Sharp, insightful, compulsively readable. This story collection cuts right to the heart of contemporary American life.
Good to know
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. She introduces us to Black and multiracial 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, 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.
The Office of Historical Corrections
Happily Ever After
When Lyssa was seven, her mother took her to see the movie where the mermaid wants legs, and when it ended Lyssa shook her head and squinted at the prince and said, Why would she leave her family for that? which for years contributed to the prevailing belief that she was sentimental or softhearted, when in fact she just knew a bad trade when she saw one. The whole ocean for one man. Not that she knew much about the ocean; Lyssa had been born in a landlocked state, and at thirty it seemed the closest she might get to the sea was her job working the gift shop in the lobby of the Titanic. It was not a metaphor: it was an actual replica of the Titanic, with a mini museum on the lower level, though most of their business came from weddings and children’s birthday parties hosted on the upper decks.
The ship-?shaped building was a creation of the late nineties, the pet project of an enterprising educational capitalist who wanted to build an attraction both rigorous in its attention to historical detail and visually stunning. To preserve history, he said to the public; to capitalize off of renewed interest in the disaster, he said to his investors. He had planned to build to scale, but that plan hadn’t survived initial cost estimates. They’d only ever had a quarter of the passenger rooms the actual Titanic had, and most of those rooms were now unfurnished and used as storage closets, their custom bed frames sold secondhand during the last recession.
Why I love it
15-time Grammy winning artist/songwriter/producer
In her title story, "The Office of Historical Corrections," Danielle Evans imagines a world in which our society’s understanding of truth is so fractured that we have an entire governmental agency to help us separate fact from fiction. If this sounds like fantasy, consider how unreal reality has felt at so many moments over the past few years. What I love about this book is how it focuses on how our perceptions of what’s real clash with our capacity for honesty. Can we be honest with ourselves? Who are we and what do we stand for?
In five short stories and one novella, Evans shows us characters whose choices illuminate who they truly are. A young woman faces an impossible decision when she finds herself on a Greyhound bus in the company of an abandoned boy. An actress haunted by her mother’s medical battles reflects on her own fraught experiences of navigating her health. A college student enrages her classmates by refusing to reckon with why a viral social post of herself in a Confederate-flag bikini offends. These stories creatively show the daily demands put on women, particularly Black women, while offering insight, compassion, and even moments of dark humor.
This is the kind of book that is resonant with themes I’ve explored in my own storytelling: judgment, uncertainty, and loss as well as love, joy, and courage. You may find yourself reading it quickly, because the stories will keep you turning the pages, then again more slowly, soaking up all it has to give.
Member ratings (12,321)
In the BOTM fb group, people who didn’t like this book are generally vapid types who “don’t get the point.” This is a MUST READ. The namesake novella should be required reading. Amazing and haunting.
I wish there was a ranking higher than “Loved”. Evans is an eloquent, yet extremely relatable writer with a gift for crafting a beautiful arching story with equally compelling anecdotes along the way
Evans doesn’t pull any punches. The characters are fully fleshed out, flawed, and believable. She’ll crack a joke and then hit you with a hard truth in the next breath. The novella was phenomenal.￼
The novella was leagues better than the short stories, but as a whole, the book is worth a read. My favorite short story was about the apologetic artist. Didn’t know what to expect here, but enjoyed.
Wow. Powerful and thought provoking, these short stories aren’t ones I’ll soon forget. I have not liked books of short stories I’ve read in the past, but I’m glad I took a chance here. Amazing.