In the tongue-in-cheek title story, a young woman gives up a promising academic career to become a public historian, part of a “friendly citizen army devoted to making the truth so accessible and appealing it could not be ignored.” Her nemesis is a not-so-friendly army of white supremacists whose motto is “FREE MEN FREE FISTS NO FREE LUNCHES.”
The Office of Historical Corrections brings a blisteringly smart voice and X-ray insights to the subjects of race and U.S. history. With this novella and stories, Danielle Evans considers how and why some people choose to confront history while others prefer to hide from it.
In one story, a white college student tries to reinvent herself after a photo featuring her in a confederate flag bikini goes viral. In another, a daughter takes her mother on a tour of Alcatraz, the prison that tore her family apart decades earlier. And in the eye-opening title novella, a black scholar from Washington, D.C., is drawn into a complex historical mystery that spans generations and puts her job, her love life, and her oldest friendship at risk.
Because satire is sometimes the best weapon against those who wish to whitewash or deny America’s history of racial violence. Evans’ characters experience the universal confusions of lust and love, and they get walloped by sorrow, all while exploring the ways that history haunts us, personally and collectively.
Ultimately, Ms. Evans prompts us to think about the truths of U.S. history—about who gets to tell them, and the cost of setting the record straight.
A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Danielle Evans is the author of two story collections, Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self and The Office of Historical Corrections.
Her awards include the 2011 PEN American Robert W. Bingham Prize for a first book, the Patterson Prize for fiction, and the Hurston-Wright award for fiction. She is also a National Book Foundation “Five Under 35” honoree and a National Endowment for the Arts fellow.
She lives in Baltimore and teaches in The Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University.
Order the book now from the Colgate Bookstore.
Meet Danielle Evans at Colgate on Nov. 16*
There are two ways to join us:
- In person in Love Auditorium, Olin Hall, 4:15 p.m. No registration required.
- Via Zoom.
Everyone can participate in the audience Q&A following the reading, and there will be a book-signing in the Olin lobby after that. For information on how to purchase a signed book if you're not on campus, see the How to Participate section of the website.
*Please note this event will be on a Tuesday at 4:15 p.m.
Living Writers events are free and open to the public.
Listen to a 3-question podcast
“I think one of the things about grief and humor is that they both create these kind of layered stories.” That’s Danielle Evans speaking about The Office of Historical Corrections. Listen to this short Living Writers podcast to hear more.
Go beyond the book
- Katy Waldman writes that The Office of Historical Corrections “examines alienation and the phantasmagoria of racial performance—how certain interactions can seem so forced and strange that they might as well take place underwater.” Read more about the ways in which Evans’ stories stir up realities from the deep in this review for the New Yorker.
- In this Los Angeles Times review, Bethanne Patrick speaks on the stories’ success at portraying the Black experience in the United States: “Evans seems to use the shorter stories in ‘Historical Corrections’ as an extended overture to the novella that concludes the book, with each story embodying a particular problem faced by Black people in this country: invisibility, classism, the tensions of being multiracial and the whitewashing of history.”
- Evans’ stories “cover a full spectrum of parallel and overlapping White and Black lives, while looking unflinchingly at the impact of multiple forms of violence and constraint,” writes Chaya Bhuvaneswar. Read more in her Washington Post review.
- In this New York Times interview by Joumana Khatib, Danielle Evans discusses the struggles that come with writing short stories as well as with being a Black writer: “We should be talking about race more as a function of craft—of everybody’s craft. Maybe it shouldn’t be the first paragraph of every review, but it should be noted that books have a racial context.”
- If the premise of The Office of Historical Corrections seems far-fetched to you, read this New York Times article by Isabella Grullón Paz, “Questions Swirl After Yet Another Emmett Till Sign Comes Down.” Life imitates art!
Tell us what you think
Join us Monday, Nov. 15, 7-8 p.m., for a faculty roundtable and discussion of The Office of Historical Corrections. Guests will include Dionne Bailey, assistant professor of Africana & Latin American studies and Paul McLoughlin, Vice President and Dean of the College. Feel free to participate or simply listen in. If you're interested but can't make the session, the roundtable portion will be available to listen to later in the week.
Follow the discussion on Twitter @ColgateLW using the hashtags #ColgateLivingWriters and #TheOfficeofHistoricalCorrections
No wonder they had sent her off—who wants to be loved for the hole in their chest when there is a woman somewhere willing to lie and say she can fix it, another prepared to spend decades pretending it isn’t there?The Office of Historical Corrections
Living Writers is put on by the Department of English at Colgate University with generous support from the Olive B. O'Connor Fund as well as the President and Provost/Dean of the Faculty. Support from the Arnold A. Sio Chair in Diversity and Community, the Division of the Arts & Humanities, and the Africana & Latin American Studies Program helped make this event possible.