Photo: Gregg Segal

dana johnson

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DANA JOHNSON is the author of the acclaimed short story collection In the Not Quite Dark. She is also the author of Break Any Woman Down, winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, and of the novel Elsewhere, California. Both books were nominees for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. Her work has appeared in Ploughshares, Zyzzyva, The Paris Review, Callaloo, and The Iowa Review, among others, and was anthologized in On Girlhood: 15 Stories from the Well-Read Black Girl Library, Watchlist: 32 Stories by Persons of Interest, Shaking the Tree: A Collection of New Fiction and Memoir by Black Women, and California Uncovered: Stories for the 21st Century. Recent work includes Trailblazer: Delilah Beasley’s California, a fictional account of the life of historian and newspaper columnist Delilah Beasley. Collaborations include WE, with Los Angeles artist Susan Silton, whose etchings accompany Dana’s short story, “We See It Differently, You and I”, and UC Irvine’s dance theater production of The Story of Biddy Mason, produced by Annie Loui, artistic director of Counter-Balance Theater.

Born and raised in and around Los Angeles, she is a professor of English at the University of Southern California.


An audio performance of Dana's short story, Melvin in the Sixth Grade from Break Any Woman Down, was featured on the February 9th edition of NPR’s Selected Shorts. The ‘School Misrule’ episode features stories about students and schools that abandon the status quo to follow their own, unusual, codes of behavior. Dana’s story is performed live by Nikki M. James at the Peter Sharp Theater at Symphony Space in New York City. Dana’s segment starts around the 28-minute mark. You can find more information on Selected Shorts and listen to the episode directly here.