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Elsewhere, Californiaby Dana Johnson
Synopses & Reviews
We first met Avery in two of the stories featured in Dana Johnsons awardwinning 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 7Eleven 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 glasswalled house in the Hollywood Hills. The past will intrude upon Averys first gallery show, proving her mothers adage: Every goodbye aint gone. The dualnarrative of Elsewhere, California illustrates the complicated history of African Americans across the rolling basin of Los Angeles.
"Avery is nine when her family escapes L.A.'s gang violence and moves to the suburbs, becoming the only black people in the neighborhood. Feeling alienated, but impressionable, Avery adjusts by way of Tiger Beat, Shaun Cassidy collages, and a mouthy best friend. At 40, Avery has become a visual artist, her rich and sensual Italian boyfriend clearly instrumental in helping her find the self-acceptance that eluded her for so long. This wildly vivid novel unfolds, zigzagging between Avery's past and present and exploring all the ways in which one continues to both haunt and electrify the other. Johnson, a California native and professor of English at the University of Southern California, introduced Avery in her Flannery O'Connor Award — winning story collection, Break Any Woman Down. 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. A prologue that feels forced is instantly rendered unnecessary by the surefire language that explodes with chapter one. Agent: Rosalie Siegel. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
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.
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