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.
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Dana Johnson is the author of Break Any Woman Down, Winner of the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction, and the novel Elsewhere, California. Both books were nominees for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. Born and raised in and around Los Angeles, she is an associate professor of English at the University of Southern California. Learn more at danajohnsonauthor.com.
--Publishers Weekly, starred review "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 "Beautifully wrought. A contemporary Bildungsroman with a wise and winning heroine at its heart." --T.C. Boyle "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 Praise for Break Any Woman Down: "Dana Johnson's collection of stories contains so many wonderful women. Living, breathing, making a million mistakes, but you understand every one of them. Sometimes you think your heart will burst, but the pain is illustrated with depth, clarity, and beauty."
-Victor LaValle, author of Big Machine and The Ecstatic "This is an exciting and gorgeous literary debut."
-Jonathan Ames, author of The Extra Man "You can hear Johnson's voices ringing long after you put the stories down...No character could stay a stranger long in this writer's hands."
-Los Angeles Times "[A] sometimes comical read...Johnson's stories are ultimately bound by the human desire to find a place...to fit in."
-USA Today "Deftly achieves both art and amusement...Johnson's ability to coax the heart as much as the mind...marks the author as a storyteller at her most potent."
-Seattle Weekly "Whether its an awkward sixth grader with a crush, a pair of brazen Iranian sisters, or a male porno star who bakes a mean ziti, Dana Johnson's characters breath authenticity. Johnson has got range and she's got depth. A remarkable new voice has emerged."
-Dalton Conley, author of Honky "Rich, unhurried layering showcases [Johnson's] larger themes...Both hip and elegant, these assured stories...simmer and resonate."
-Publishers Weekly "Johnson renders with authenticity a range of ages, nationalities, and perspectives with a verve that leaves the reader wanting more."
-Janet McDonald, author of Project Girl "These stories are full of the small details and disappointments of life, the missed opportunities and the inopportune moments that change one's trajectory."
-Library Journal "Johnson's narrators are sympathetic and engaging...A subtle and sometimes compelling vision of Los Angelino life."