The Los Angeles Times

The Los Angeles Times asked writers with deep ties to the city to name their favorite Los Angeles books across eight categories or genres — to create an ultimate L.A. bookshelf. Based on 95 responses, the Times selected the 16 most essential L.A. literary novels, which included noteworthy selections from Joan Didion, Thomas Pynchon and Janet Fitch — and Dana. Her Elsewhere, California is described by author Lou Mathew as “Simply the best evocation of what it is like to grow up in Los Angeles that I know.”

The New York Times

To celebrate Black History Month, The New York Times highlighted Dana’s story of Delilah Beasley, “an important—but largely unsung—black historian, a woman who spent years traveling the state to document black life in California.” Dana’s Trailblazer: Delilah Beasley’s California, was published by the Los Angeles arts organization Clockshop and the Huntington Library as part of an exhibition exploring and challenging the idea of Utopia.

Publishers Weekly

In their starred review of In The Not Quite Dark, Publishers Weekly notes: “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. Johnson never loses sight of what it can mean to be from somewhere, especially for African-Americans. This is essential reading for Angelenos, Californians, and anyone interested in masterly, morally engaged storytelling.”


Kirkus describes In The Not Quite Dark as “eleven poignant stories that look to the past to portray the present,” and “an insightful collection of stories that paint diverse portraits of present-day Los Angeles.”

The Los Angeles Times

In The Los Angeles Times, Lynell George reviews Elsewhere, California and notes, “Johnson first introduced readers to Avery in Break Any Woman Down, a collection of stories that won the Flannery O’Connor Short Fiction Award in 2001. Although the novel fills in Avery’s back story, it also exhibits Johnson’s fearlessness. She goes deep into territory often simplified or sidestepped entirely—the limbo of elusive identity, of something that flummoxes or embarrasses. She’s not just questioning what blackness is but whiteness—and otherness—and all that lie beneath it. Consequently, 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."

Necessary Fiction

In Necessary Fiction, Michelle Bailat-Jones reviews Elsewhere, California: “Johnson doesn’t shy away from the more delicate questions of race and prejudice, and although the novel has what I would call a gentle narrative, it doesn’t pull its punches either—a careful and provocative book.”

Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly starred Elsewhere, California, noting: “In this debut novel, Johnson brilliantly knits 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.”

Wikipedia (good links; unofficial and NOT updated by Dana)