One Story at a Time: Snakes

20 Dec

One of the strongest connective tissues throughout Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, is that Danielle Evans writes stories about young women making complex decisions before they can appreciate the extent of the consequences. In “Snake,” one of the strongest stories in this collection, a young woman spends the summer with white grandmother while her parents are in Brazil. There were so many complex issues about race, class, and family tackled in this story and so much of it resonated with me like the white mother unable to comb her daughter’s hair and the grandmother uncomfortable with her granddaughter’s blackness. While spending the summer with her grandmother, the narrator, Tara, spends most of her time growing close with her cousin Allison.This is also a story about children abandoned by their parents and how they are shaped by that abandonment. Alliso and Tara created a safe little world for themselves where the grandmother’s cold, sometimes cruel treatment of Tara could not harm them. As is wont to happen to the innocent worlds of children, their friendship is, eventually fractured and then repaired and then fractured again in a more permanent and profound way.

When living with her grandmother becomes unbearable, Tara laments to her cousin that she wants to go home. One of the young women makes one of the critical decisions the young women in Evans’s stories have to make. Tara falls from a tree where they are sitting. Allison confesses to the offense. Tara is injured and her parents rush back from Brazil to be by her side. It is Allison, however, who bears deeper injuries with deeper consequences and it is only at the very end of the story, when both women are adults leading very different lives, that we find out what really happened between the two cousins in that tree, as young girls, alone, and lonely, and wanting more from life than life was willing to give them.

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