Break Any Woman Down

Break Any Woman Down

dana johnson
Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 168
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Break Any Woman Down
    Book Description:

    In Break Any Woman Down, Dana Johnson explores race, identity, and alienation with unflinching honesty and vibrant language. Hip and seductive, her stories often feature women discovering their identities through sexual and emotional intimacy with the men in their lives. In the title story, La Donna is a black stripper whose white boyfriend, an actor in adult movies, insists that she stop stripping. In "Melvin in the Sixth Grade," eleven-year-old Avery has a crush on a white boy from Oklahoma who, like Avery, is an outsider in their suburban Los Angeles school. "Markers" is as much about a woman's relationship with her mother as it is about the dissolution of her relationship with an older Italian man. Dana Johnson has an intuitive sense of character and a gift for creating authentic voices. She effortlessly captures the rhythmic vernaculars of Los Angeles, the American South, and various immigrant communities as she brings to life the sometimes heavyhearted, but always persevering, souls who live there.

    eISBN: 978-0-8203-4485-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. melvin in the sixth grade
    (pp. 1-16)

    Maybe it was around the time that the Crips sliced up my brother’s arm for refusing to join their gang. Or it could have been around the time that the Crips and the Bloods shot up the neighborhood one Halloween so we couldn’t go trick-or-treating. It could have even been the time that my brother’s friend, Anthony, got shot for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. But my father decided it was time to take advantage of a veteran’s loan, get out of L.A., and move to the suburbs. Even if I can’t quite nail the events...

  4. three ladies sipping tea in a persian garden
    (pp. 17-33)

    This morning I woke up on my back and alone, because already, I think I’ve been through another man. A fight about something stupid ended in sex. And then me, alone on my back, listening to my front door close too loudly. So I decided to do something, wear something, that made me feel not like a woman who is sad because of a man. And I called Sharzad. “Get your ass over here,” she said. “I’m tired of my friend being sad. We will make our own fun, darling.” That was this morning. Now, I’m knocking on her door...

  5. break any woman down
    (pp. 34-59)

    Bobby used to love to watch himself so much, videos of his work. He called himself “shy,” just like all his other actor friends. Get those people in a room, though, and you’ve never seen so much goddamn ham in your life. With Bobby it was always rewind, back up, what did you think of that shot? I look pretty good, right? Bobby had eyes like caramel, shiny, honey brown, clear with dark brown rings around the pupil. Hair black like ink with waves that made you want to rub your lips in them. A strong chin you wanted to...

  6. mouthful of sorrow
    (pp. 60-74)

    Why don’t you come and sit with me for a spell, keep me company? That’s right. Right c’here on the porch with me. It’s evenings like this I get to thinking bout things. When the heat start to break and the sky get that gray-blue in it, touching the tops of the trees out yonder. Best time of day in the summertime. I like to just sit back, listen to them bad children playing, cussing, and carrying on over in the holler. There they go, too. Hear how they voices carry? That echo almost picking at you, the sound of...

  7. hot pepper
    (pp. 75-82)

    I guess nobody thought nothing of Uncle Smiley taking up with that girl because he’d already bought two wives out of a catalogue. Nobody say where the wives be now, but anybody who know anything about Uncle Smiley—that he ain’t usually one to be smilin’—know that they prolly got they heels to clicking right about the first time he hit them or stuck the tip of his shotgun in they face. Mama always saying that Uncle Smiley beat his women for breakfast, dinner, and supper. But even so, out of all that, at the time she first turned...

  8. clay's thinking
    (pp. 83-104)

    Trip out. She’s not the type that usually scams on me. All professional. But this one’s trying to. She looks like she works in an office with her suit-type thing going on, gold jewelry, all that. Til have to investigate what’s up with her. First time I see her, I’m in the photo lab, wearing my pussy uniform and developing the usual lame pictures when she comes through the door. She’s got a camera in her hand like she wants it fixed or something, and she just rolls up to me and asks me about the skull tattooed on my...

  9. bars
    (pp. 105-114)

    You tell me: a woman in a bar, all alone. Hopping bars all alone. What you think about that? See? I knew you’d say that: what she looking for in a bar all by herself? You sound like my son Rasheed, or La Trice, my daughter, trying to tell me like you know so much. But what I’m telling you is yeah, that’s right. I like bars. I like going to bars alone. And it ain’t got to be all about me looking for something. If a man got a right to sit here on a stool, have a drink,...

  10. something to remember me by
    (pp. 115-133)

    You will celebrate with us, my dying cousin West called up to inform me. You will come out, get out of that lint box you call an apartment, get up off your behind. Do something.

    “Why are you guys celebrating?” I asked.

    “You need a reason?” West said. “Oh, and you can’t call folks no more? You lost my number? Aunt Norma say you act like you can’t be bothered with nobody. What’s wrong with you?” He hung up the phone before I could answer. My mother was always telling everyone, including me, how I acted and how I felt....

  11. markers
    (pp. 134-156)

    When my big brother calls me up and tells me to do something, I do it. That’s all. He couldn’t drive mama to do her errand today because of his double-shift at the sprinkler factory, but somebody ought to, because it’s one of the hottest days on California record, and our Mama ain’t got no business standing around waiting for a bus on a day like this, and could I drive out and do it? he asked. Told.

    Driving with my mother, I’m imagining all the things I will have to do when I get back home to Max, who...

  12. acknowledgments
    (pp. 157-158)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 159-160)