Cover Image: The Office of Historical Corrections

The Office of Historical Corrections

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Member Reviews

An interesting, creative collection. A refreshing book by an exciting author. I recommend this book for short story and novella lovers.
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I was so impressed by this short story/novella collection.  Danielle Evans is a skillful writer.  The themes of these stories include grief, loss, racism,  and belonging.  The topics feel very current and relevant.  I would not hesitate to read more by Evans.
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While a couple of the stories included within this collection were entertaining enough to warrant the read, I found the majority of the stories here did not linger in my brain after completing them.
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This was excellent—the writing smart and witty and poignant. I felt invested in each character and their trajectory, and the plot of each story was creative and compelling. A must-read.
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https://www.dallasnews.com/arts-entertainment/books/2020/10/27/author-danielle-evans-says-her-own-grief-and-losses-shaped-new-story-collection/
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I’m judging the L.A. Times 2020 and 2021 fiction contest. It’d be generous to call what I’m doing upon my first cursory glance—reading. I also don’t take this task lightly. As a fellow writer and lover of words and books, I took this position—in hopes of being a good literary citizen. My heart aches for all the writers who have a debut at this time.  What I can share now is the thing that held my attention and got me to read on even though it was among 296 other books I’m charged to read. 

Brilliant. “There was always something they wouldn’t tell everybody and she wanted to be told, which meant she had to look like a real person to them, like a person whose mother deserved to live, like someone who loved somebody. Whatever information they weren’t going to give her, whatever medicine they didn’t bother trying on Black women, she would have to ask to get, would have to ask for directly so that it went in the file if they refused, but ask for without seeming stupid or aggressive or cold. She would have to be poised and polite through her frustration, which thankfully retail had prepared her for. Tell me what you would tell a white woman, her face said. A white woman with money, her clothes said. Please, her tone said. But eventually all the doctors told her the same thing, and Lyssa accepted there was nothing left to ask for.
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This is a great book. I loved "Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self" and was very happy to be able to meet Danielle Evans in a class I was taking at the time. This book is readable and interesting and is full of dynamic characters who come to life even in the first page of a story.
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There are few things I love more than picking up a book without knowing anything about it beyond a general, enthusiastic buzz, and finding that I love what I read so much that I then want to read everything else the author has written. Wow @ this collection of short stories and a novella! On an intellectual level, I understand that short stories and novellas are genres in their own right, and that objectively there are stories better suited to each genre than to the longer form of the novel. And yet! Evans's stories are so riveting and wonderful and complicated and funny and instantly engaging that for at least half of them I wished they could have been longer. To be clear, all of the stories in this collection are perfect short stories in the way I conceive of perfection, wherein a perfect short story, through a magical combination of words, enchants the reader from the first paragraph and keeps her engaged through to the inevitable and yet surprising ending that feels revelatory and right.
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Just as there is an art to the short story, there is also an art to the short story collection. The writer must strike a delicate balance by maintaining thematic cohesion without indulging in repetition. Too often collections go awry: the stories have nothing in common except the author, an overarching theme generates a one-note collection, or the quality of the content varies wildly. In The Office of Historical Corrections, her second collection, Danielle Evans walks this tightrope with ease: each story contributes to a nuanced exploration of race and racism in America, offering a series of “what-ifs” and seeing them through to the end.

The most compelling piece is the titular novella, which follows Cassie, a worker at the Department of Political Correctness. Her job is to correct historical inaccuracies in anything from fliers to government documents. When an ex-employee, Genie, goes rogue and changes a plaque in small-town Wisconsin to name the white killers responsible for setting fire to a Black man’s house, Cassie has to pick up the pieces and evade violence from a particularly upset and violent white supremacist.

Evans reveals the complexities in rooting out racism. Here, she wants us to understand that while there is a kind of justice in naming those responsible for lynchings and other anti-Black hate crimes, if we insist on naming every violent racist, “the sometimes brutality and sometimes banality of antiblackness” becomes “the loop of history that was always a noose if you looked at it long enough.” Although naming the perpetrators seems only right, Cassie also recognizes that there is something demoralizing about living with the constant reminder that, in her country, Black people have been consistently persecuted.

Other stories in the collection grapple with similarly difficult issues. “Boys Go to Jupiter” tackles the topic of white fragility. When Claire offhandedly posts a selfie wearing a Confederate flag bikini—a bathing suit she admits is ugly, yet wears to please her boyfriend and annoy her stepmother—she’s shocked to find that a Black girl in her dorm is offended enough to post about it in protest. In her annoyance, Claire slips a note under the girl’s door using a postcard printed with the Confederate flag, a gesture which subsequently lands her in a disciplinary hearing for threatening a student. “A threat of what?” she asks. “That I was going to legally enslave her? Secede from the hallway, declare war on her, and then lose?” What Claire takes as an innocuous joke belies the truth of micro (and not-so-micro) aggressions: that it’s difficult for people who believe themselves not to be racist to see the problem with their actions.

Evans portrays Claire not as an evil white woman but as a sad, lonely young adult too stubborn to back down after making a mistake. She’s not particularly fond of the flag, but feels compelled to stand her ground, unwilling to see herself as racist. But here again Evans declines to see only one side of the issue. Instead, she pulls at the loose threads, and rather than the didactic diatribe this collection could have been, each story is a study in subtlety.

Every collection has its weak point, but in The Office of Historical Corrections, only one story falls flat. In “Anything Can Disappear,” Vera is left with a toddler on the bus but fears taking him to the police because she’s carrying a large quantity of drugs. Instead of returning the boy after the drop off, Vera decides to raise him as her own because it doesn’t appear that his mother is searching for him. The murky morality of this story—whether or not Vera is doing the ethical thing by caring for this abandoned child—is overshadowed by the unrealistic nature of the situation. The ending, in which Vera leaves a note with the unsupervised child in the home of his biological father, is also vaguely unrealistic and unsatisfying.

As a collection, The Office of Historical Corrections achieves a level of sophistication that most writers can only hope for. The stories ask difficult questions about racism, attempting to unravel the intricacies but ultimately leaving the reader with a knot they must untangle themselves.
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Danielle Evans has her finger on the pulse of our current moment: social media, celebrity, white supremacy. These stories feel contemporary and modern, but not snobbish or aloof.
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I really enjoyed these stories, particularly Happily Ever After and the title novella. They were filled with humor and life. I appreciated different readers for each story very much.
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I normally don't go for short story collections as by brain likes to create a connecting narrative for each story to create a full length novel, which leads to confusion and annoyance on my part.  However, since I recognized this tendency and now take a break between each story I'm enjoying short story collections even more.  I enjoyed the stories in this collection but two stood out to me.  My favorite is the title story as history is my thing and 'correcting' history is such a touchy subject (fyi, I prefer the concept of expanding and fleshing out the historical record than 'correcting' it, but that's just me).  This story shows how attempting to add marginalized voices to the historical record is often uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous and even those with the best intentions often have misgivings on their intent.  Following the two main characters and their different paths was intriguing as they both technically have the same goal but their intentions and efforts towards that goal.  My second favorite was "Anything Could Disappear" which tells the story of a young women who winds up taking care of a child who was left on a Greyhound bus and the ramifications of her actions regarding that child.
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The writing in this collection of short stories is impeccable and gorgeous. I’m not usually a short story person but I could have read 100 more of these. Funny, touching, provocative and memorable. Highly recommend.
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This collection in a showcase of Danielle Evans' sharp prose and insightful eye. It's impressive in how compelling it is to read, and how well it speaks to our current cultural and political moment. In many of these stories, from the short story "Boys Go To Jupiter" to the titular novella, Evans explores moments that interesting enough on their surface, but adds further layers to them through the characters' backstories and reflections. It's an incredibly effective use of craft that she manages to make fresh through each story. In addition to the cultural commentary layered throughout the narrative, there are also great moments of humor and playful pop culture references. I'm a sucker for stories about weddings, so "Richard of York Gave Battle in Vain" ended up being one of my favorites.
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In this collection of shorts (and one novella), Danielle Evans shows women going through the rites of life and death, work and love, the undercurrents of race omnipresent, sometimes subtle and at other times overt; but never absent. Among my favorites were 'Happily Ever After' wherein a young woman contemplates the grit and trials of her mother's perhaps untimely death against the backdrop of a magical world being created for a popstar's music video; and 'Richard of York Gave Battle in Vain' in which a young woman untethered and unattached attends the wedding of a man whom she perhaps might have attached herself to, if she dared. Even though not featuring a Black main protagonist, I very much liked 'Boys Go to Jupiter'. In it, a white college co-ed wears a Confederate bikini and unwittingly becomes the symbol of something she isn't sure she even believes; the ensuing brouhaha causes her to reflect on her childhood friendship with a Black girl, that fractured for reasons she doesn't completely understand. In the short, after which the collection is named, an ambitious professional who has always played it safe on the race issue finds herself at odds yet again with her lifelong frenemy who takes a much more bold stance which she finds both admirable and uncomfortable. As a collection, the stories were entertaining and unpredictable, illustrating the various quirks of living in a society that is both race-obsessed and hesitant to acknowledge its obsession. I might have enjoyed these stories more if I didn't feel like all the Black women characters were essentially the same person, even though on the surface their occupations and personalities were different. They all had the same somewhat glib way of looking at and thinking about the world that ultimately to me felt like the author's voice overpowering and drowning out those of the characters she created. At times, I felt like I was reading a series of essays about race written in story form. But perhaps that was the point. Recommended for readers of literary fiction and satire.
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Danielle Evans offers commentary through short stories covering issues of misinformation and misunderstandings. The title piece is actually a novella while the others are shorter stories. I enjoyed the different views and some of the stories will stay with me for a long time. I think I would have loved a full novel about The Office of Historical Corrections so the novella was my favorite part!
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This collection was such a breath of fresh air. Every short story felt contained, yet each contained multitudes. It was so expansive - covering sex, family, friendship, work - yet the book felt cohesive, which I can't say for every collection of short stories.
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I really loved this book. Evans is an incredible writer and managed to create compelling characters that stuck with me more than any other book of short stories I've read. Her stories were thought-provoking and compelling and gave just enough to keep you on your toes a bit. Could not recommend this enough.
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This collection is wildly imaginative and disturbingly accurate, making for an engaging and powerful read.
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This was my first book of 2021 as part of my goal to read more short story and essay collections. And wow, what a perfect one to start off with. On January 6 the Capitol was stormed by a group of white supremacists, incited and encouraged by President Trump. It was just another reminder of how entrenched our country is in racism and how white supremacy always has and continues to run rampant. This collection tells the story of multiple Black women and reconsiders history and the intricacies of our current society. It is visceral, relevant, and well structured. I found myself fully invested in each and every complicated character and was left wanting more. [Content warning for racism, hate crime, death, racial slurs, gun violence]
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