"…she has always wanted to ask them where the safe place is."
How far should you go to become acceptable to society? Will you change your identity to appease the very people that deem your existence unworthy?
In the book 'The office of historical corrections', award-winning author Danielle Evans takes us on a jaw-dropping, heart-wrenching, and insightful ride that attempts to answer these questions.
Through a stunning compilation of six short stories and an eponymous novella, she reveals the side of humanity that never recovered.
Each story is noteworthy and seemingly distinct except for a shared theme: all the narrators are women and they are all fighting for the life they believe they deserve.
Set in modern-day America, Evans is loud about the cultural and racial discourse, particularly the treatment of the black community.
From the pain that spans generations to let men and the white community feel entitled to forgiveness for their 'unknowing' acts of ruthlessness, the book covers a wide range of issues that are a common reality for us in every corner of the world.
The author explores themes of institutional (within institutions and systems of power) racism with nods at interpersonal (between individuals) racism.
While this is more prominent in America, our country also has a cultural bias against people of darker skin.
In this book (much like in real life) fair-skinned/white characters preach 'free expression' but the book begs the question, is free expression justified when it can be a threat to someone's life?
If you have been keeping up with the news, you may have heard of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and countless other black people who were victims of unwarranted and methodical racist cruelty. Evans explores similar arcs in the stories.
"…white people love their history right up until it is true."
In one story titled 'Boys go to Jupiter', the only one with a white narrator, we are shown how something unintentionally meant and naively done can spark flames of hate and fear.
This story stood out to me because it mirrors the brutality and injustice that black people continue to face to this day.
In the story, 'Alcatraz' and the title novella, 'The office of historical corrections, the author covers generational pain and injustice and the whitewashing of black history.
The former follows the story of a black daughter in a white family being ostracised for her skin colour.
The latter follows the story of an employee of a government agency that corrects historical inaccuracies.
Both tales lead to a torn and mistrustful family legacy that has been altered and whitewashed to fit the agendas of the white community involved.
"If you could erase everything, you could start again."
Out of all these stories, I loved 'Anything could disappear'. This is a story about a woman rising from her lows, reaching a high, and then falling to an abyss of low she knew was waiting for her.
Another story similar to this theme is 'Richard of York gave battle in vain', where the narrator is looking for mediocrity (at the least) but is stuck in her low.
The author explores the intricacies of relationships between people who are unaware of their true selves.
Both of these stories are about people who want to get ahead in life but have something holding them back and they do not know if they can move past it.
With our world becoming alarmingly complex, many of us are struggling to find our ways in life. These stories serve as a reality check, a stark reminder that despite trying our hardest, sometimes, we do not achieve success.
Brilliantly written with fast-paced storytelling that does not feel rushed and words that leave a lasting mark in your heart and mind, I highly recommend it.
If not all the stories then for the title novella, you are in for an astonishing conclusion.
This book serves as a poignant reminder that in the end, "The past is not dead. It is not even past."