseline lens that would add to the illusion that they were underwater. The pop star didn't want a ship; she wanted a shipwreck. Lyssa was just supposed to wear her regular uniform and work the counter and be herself in costume...

Reviews-

  • Library Journal

    June 1, 2020

    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.

    Copyright 2020 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    September 7, 2020
    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.

  • Kirkus

    September 15, 2020
    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(2020) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from October 15, 2020
    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.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2020, American Library Association.)

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A Novella and Stories
Danielle Evans
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