Break Any Woman Down
By Dana Johnson
(Anchor, Paperback, 9781400030460, 176pp.)
Publication Date: August 12, 2003
Categories: Short Stories (single author)
In this hip, vital, and sexy debut, winner of the 2001 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, Dana Johnson launches a fleet of wonderful stories across unexpected terrain, upending notions of race, class and gender in utterly original ways.
An eleven-year-old black girl from South Central LA discovers the strangeness of moving to the suburbs and falling in love with a white boy. A pair of enthusiastic middle-aged Iranian sisters debate whether or not their futures hold children. A punk musician falls for a girl out of his league. A black lap dancer gives up her job to move in with her Greek actor boyfriend, who hasn’t managed to get roles in anything but porn movies. Whether bold or rueful, salacious or sweet, each voice in Break Any Woman Down is vibrantly authentic; together they add a fresh and welcome chorus to American literature.
A native of Los Angeles, Dana Johnson worked as a magazine editor before completing her M.F.A. at Indiana University, where she now teaches creative writing and literature.
“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
“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
“A . . . sometimes comical read . . . Johnson’s stories are ultimately bound by a desire to find a place . . . to fit in”—USA Today
“Sharp edged . . . contemporary”—Booklist
“This is an exciting and gorgeous literary debut.” —Jonathan Ames, author of The Extra Man
“Whether it’s 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 breathe 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 Angeleno life.”–Kirkus Reviews
“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 The Ecstatic