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Elsewhere, California

A Novel

List Price: $15.95

June 12, 2012 | Paperback | 5.5 x 8.2, 304 Pages | ISBN 9781582437842

"Avery's evolution — a black woman trying to claim her place — is as heartbreaking as it is humorous, powerful as it is poignant, because Johnson so assertively confronts those complexities." —Los Angeles Times

We first met Avery in two of the stories featured in Dana Johnson’s award-winning collection Break Any Woman Down. As a young girl, she and her family escape the violent streets of Los Angeles to a more gentrified existence in suburban West Covina. This average life, filled with school, trips to 7–Eleven to gawk at Tiger Beat magazine, and family outings to Dodger Stadium, is soon interrupted by a past she cannot escape, personified in the guise of her violent cousin Keith.

When Keith moves in with her family, he triggers a series of events that will follow Avery throughout her life: to her studies at USC, to her burgeoning career as a painter and artist, and into her relationship with a wealthy Italian who sequesters her in his glass–walled house in the Hollywood Hills. The past will intrude upon Avery’s first gallery show, proving her mother’s adage: Every goodbye aint gone. The dual-narrative of Elsewhere, California illustrates the complicated history of African Americans across the rolling basin of Los Angeles.

DANA JOHNSON is the author of Break Any Woman Down, which won the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction and was a finalist for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. Born and raised in and around Los Angeles, California, she is an associate professor of English at the University of Southern California.


“Beautifully wrought. A contemporary Bildungsroman with a wise and winning heroine at its heart.” —T.C. Boyle, author of When The Killing’s Done

“In this debut novel, Johnson brilliantly knits the dual narratives together, maintaining a dynamic balance between nimble language and rowdy, vulnerable characters. The real achievement is the honest, compassionate, and unflinching willingness to honor teenage struggles for identity, confidence, and love while listening to Led Zeppelin and rooting for the Dodgers.” —Publishers Weekly Starred Review

“Avery’s evolution — a black woman trying to claim her place — is as heartbreaking as it is humorous, powerful as it is poignant, because Johnson so assertively confronts those complexities.” —Los Angeles Times

“Johnson’s Elsewhere, California is a clear-eyed jam on class, race, and love; sassy yet searing.” —Oscar Hijuelos, author of The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love

“Reading Elsewhere, California, Dana Johnson’s luminous, intelligent, linguistically dexterous first novel about growing up in Southern California, made me understand exponentially more about my own state, my own growing up, and the private lives of families in the homes all around me. An impressive, inspiring debut!” —Michelle Huneven, author of Blame

“I am in love with a woman named Avery and I have only heard her voice. She exists in these pages, radiates from them. Dana Johnson weaves the complex strings of modern identity into a tapestry that is both familiar yet refreshingly new.” —Mat Johnson, author of Pym

“Dana Johnson’s extraordinary novel offers an arresting vision of black female identity that transcends color and class even as it reveals its continuing power in our lives. The main character, Avery, is everything at once: struggling and middle-class, black and not-quite-black-enough, sexually invisible and sexually exoticized. Avery is about as complex and compelling a heroine as I’ve read recently, and Elsewhere, California is a luminous, funny, and poignant tale that speaks directly to a whole generation raised in a state of cultural confusion.” —Danzy Senna, author of You Are Free and Caucasia

“I love listening to Avery talk about anything and everything, from the Dodgers to the art world to neighborhood negotiations to certain brands of shorts. Here is a character with an intensely engaging voice, surrounded by an equally riveting cast, all created by a writer who knows how to make words— and people— sparkle on the page.” —Aimee Bender, author of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

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