In the Not Quite Dark: Stories

Dana Johnson (Author)

Product Details

$16.95  $15.59
Counterpoint LLC
Publish Date
August 09, 2016
5.9 X 0.6 X 8.9 inches | 0.65 pounds
BISAC Categories:

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About the Author

Dana Johnson is 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. Born and raised in and around Los Angeles, she is an associate professor of English at the University of Southern California. Learn more at


Praise for In the Not Quite Dark

"Unquestionably excellent stories...In the Not Quite Dark has a variety of voices and stylistic tones yet holds together tightly as a collection." --Los Angeles Times

In her new collection, In the Not Quite Dark, [Johnson] offers 11 electrifying stories filled with tension and truth about present-day Los Angeles. "My mother died telling me what to do," her narrator begins in "No Blaming the Harvard Boys," a story about a young black student at a midwestern writers' workshop navigating the caste system at a tumultuous party at her professor's house. "She Deserves Everything She Gets" builds around the tension between the lessons parents teach young women about protecting themselves against rape and the dangers they don't foresee. Johnson's vision is razor sharp, her voice unmistakable. --LitHub

"Johnson's (Elsewhere, California) superb short story collection features well-drawn characters, vivid descriptions of Los Angeles, and nuanced reflections on money, race, and family. The stories stand alone, but they share preoccupations, and sometimes settings... This is essential reading for Angelenos, Californians, and anyone interested in masterly, morally engaged storytelling."--Starred Publishers Weekly

"Set against backdrops of gritty neighborhoods, Johnson's arresting story collection explores the boundaries of identity, relationships, and race. In "The Liberace Museum," Charlotte and her boyfriend, Hank, are traveling cross-country with plans for a pit stop in Vegas to tour the aforementioned attraction. Though Charlotte first suggests the visit as a joke, it reveals some uneasy complications in the young couple's relationship. In other tales, Johnson's characters find themselves haunted or perplexed by those around them. "Because That's Just Easier" portrays a mother struggling with her young daughter's newfound terror of the outdoors after a move to downtown Los Angeles, a situation that's further complicated by her aloof husband. "Rogues" follows a broke college student who visits his brother to ask for money but quickly becomes caught up in a mission to identify the assailants carrying out neighborhood break-ins. A flight to Paris in "Two Crazy Whores" connects a woman to a moment from her past. Emotions sneak up in many of Johnson's 11 stories, and her characters have no choice but to deal with what hits them." --Booklist

"With deep insight into character, intimate relationships, and the modern search for personal freedom, In the Not Quite Dark is powerful new work that feels both urgent and timeless." --Chicago Review of Books

"This prizewinning author's gorgeous, empathetic collection is composed of stories (mostly) in and about L.A. (the perfect place for musings about gentrification, discrimination, and love) that juxtapose the haves and the have-nots." --Marie Claire

"An insightful collection of stories that paint diverse portraits of present-day Los Angeles. Johnson exposes the deep ruptures between her characters' relationships to one another, their surroundings, and their pasts. ... The city doesn't figure prominently in every story in the collection, but the themes of race, perspective, and history carry through. Eleven poignant stories that look to the past to portray the present." --Kirkus Reviews

"There is an exquisite tension in each of the stories in Dana Johnson's remarkable collection --couples who look past each other instead of into each other, women who try to negotiate upward mobility, wanting what you can't have and having what you don't want. Johnson has, truly, written an unforgettable collection. She is both a storyteller and an exacting observer of the beautiful ugly truths of Los Angeles, class, race, being alive." --Roxane Gay, author of An Untamed State and Bad Feminist

"In her brilliant collection, Dana Johnson presents a vision of America that is singular, utterly original, and necessary. These are superb stories grappling with the complexities of love and the way it winds through gender and race and class in our nation right now. Johnson is expert at exploring how the world tries to separate us --and how her characters find urgent ways to connect. These are stories radiant with beauty and compassion and clear-sighted, uncompromising wisdom." --Karen E. Bender, author of Refund, a Finalist for the National Book Award

"Newer than tomorrow, the stories in In the Not Quite Dark illuminate the travails of contemporary life faced with aspects of gentrification--social, economic, racial, even sexual. Johnson is the poet of the uneasy place between rising and falling, the pressures of status and humiliation, the precarious moral footing we are all navigating now. A sharp edged portrait of Los Angeles, and ourselves." --Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander and Paint it Black

"What a gift to have a new collection of hard-to-shake stories from the inimitable Dana Johnson. She writes about the contradictions of our contemporary moment with an honesty that is gimlet-eyed, rueful, and often wickedly funny. But along with implacable honesty there are also deep reserves of generosity in these stories, each one taking our hearts to places we don't see coming and can't readily forget." --Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum, author of Ms. Hempel Chronicles, a Finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award

"In these haunting and beautiful stories, Dana Johnson conjures a definitive portrait of contemporary Los Angeles. Her native eye is infallible, and her voice reigns over the city with grace, wit, and total authority." --Jim Gavin, author of Middle Men

"Johnson's superb short story collection features well-drawn characters, vivid descriptions of Los Angeles, and nuanced reflections on money, race, and family. The stories stand alone, but they share preoccupations, and sometimes settings...This is essential reading for Angelenos, Californians, and anyone interested in masterly, morally engaged storytelling." --Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

Praise for Elsewhere, California

"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." --Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

"Avery's evolution --a black woman trying to claim her place --is as heartbreaking as it is humorous, powerful as it is poignant, because Johnson so assertively confronts those complexities." --Lynell George, Los Angeles Times

"Beautifully wrought. A contemporary Bildungsroman with a wise and winning heroine at its heart." --T.C. Boyle

"Dana Johnson's Elsewhere, California is a clear-eyed jam on class, race, and love; sassy yet searing." --Oscar Hijuelos

"I am in love with a woman named Avery and I have only heard her voice. She exists in these pages, radiates from them. Dana Johnson weaves the complex strings of modern identity into a tapestry that is both familiar yet refreshingly new." --Mat Johnson, author of Pym

"Dana Johnson's extraordinary novel offers an arresting vision of black female identity that transcends color and class even as it reveals its continuing power in our lives. The main character, Avery, is everything at once: struggling and middle-class, black and not-quite-black-enough, sexually invisible and sexually exoticized. Avery is about as complex and compelling a heroine as I've read recently, and Elsewhere, California is a luminous, funny, and poignant tale that speaks directly to a whole generation raised in a state of cultural confusion." --Danzy Senna, author of Caucasia

"I love listening to Avery talk about anything and everything, from the Dodgers to the art world to neighborhood negotiations to certain brands of shorts. Here is a character with an intensely engaging voice, surrounded by an equally riveting cast, all created by a writer who knows how to make words and people sparkle on the page." --Aimee Bender, author of The Color Master

"Reading Elsewhere, California, Dana Johnson's luminous, intelligent, linguistically dexterous first novel about growing up in Southern California, made me understand exponentially more about my own state, my own growing up, and the private lives of families in the homes all around me. An impressive, inspiring debut!" --Michelle Huneven, author of Off Course

Praise for Break Any Woman Down

"Dana Johnson's collection of stories contains so many wonderful women. Living, breathing, making a million mistakes, but you understand every one of them. Sometimes you think your heart will burst, but the pain is illustrated with depth, clarity, and beauty." --Victor LaValle, author of Big Machine and The Ecstatic

"This is an exciting and gorgeous literary debut." --Jonathan Ames, author of The Extra Man

"You can hear Johnson's voices ringing long after you put the stories down...No character could stay a stranger long in this writer's hands." --Los Angeles Times

"[A] sometimes comical read...Johnson's stories are ultimately bound by the human desire to find a fit in." --USA Today

"Deftly achieves both art and amusement...Johnson's ability to coax the heart as much as the mind...marks the author as a storyteller at her most potent." --Seattle Weekly

"Whether it's an awkward sixth grader with a crush, a pair of brazen Iranian sisters, or a male porno star who bakes a mean ziti, Dana Johnson's characters breathe authenticity. Johnson has got range and she's got depth. A remarkable new voice has emerged." --Dalton Conley, author of Honky

"Rich, unhurried layering showcases [Johnson's] larger themes...Both hip and elegant, these assured stories...simmer and resonate." --Publishers Weekly

"Johnson renders with authenticity a range of ages, nationalities, and perspectives with a verve that leaves the reader wanting more." --Janet McDonald, author of Project Girl

"These stories are full of the small details and disappointments of life, the missed opportunities and the inopportune moments that change one's trajectory." --Library Journal

"Johnson's narrators are sympathetic and engaging...A subtle and sometimes compelling vision of Los Angelino life." --Kirkus Reviews

"In the Not Quite Dark is a stand out collection proving Dana Johnson's resiliency as a trailblazer for Los Angeles literature, writers of color, and women." -- --Arcadia Press