Tuesday, January 10 – Dana Johnson, In the Not Quite Dark (Stories)

Tuesday at noon, my guest on Bibliocracy Radio (KPFK 90.7 FM) is Dana Johnson. author of a novel, Elsewhere, California and a debut short story collection titled Break Any Woman Down, winner of the Flannery O’Connor Short Fiction Award and, released this summer, a second short story collection, In the Not Quite Dark.  In these eleven new stories she does even more of the deep observation and wryly composed storytelling which has made her work provocative yet recognizably true, political — especially about race, class, gender and place — yet startlingly, obviously familiar.  Her writing is so carefully honest about characterization as to make readers believe that they were at the scenes of a family dinner, ball game, party or school dormitory dramatized in her work, or in LA’s downtown or at, yes — why not? — The Liberace Museum in Las Vegas.  Much of it set in Southern California, the short stories of In the Not Quite Dark negotiate all kinds of lives and explore various histories, helpfully making readers both ashamed and proud at the same time, in a welcome dialectic that’s also vivid, funny and genuine.  Her work has appeared in The Paris Review, Iowa Review, and more, and in her day job Professor Dana Johnson teaches at USC.  I taped this conversation with her from the annual summer meeting of the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley, California, where she is on the teaching staff.