By: Aryanne Ferguson
I’ve been writing short stories for the past decade, and in that time, I can’t remember not being entranced by ZZ Packer. My fascination started when I read one of her most famous short stories “Brownies” in an anthology. A quick Google search told me that ZZ Packer published her first story in Seventeen magazine when she was 19. She went to Yale, then Hopkins, and then the revered (okay maybe only in academia) Iowa Writer’s Workshop for her MFA.
After I read “Brownies,” I read her book, “Drinking Coffee Elsewhere“(2004). The book is a collection of 8 previously published short stories about young African-Americans who either make a life-altering change and have to see it through, or are confronted by another character and forced to change. Her characters are usually have no one to rely on for support. The story settings vary: a summer camp, church, Baltimore, Kentucky, DC, Japan, Atlanta, even 1961. Because I used to substitute teach, the story “Our Lady of Peace” especially resonated with me. In the story, a young woman moves to Baltimore to teach inner city kids and finds herself unable to control the classroom. She grows more and more desperate, until she commits a final act of defiance.
Check out ZZ Packer and you might find yourself inspired, Reader!