February's Pick 2006

Drinking Coffee Elsewhere

Image representing cover Drinking Coffee Elsewhere Drinking Coffee Elsewhere
by ZZ Packer

Choosing from among the 50 short stories she had written, ZZ Packer selected the best for her collection, Drinking Coffee Elsewhere. Most of the main characters in these insightful, well-crafted and often humorous stories are young African American women, aside from the male protagonist

accompanying his father to the Million Man March in “The Ant of the Self.” What these characters have in common is an outsider status in their communities, giving them a keen perspective as they struggle for self-development and in some cases self-preservation. The ostracized narrator of “Brownies,” the first of the stories, notes that “when you’ve been made to feel bad for so long, you jump at the chance to do it to others.” What is remarkable about these stories is how often the characters choose to take a different path, finding some hope or even redemption in the good of the world.

For On the Same Page, the Library has purchased the 2004 paperback edition published by Riverhead Books. It is also available at the Library as a talking book in CD and audiocassette formats.


Photo of author, ZZ Packer About the Author

ZZ Packer was born in Chicago in 1973 and then moved to Atlanta, Ga. and Louisville, Ky. with her family. Since middle school, she has been called ZZ, a nickname for her original name, Zuwena, which means “good” in Swahili. Upon graduation from Yale, she earned a Master of Arts degree at Johns Hopkins University, where she met Stephen Dixon, John Barth, Francine Prose and Julian Barnes. Prose’s critical approach was influential in Packer’s development as a writer. After graduation from Johns Hopkins, Packer taught for two years in a public high school. She earned a Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of Iowa’s prestigious Writers Workshop, then won a Stegner Fellowship and a Truman Capote Fellowship at Stanford University and became a Jones Lecturer there, teaching undergraduates.

Moving to the Bay Area at the peak of the dot-com boom, she wrote content for a web site. The winner of a Whiting Writers’ Award, a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award and a Bellingham Review Award, Packer’s short stories have been published in Harper’s, Story, and several anthologies, including The Best American Short Stories, 2000. Also in 2000, the debut fiction collection of the New Yorker featured Packer’s short story, Drinking Coffee Elsewhere. It set off a six-figure bidding war and in 2003, became the title piece of Packer’s first published collection, Drinking Coffee Elsewhere, nominated for the 2004 Pen/Faulkner Award for Fiction. After the great success of this collection, Packer’s first novel, which she has been working on for five years, is being eagerly awaited. It is about the black military units, known as Buffalo soldiers, who were stationed in the West after the Civil War.


Of Related Interest

IdentityTheory.com, April 29, 2003.
by Birnbaum, Robert.
Online interview with the author.

Black issues Book Review March/April 2003, Vol. 5, Issue 2, pp. 40-41.
by Gore, Lynee.
Interviews ZZ Packer about her book, Drinking Coffee Elsewhere; compares the book with James Baldwin’s work; discusses the role of the church in author’s upbringing; cites literary influences.



Related Program

ZZ Packer at the Main
Join us when author ZZ Packer reads from her short story collection
Drinking Coffee Elsewhere.
Wednesday February 1, 2006
6:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Main Library, Lower Level, Koret Auditorium
100 Larkin Street (at Grove)

For more information, call 415-557-4277.

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