Black Women Writers @ Southwestern University

An English / Feminist Studies / Race & Ethnicity Studies Course Blog

The Short Story as a Form of Not So Short Activism

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The short story is a unique medium to give and receive narrative. There becomes an obvious and almost anxious need to quickly write about the characters/become involved as a reader with the protagonists and characters in the story. Reading Danielle Evans’ stories in Before you Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, she has the art of involving the reader down. First of all, easily, as a reader I become involved and cared about the characters. However, what is shocking about Evans’ stories is actually not specifically her mastery of starting the narrative, but the way she ends each story. Most of the stories, end at an extreme point in the main character’s life. Novels take half of the book to get to that point and the other half, the reader sees how the character deals with it.

In the last short story in the collection, “Robert E. Lee is Dead,” the protagonist’s best friend, Geena is sitting at the curb of their school waiting for the police to come, while Crystal (the protagonist) is running away because they accidentally set fire to the graduation ceremony stage. THE END.

Of course, as a reader I was struck and kept thinking, what happened to Geena? and also what type of person is Crystal now? I have not read too many short stories that would be put on the pedestal of literature, but from what I can recall, they did not usually end on this type of note. A note of confusion and questioning.

Evans’ may create this type of narrative, so that the reader is required to be involved in the story. Instead of wrapping everything in the narrative up in a nice bow, it becomes a necessity for the reader to question the narrative and wonder about it. With this questioning, Evans becomes an instigator of new thoughts and beliefs–of course fairly slowly. Making a reader critically think is amazing and of course beneficial to the reader’s mind and to society as a whole–slowly changing perceptions of situations.

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One thought on “The Short Story as a Form of Not So Short Activism

  1. That’s a great observation. The stories never do end nicely. But, even the terrible endings are not the endings I am used to reading. In most of the books I have read, someone usually dies or goes crazy (mentally). I like that these endings are different from the normal endings but I do wish I knew what happened to the characters.

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