ZZ Packer's stories have appeared in The New Yorker (where she was launched as a debut writer), Harper's and Story, have been published in The Best American Short Stories, and have been read on NPR's Selected Shorts. Packer is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Writers' Award, and a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers' Award. A graduate of Yale, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and the Writing Seminar at Johns Hopkins University, she has been a Wallace Stenger-Truman Capote fellow and a Jones lecturer at Stanford University. From the Hardcover edition.
Though they rarely appear on best sellers lists, short story collections can be the ultimate in fiction-the freshest voices, the most distilled prose, the most exciting trends. Newcomer Packer's debut is that kind of collection. Lauded by The New Yorker in its 2000 "Debut Fiction" issue and published in other magazines since, she fills her first book with some distinctive entries. In "Geese," a young black woman from Baltimore upends her life to seek her fortune in Japan but ends up living in a tiny apartment with a number of bitter, unemployed foreigners. In "Our Lady of Peace," a new college graduate signs up for an accelerated teacher certification program but self-destructs in the hard neighborhood in which she finds herself. In "Doris Is Coming," a young woman from a fundamentalist family yearns to join the lunch counter sit-ins in 1961 and visits the Lithuanian appliance store owner to watch television when she wants to escape from her family. Bright, sharp, promising, and recommended.-Ann H. Fisher, Radford P.L., VA Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Adult/High School-The characters in these stories are mainly African American, but that is where their similarity ends. From the young Brownie troop member in the opening tale to the teen in the pre-civil rights South closing story, each one has a unique voice. The strong role of the church is evident, but the characters range from the very religious to the very doubtful. Sexuality is problematic-from the older virgin who is more interested in preaching the gospel to the 14-year-old virgin runaway who has also been preaching the gospel but can't help continuing a dalliance with a man she suspects may be a pimp and a drug dealer. The settings are Baltimore, Washington during the Million Man March, and, in a particularly bleak story, Japan. Each selection is strong, but "Brownies" may be the strongest. It's full of dark humor and unseen plot twists, reminiscent in tone of a Flannery O' Connor tale. All of the selections appeared previously in various literary magazines. Older teens will find much to enjoy in this collection. For those studying the short story as a literary format, it would make an excellent companion to more classic tales.-Jamie Watson, Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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. (Mar. 10) Forecast: Packer's stories have been published in Harper's and Story, and anthologized in The Best American Short Stories 2000. This collection has been much anticipated since she was featured in the New Yorker's Debut Fiction Issue of 2000. BOMC, QPB, Insight Out, Black Expressions, and InBook alternate selection; author tour.
"ZZ Packer's prose is vivid and often comic...Her vision sizzles and fizzes."John Updike"A captivating eye for detail...a bold and often thrilling usage of language and style."Â San Francisco Chronicle "This is the old-time religion of storytelling, although Packer's prose supplies plenty of the edge and energy we expect from contemporary fiction."Â The New York Times Book Review "A true cause for celebration for those of us who feel that fiction exists to crack the world open and again and inspire us with new love for it. Funny, fierce, verbally energetic, deeply compassionateZZ Packer is a wonderful new writer, who somehow manages to indict the species and forgive it all at once."George Saunders, author of CivilWarLand in Bad Decline "Acerbic, satirical, hilarious, nuanced, as fiercely unsentimental and deliciously subtle as Jane Austen."Â O, The Oprah Magazine "ZZ Packer writes a short story with more complexity and kindness than most people can muster in their creaking 500-page novels. It is the kind of brilliance for narrative that should make her peers envious and her readers very, very grateful."Zadie Smith "Packer casts an eye both humorous and merciless upon her characters, putting them, in the tradition of Flannery O'Connor, to tests of faith, family, friendship, love, and self that can approach almost Biblical dimensions."Â Elle