One such book that I read and loved is Drinking Coffee Elsewhere by ZZ Packer. It fits two of the challenge's categories: a collection of short stories written by a woman and a book in which every point-of-view character is a person of color.
In the years since I graduated from college, I unfortunately began to identify as a reader who just doesn't like short stories. So I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. One of my objections to short stories was that it's difficult to become fully invested in the characters in the short span of time you're granted. Packer's characters feel full and real, though, largely due to her excellent dialogue. It's hard to define what makes dialogue work, but you know it does when you can almost forget that you're reading a book and "hear" the characters' conversations.
All of the stories in Drinking Coffee Elsewhere examine the experiences of black people in America, focusing on issues of gender, class, race, and religion. All of them are engaging, but I did have a few favorites:
- "Brownies," which follows an all-black Girl Scout troop as they go to camp and clash with an all-white troop.
- "Our Lady of Peace," in which a young teacher finds an unexpected ally in the form of a troubled student.
- "Drinking Coffee Elsewhere," in which a college student struggles with making connections and with accepting her relationship with a classmate.
- and "Doris Is Coming," in which a teenage girl finds the courage to begin taking part, in however small a way, in the struggle for civil rights.
Which, I think, is the mark of great fiction: When you let yourself forget that it's not real long enough to wonder what the characters are up to now.