Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction and Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel and post Colonial Asian Fiction, Yiddish Literature, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality historical novels are some of my Literary Interests





Sunday, November 4, 2018

“Melvin in the Sixth Grade” - A Short Story by Dana Johnson - from her collection Break Any Women Down::Stories- 2001




Website of Dana Johnson


Roxane Gay’s Top Ten Books





Three things lead me to read today's story.  Very recently I read Roxanne Gay's introduction to Best American Short Stories 2018.  Obvious to me was her love of the form and her knowledge of the contemporary American Short story.  In a commercial website I follow (linked above) she listed her top ten books.  Break Any Woman Down by Dana Johnson, a collection of short stories centered on the experiences of African American women in California was on her list.  I discovered the collection won The Flannery O'Connor Award for 2001 for American authored short stories.   Johnson's website (linked above) drew me further toward reading her work.  Here is her bio data:

"Dana Johnson is the author of the short story collection In the Not Quite Dark, from Counterpoint in August 2016. She is also the author of Break Any Woman Down, winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, and the novel Elsewhere, California. Both books were nominees for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. Her work has appeared in The Paris Review, Callaloo, The Iowa Review and Huizache, among others, and anthologized in Watchlist: 32 Stories by Persons of Interest, Shaking the Tree: A Collection of New Fiction and Memoir by Black Women, and California Uncovered: Stories for the 21st Century. Born and raised in and around Los Angeles, she is a professor of English at the University of Southern California."

Now for the clincher.  The lead story in the collection is "Melvin in the Sixth Grade".  Having once been a Melvin in the Sixth Grade I decided I wanted this story referenced on The Reading Life👀

An African American girl, in the Sixth grade, maybe 13, and her family have just moved from the dangerous gang violent part of Los Angeles, with mostly African American residents to a safer part of the city.   Starting school mid term is always stressful and bring the only none white student made it really stressful.  She forms a bond with a white boy from Oklahoma, Melvin who hatesvhis name.  He is also an outsider among the California students.  We see the difficulty of their relationship.  Her father is against it.  To me the most moving moment in the story was when she begins to realize her old way of speaking is fading away.

I liked this story a lot.  I enjoyed getting to know Melvin also.  I hope to read more by Dana Johnson.

Mel u


1 comment:

Buried In Print said...

Well, of course you would HAVE to read this one! :)