Drinking Coffee Elsewhere Paperback – Feb 9 2004
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An outstanding debut story collection, Z.Z. Packer's Drinking Coffee Elsewhere has attracted as much book-world buzz as a triple espresso. Yet, surprisingly, there are no gimmicks in these eight stories. Their combination of tenderness, humor, and apt, unexpected detail set them apart. In the title story (published in the New Yorker's summer 2000 Debut Fiction issue), a Yale freshman is sent to a psychotherapist who tries to get her--black, bright, motherless, possibly lesbian--to stop "pretending," when she is sure that "pretending" is what got her this far. "Speaking in Tongues" describes the adventures of an Alabama church girl of 14 who takes a bus to Atlanta to try to find the mother who gave her up. Looking around the Montgomery Greyhound station, she wonders if it has changed much since the Reverend King's days. She "tried to imagine where the 'Colored' and 'Whites Only' signs would have hung, then realized she didn't have to. All five blacks waited in one area, all three whites in another." Packer's prose is wielded like a kitchen knife, so familiar to her hand that she could use it with her eyes shut. This is a debut not to miss. --Regina Marler --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
The clear-voiced humanity of Packer's characters, mostly black teenage girls, resonates unforgettably through the eight stories of this accomplished debut collection. Several tales are set in black communities in the South and explore the identity crises of God-fearing, economically disenfranchised teens and young women. In the riveting "Speaking in Tongues," 14-year-old "church girl" Tia runs away from her overly strict aunt in rural Georgia in search of the mother she hasn't seen in years. She makes it to Atlanta, where, in her long ruffled skirt and obvious desperation, she seems an easy target for a smooth-talking pimp. The title story explores a Yale freshman's wrenching alienation as a black student who, in trying to cope with her new, radically unfamiliar surroundings and the death of her mother, isolates herself completely until another misfit, a white student, comes into her orbit. Other stories feature a young man's last-ditch effort to understand his unreliable father on a trip to the Million Man March and a young woman who sets off for Tokyo to make "a pile of money" and finds herself destitute, living in a house full of other unemployed gaijin. These stories never end neatly or easily. Packer knows how to keep the tone provocative and tense at the close of each tale, doing justice to the complexity and dignity of the characters and their difficult choices.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
In "Brownies" African-American girls stir a brouhaha with a dubious charge of having heard a racial epithet uttered by the white Brownies. The story in many ways is a funny and disturbing exploration of Groupthink whereby the black Brownies never really heard the epithet but get caught up in the self-righteousness and mission of their revenge. In "Every Tongue Shall Confess" a cross-eyed, homely lady, Clareese, plays by the rules, reads her Bible, and works hard as a nurse, only to be exploited by her church deacons who use her as a door mat. We cringe as we watch Clareese sink deeper and deeper into loneliness. In "Our Lady of Peace" a young woman takes on teaching in a public school in order to change nihilistic, lawless high school children, but in a reversal, the children make her a nihilistic misanthropist. The teacher Lynnea Davis not only begins to despise the children, but the teachers she works with.Read more ›
On the face of things, nothing particularly revelatory happens in this collection of eight short stories. And yet, each of these stories, chronicling bits and pieces of the African-American experience, is in fact extraordinary. While complex and detailed in their structure, these stories are in fact quote amorphous upon further reflection. These stories are open to a wide range of analysis and interpretation. One finds oneself pausing for a while between stories as one considers the implications and potentialities of the one just finished.
For example, take the title story, "Drinking Coffee Elsewhere." The title refers to the main character's coping strategy, namely pretending to be somewhere else when the pain she is enduring becomes too much. After Dina makes the dean's dubious watch list for naming a revolver as the inanimate object she'd most like to transform into during Yale freshman orientation, she becomes a sort of self-made outcast. When she meets Heather, a doughy fellow frosh who can't stop crying over a bad night with a new guy, Dina gradually learns to let her in and wonders if their relationship is something more than just platonic. Like all of Packer's stories, "Drinking Coffee Elsewhere" offers no hard and fast finale. Dina may or may not be gay. She may or may not be using her outcast status at Yale as a way of coping with her mother's death. And, she may or may not be the same protagonist, again a black loner named Dina, who alienates her roommates by eating the last slice of grapefruit in the later story, "Geese."
My experience with short stories is that they are either predominantly cognitive or predominately emotive in nature.Read more ›
I picked up the book because I was hoping to learn more about a culture that I have never experienced firsthand. But the flatness of the characters kept me from doing this. They could have almost been any color, even Caucasian, apart from the narrators of each story, that is.
Most recent customer reviews
Drinking Coffee Elsewhere is one of my personal favorites. Its exploration of the characters, fascinating plot and smooth flow make for an excellent read, which is why I recommend... Read morePublished on Feb. 3 2014 by Peter Jones
I bought this book when I went to hear ZZ Packer speak at a writing convention. Until then, I hadn't heard of her, but her speech, which was titled something like, "How writing can... Read morePublished on June 22 2006 by C.W.
there's nothing to not love in this collection from packer, not a sentence to stumble over, not a story to discount. absolutely brillant.Published on July 12 2004 by Jodi Chromey
I think that ZZ Packer is a wonderful writer. She gives vivid detail and writes clearly. Unfortunately, I didn't find the stories very consistent. Read morePublished on June 24 2004
ZZ Packer is a wonderful writer. Her style and prose are effortless. She allows you to use all of your senses - you can see the characters, feel the weather, and smell the food. Read morePublished on June 22 2004
I've heard a lot of mixed reviews about this book, but I bought it anyway. I enjoyed all of the stories besides the last two (absolutely boring). Read morePublished on June 9 2004
This debut collection of eight short stories brings a fresh voice to modern fiction. The author, a young African American woman, tells some tales that seem deeply personal and yet... Read morePublished on April 16 2004 by Linda Linguvic
The stories in ZZ Packer's Drinking Coffee Elsewhere brims with rich, wonderful prose and incredibly interesting characters. Read morePublished on April 1 2004 by bowery boy