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Drinking Coffee Elsewhere

3.79  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,225 Ratings  ·  417 Reviews
Chosen by John Updike as a Today Show Book Club Pick.Already an award-winning writer, ZZ Packer now shares with us her debut, Drinking Coffee Elsewhere. Her impressive range and talent are abundantly evident: Packer dazzles with her command of language, surprising and delighting us with unexpected turns and indelible images, as she takes us into the lives of characters on ...more
Paperback, 265 pages
Published February 3rd 2004 by Riverhead Books (first published 2003)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Nancy
Posted at Shelf Inflicted

“We had all been taught that adulthood was full of sorrow and pain, taxes and bills, dreaded work and dealings with whites, sickness and death.”


This collection of stories is brimming with energy, hardship, sadness, humor, and compassion. The characters’ voices and life experiences are so authentic that I was able to forget about my own life and problems for a few days. I loved how these stories explored race and class in a provocative way and through an African-America
...more
Nathan
Jun 08, 2008 Nathan rated it liked it
Recommended to Nathan by: my wife
After finishing up a string of dark and heady reads, I picked this up for some light summer reading, on my wife's recommendation. We had originally picked it to read together before bed. The conversation as best I remember went something like:

Me: Oh man, that Gary Soto book of short stories for children was really funny. that's perfect reading for right before bed.
Wife: (Already scanning the bookshelves in our bedroom) Oh yeah, we should pick out something else like that. Is this David Sedaris
...more
Nea
May 18, 2015 Nea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: African American fiction lovers
Z.Z. Packer has been around for over a decade, but I'd never even heard of her until recently. Thank Heaven for Goodreads! Drinking Coffee Elsewhere is her debut collection of short stories; and I give it two big thumbs up. It isn't some perfect masterpiece and (of course) some stories grabbed me more than others, but it's good. Very good. I love the wide array of African American characters she brought to life- different ages, sexes, and lifestyles. From church ladies to queer lovers to runaway ...more
Kirk
Apr 25, 2008 Kirk rated it really liked it
It's almost a chore to get past the praise excerpted in the first few pages of this debut story collection from 2003. Much better to simply turn to the stories themselves and make your own judgments. These are certainly accomplished short fictions, literary in the sense that their plots are asymmetical in interesting ways, many ending with codas that introduce ambiguity instead of wrapping up the drama. The subject is the African-American experience, of course, of all varieties: children, teenag ...more
Jen Knox
Oct 20, 2010 Jen Knox rated it it was amazing
I've heard a lot of criticism about this book, so I put off reading it. This just goes to show I rarely agree with my friends when it comes to literature ... I loved it. "Drinking Coffee Elsewhere" was my favorite story in the collection, but I felt attached to all of them. Each one! I never say that about a collection.
Holly
Dec 22, 2015 Holly rated it it was amazing
Short stories get a bad rap. You can't scroll through a GR review page without coming across mounds of complaints about how the reviewer "just isn't a short story person" or "can't connect with short stories" or "felt nothing about the stories." Great! But a short story isn't supposed to be a novel. A good short story collection is meant to be savored and contemplated story by story, not plowed through in hopes of extracting a single tear. Anyways, I've made a commitment to conquer some of the c ...more
Elizabeth Yon
Jun 27, 2012 Elizabeth Yon rated it it was amazing
I read this book of stories in one day, it is so engaging. Each story is a perfect jewel, prised from the glittering mayhem of life, held up to the light of unsentimental regard, each facet clearly shown. The characters are absolutely true to life, their situations real and immediate in a way that makes me feel that Packer lived these things and these people - if not personally, then through people she knows well. Dialogue flows believably into the reader's "ear", turns of phrase are peppery and ...more
Oriana
Apr 13, 2010 Oriana rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2010
Ooh boy I am terribly behind on writing reviews. Um, what did I think of this? Well, it's a great example of why I hate short stories – when they're bad I wonder why I bothered, and when they're good I can't understand why the author only gave me such a tiny tease. The title story is the best, and "Our Lady of Peace" is great too... so why, ZZ, why? Either of those could have been novels, I'd have kept reading for lots more pages!

A couple of other thoughts:
1. By chance I got an Australian edit
...more
Hannah
Apr 29, 2015 Hannah rated it really liked it
One of the best books I've read in a while. Read it for tfa book club (aka three tfa friends drink a beer together monthly to talk about great literature by women of color). Unsettling and provoking and pretty sure one of the stories is about a tfa teacher.
Jeffrey Moll
Apr 07, 2011 Jeffrey Moll rated it it was amazing
Upon picking up Drinking Coffee Elsewhere I quickly glanced over a few chapters and soon realized the gem in my hands. The dialog was the first thing that made me fall for this book while the realism behind ZZ Packer’s characterization was the second. A compiling of eight short stories this book takes on the African-American experience through the use of compelling protagonists that must keep taking on more challenges. In the title story, Dina the main character copes with her challenges by drin ...more
Emily
Mar 11, 2011 Emily rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone who writes, anyone who reads
Recommended to Emily by: Michael
There are two things that I hate about my writing: the fact that it’s predictable and the fact that nothing happens.

On the other hand, what makes ZZ Packer such a spectacular writer is that her stories do the exact opposite of what mine do: they create original situations and characters that could only exist in her stories, and they move. The action moves, yes, but more importantly it moves you.

So many of the stories in Drinking Coffee Elsewhere feel familiar at first. They contain people and wo
...more
Alexa
Dec 29, 2015 Alexa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fab-15
This was such a wonderful surprise for me, never having heard of her before. Eight stories, none the least bit predictable, although with each one she was able to tease me a bit, get me thinking that I knew where it was going, but it never was! Real, charming people in pain and trouble dealing with life’s blows – good, good, good stuff!
Elise
Jan 30, 2008 Elise rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Ugh. I spent the entire last part of this book debating in my head whether I was going to be generous and give it three stars, or be honest and stick it with two. I chose honesty.

This collection is not without its strengths: some careful writing, some witty characters. I downright enjoyed the one about the lesbians at college.

But I can't handle all the stupid main characters! Call me an idealist, but I can't imagine that even a sheltered Pentacostal Georgia girl would run off to Atlanta and, wi
...more
Rebecca
Aug 21, 2009 Rebecca rated it it was ok
Inconsistent.

This is one of those cases where the first story in the collection is so awesome, so perfect, so natural and funny and wise and honest that it's impossible not to expect some of that in the rest of the stories. "Brownies" is really fantastic, and should be (and will be) anthologized everywhere. There's a twist at the end that was, for me, entirely unforeseeable. This story deserves the rave reviews that the collection received. (Most of which are printed on the first 7 pages of the
...more
Michelle Jones
Jul 30, 2010 Michelle Jones rated it really liked it
This collection of short stories had been on my “to read” list for so long that perhaps there was no way for me to not be disappointed by it. I had to force myself to push through and finish this book and when I did I walked away quite unsatisfied.

The more I thought about my disappointment though the more I realized it wasn’t disappointment at all. It was instead discomfort. The book didn’t offer any element of escapism at all. Even though I had next to nothing in common with the actual characte
...more
Sarah
May 21, 2015 Sarah rated it really liked it
About 5 of the stories in here were absolutely perfect, while a few fell a bit short for me (hence the 4 stars). I greatly appreciate ZZ Packer's attention to small details in her writing--it's what brings nuance and color to the characters she's created. The dialogue in her writing is sharp and precise, never taking up more space than it needs to. I was also impressed with the diverse array of characters and settings presented in each of these stories. From Tokyo to Baltimore to a girl scout su ...more
Erinina Marie
May 31, 2007 Erinina Marie rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: teens
Drinking Coffee Elsewhere by Z.Z. Packer

This novel at first had me seriously questioning the validity of ever reading another today show recommended novel again. However, the second half of this book by amateur, yet elitist rich and well-educated Z.Z. Packer does in fact have some merit. While I question her actual ability to tell the harsh life stories that she would like to embody and while her childishness does at times shine through, she manages to tell an interesting and seductive tale in t
...more
Rambling Reader
wonderful stories. can't wait to read her upcoming novel.
Nicholas Armstrong
May 14, 2010 Nicholas Armstrong rated it did not like it
I'm not sure where to start with this, as I'm not sure which bothered me more or what takes precedent with a short story. Is the telling of the story more important than the voice? Is there something more important than both? What if both aren't quite up-to-snuff? That is kind of the case here and I'm a little put-off by it.

I'll start with the voice, because it was the first thing that bothered me and it consistently bothered me. Don't get me wrong, there are good stories within, or, at least de
...more
Elizabeth
May 23, 2012 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
When I began reading Drinking Coffee Elsewhere by ZZ Packer, I was taken aback by the power of a good story; the kind of story that gives me a peek into a life I don’t know anything about, the kind of story that surprises me or that makes me stop a moment to contemplate what I’ve just read. Those are the kinds of stories that Packer has written for her first and only short story collection. She was first published in Seventeen magazine at the very young age of 19. She grew up in Atlanta, GA and ...more
Malbadeen
Feb 22, 2010 Malbadeen rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: short story lovers
I have to admit I bought this book based on a shallow premise. I saw the cover at a thrift store and I adored it, I read the first lines of most of the stories (which are awesome!) and decided to spend the whopping 2.00 on it.
But then it sat on my shelf for waaaay too long. Once I started it, I was in love! I thought about quoting some/all of the first lines for you here but I'd rather you get the book and have that experiences with the tangible turn of the pages (mmmmm, can you feel it?).
The t
...more
Charity
May 21, 2012 Charity rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nytop20under40
I enjoy Packer's writing, especially the details of heat and scent that put me firmly in her world.

I loved the first story in the book, the one about the Brownie Girl Scout campout. It was refreshing to read a story with authentic details about Girl Scouting. For example, Tom Perrotta mentioned Girl Scouts briefly in The Leftovers, but they were doing fundraising for another organization, which Girl Scouts aren't allowed to do. Yes, yes, this is a horribly nitpicky detail to cite, but as a life
...more
Nakia
Mar 22, 2011 Nakia rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved every single story in this book. Z.Z. Packer definitely knows how to draw the reader in quickly and make you not want to put the book down until the story is complete. What I liked best about her stories: they didnt leave me wanting for more. Yes, I wanted more of her writing, but when the stories came to an end, I was satisfied with its conclusion and eager to move to the next one.

As someone who grew up in the church, I was also pleased at how many of her stories were rooted
...more
Atena Oyadi
Dec 19, 2007 Atena Oyadi rated it really liked it
I started this about 3 years ago - it's quite good, but sad - dark. A little depressing. It was hard to be in the right mood to pick it up again, even though I wanted to.

This author has a talent for articulating disappointment, awkwardness and a whole range of outsider feelings. Her voice is distinctive somehow, and her main characters are distinct from one another. She has a knack for discomfort, describing embarrassing situations with such emotional precision that you wince and cringe and loo
...more
Martha
Jan 05, 2015 Martha rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of strong short stories
Shelves: readwomen, vcfa
I will never forget reading the title story in the New Yorker a number of years ago and then staring at the author's youthful photo with wonder and delight. Finally, someone had written a story like mine--I mean like my life. It was exhilarating. And beautifully written. And moving. And has one of the best last lines ever. Packer is young yet--and it's been a while since this book come out. I know she's working on a novel--I can't wait to see what she does.
William
Jan 04, 2015 William rated it really liked it
It's been a while. I had forgotten how much I enjoy short story collections. Especially ones as finely written as these. Only one was only average, the rest truly superb. Most are adolescent female coming of age stories, set in the civil rights and/or women's rights eras. One is written in a male voice with no loss in authenticity. This was Packer's debut effort. I will watch for her every submission hence. Great storytelling.
Qiana
Aug 09, 2007 Qiana rated it it was ok
Shelves: black-lit
"Brownies" was intriguing, an updated cross between Bambara's "The Lesson" and Morrison's "Recitatif," maybe. I was a little disappointed with the rest of the collection, especially "Every Tongue Shall Confess."
Sarah
Aug 21, 2016 Sarah rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorite-things
After finishing Drinking Coffee Elsewhere, I've become more and more jealous of ZZ Packer because her writing is beyond amazing!

Packer has a way of capturing the dialogue of her characters with such a natural flow. Main character, side character, or background character--it always seemed as if Packer has these long back stories for them. That's how realistic all of them felt. Their voices were strong, their gestures--everything about them. It's incredibly impressive.

Drinking Coffee Elsewhere cle
...more
Chris
Feb 28, 2016 Chris rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wendy-books
JACKPOT.

I enjoyed all five short story collections I read in November, but this was the ONE. This hits you the way the classics hit you, the way A Good Man Is Hard to Find hits you, the way Dubliners hits you, the way What We Talk About When We Talk About Love hits you. It has that tether to the eternal, the way Keith Jarrett said of his 1991 Vienna Concert album, “after courting the flame for a very long time, this music plays the language of the flame.” All of Packer’s stories here play the la
...more
Obsidian
Nov 09, 2015 Obsidian rated it it was amazing
I loved or strongly liked the eight stories that made up this book.

Brownies (3.5 stars)- A tale of a young girl going along with the crowd to bully and harass a separate group of brownies that are made up of young Caucasian girls. I though this story had a bit too much going on with it though I enjoyed it. I think it was because the main character was worried about not fitting in and also with a poem and life of a girl in her brownie troop as well. With an ending that seemed to be about much bi
...more
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  • Goodbye, Columbus and Five Short Stories / Letting Go
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  • Sleepwalker in a Fog
  • Escapes
  • Searches and Seizures
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  • Selected Poems
  • Vintage Baldwin
  • Paris Stories
  • Natasha and Other Stories
  • Collected Stories and Later Writings
  • Lucky Girls
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ZZ Packer (born January 12, 1973) is an African-American author, notable for her works of short fiction. Born in Chicago, Illinois, she grew up in Atlanta, Georgia and Louisville, Kentucky. Her given name is Zuwena (Swahili for "good"), but "After a while of teachers mispronouncing my name and everyone else in the world, I began introducing myself as ZZ, and it just kind of stuck" Recognized as a ...more
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“She did not want to say it, because it made no practical sense, but in the end she went to Japan for the delicate sake cups, resting in her hand like a blossom; she went to Japan for loveliness.” 12 likes
“freedom is attained only when the ant of the self—that small, blind, crumb-seeking part of ourselves—casts off slavery and its legacy, becoming a huge brave ox.” 1 likes
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