Evans spoke about her writing to engage students in their common read assignments for their English courses. Her panels, each an hour and a half in length, hosted a variety of different segments including student presentations, question and answer portions and live readings from her book.
Evans, along with being a writer, is also an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin Madison. Her stories have won numerous awards such as the Paterson Prize and the Hurston-Wright Award, and her stories have been featured in numerous anthologies and magazines such as “The Best American Short Stories”, “New Stories of the South” and The Paris Review.
Evans’ final panel at 6:30 p.m. featured a live reading of one of her short stories titled, “Richard of York Gave Battle in Vain” Evans said, “Actually, I just got some exciting news about that story. It’s going to be featured in this year’s ‘Best American Short Stories’.”
The story is about a young photojournalist named Rena who is attending the wedding of a close friend. The message is one of living in the moment and confronting hardships in life.
“You’re both always writing and not writing from life experiences when you write fiction,” said Evans. “There’s no way that you can imagine the character without imagining that you share some psychological territory with them. On the other hand, I became a fiction writer so that I didn’t have to tell the truth all the time.”
One of the common themes in many of the short stories in Evans’ book “Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self” is the theme of race. Evans said that her grandmother was a big influence in her life regarding this topic.
Southeastern student Randall Brown said, “I think that a lot of students here can relate to what she’s writing about. It’s something that everyone from around here knows about.”
“My mother is of mixed race. I consider myself black because I grew up with two black parents, but my grandmother is a white woman who married a black man in the 50’s when it was very much frowned upon to do that,” said Evans.
Evans said that when she first started her writing career she did not want to lean on her heritage as a way of gathering attention. “I think about the space of interracial boundaries when I write, and for a long time I resisted any label of being an interracial writer because it felt like a way of trying to advocate ‘blackness’ which I wasn’t interested in doing.”