BOOK REVIEW: ZZ Packer packs fantastic fiction |

BOOK REVIEW: ZZ Packer packs fantastic fiction

Carrie Brownbook critic

Rita ushered us out to her deck. Summer’s light was finally here, and although I wouldn’t call it heat, there was warmth to the night air. We filled our mugs with raspberry decaf coffee and added shots of vanilla syrup and cream. Rita had set up a coffee bar to ripen the mood of this month’s read.As soon as we were settled outside, Rita wrapped her silk scarf around her neck and launched into her review.”ZZ Packer has won a number of writers’ awards for her short fiction. ‘Drinking Coffee Elsewhere’ is a collection of some of her best works,” Rita said. “The stories uniquely describe the subtle – and not so subtle – struggles the African American community must contend with. Rather than coming from a place of racial hatred, the author takes the reader into a world of very real humanity. “The first story takes us to a Girl Scout Camp with a group of Brownies struggling to define their identity. Through the 6-year-old girls, Packer creates an environment to explain the difficult terrain of race relations. “Packer shows us the vast differences within the black community. By developing unique and vivid characters, she helps the reader understand the conflicts within their diverse population. Her characters don’t feed into stereotypes some people have designed for that community.”Rita sipped some coffee, now cold, before continuing. “The book’s title is taken from a story in which a young, bright woman struggles with her identity at an Ivy League college,” she said. “Almost as an afterthought to the plot of the story, Packer pokes fun at the tables in the cafeteria where the students have divided themselves into groups, despite the university’s desire to embrace diversity. Packer reveals society’s complicated issues in a haunting and satirical way.”I thought summer would be a good time to read short stories. That way you can read them quickly between the chaos.”She had a point. All my weekends were full already. Short stories would be easier to tackle. We finished talking and left as the final trace of Alpen glow disappeared behind the mountains.

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