The Office of Historical Corrections

Danielle Evans

The Office of Historical Corrections
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The Office of Historical Corrections

Danielle Evans

Danielle Evans is widely acclaimed for her blisteringly smart voice and X-ray insights into complex human relationships. With The Office of Historical Corrections, Evans zooms in on particular moments and relationships in her characters' lives in a way that allows them to speak to larger issues of race, culture, and history.

We meet Black and multi-racial characters who are experiencing the universal confusions of lust and love, and getting walloped by grief - all while exploring how history haunts us, personally and collectively. Ultimately, she provokes us to think about the truths of American history - about who gets to tell them, and the cost of setting the record straight.

In ‘Boys Go to Jupiter’ a white college student tries to reinvent herself after a photo of her in a Confederate flag bikini goes viral. In ‘Richard of York Gave Battle in Vain’ a photojournalist is forced to confront her own losses while attending an old friend’s unexpectedly dramatic wedding. And in the eye-opening title novella, a black scholar from Washington DC is drawn into a complex historical mystery that spans generations and puts her job, her love life, and her oldest friendship at risk.


Danielle Evans’s collection of short stories, The Office of Historical Corrections, has been much lauded in the US. The collection has been nominated for multiple prizes, and the New Yorker describes it as ‘sublime short stories of race, grief and belonging’.

Issues of race and the ways young Black women experience the world are paramount. In the opening story titled ‘Happily Ever After’, Lyssa must advocate for her mother who has cancer. She buys clothes she can barely afford and applies a full face of makeup to meet with doctors. Tell me what you would tell a White woman, she thinks. A White woman with money.

In ‘Boys Go to Jupiter’, a naïve college student, Claire, is photographed by her boyfriend wearing a Confederate flag bikini. He uploads the photo to Facebook and tags her. The lone Black student in her college dorm uploads the photo on her Twitter feed. Suddenly Claire’s phone is overloaded with messages and emails. She’s oblivious to the offence she’s caused and digs her heels in deeper by sliding a note under the Black student’s door and displaying a Confederate flag in her window. The brilliance in this story is how, through an examination of Claire’s past, the reader oscillates between disgust and empathy.

Grief is a constant theme in this collection. Mothers die, sisters die, and more generally there is a loss of hope or expectation. Lives don’t work out the way they were meant to, and many of the protagonists find themselves in dissatisfying jobs and relationships. In ‘Anything Could Disappear’, Vera, a college dropout, takes a bus to New York for dubious reasons. Subsequent events give her purpose and a sense of belonging, but she is also forced to make a difficult and heartbreaking decision. These stories all have such a depth of characterisation, and grapple with some of the huge issues of our time. I urge everyone to read this collection. It is warm, empathetic and unputdownable.

Annie Condon is a bookseller at Readings Hawthorn.

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