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Published Date : June 12, 2012
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
“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
“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.”
“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.”
“Rich, unhurried layering showcases [Johnson’s] larger themes…Both hip and elegant, these assured stories…simmer and resonate.”
“These stories are full of the small details and disappointments of life, the missed opportunities and the inopportune moments that change one’s trajectory.”
“Johnson’s narrators are sympathetic and engaging…A subtle and sometimes compelling vision of Los Angelino life.”