Wednesday, July 07, 2021

Short Story Wednesday: "Brownies" Z.Z. Packer

This is another story from the collection above. This one is about a Brownie Troop on an overnight trip. The girls are Black and one of them overhears a White girl from another group referring to them by the "N" word. (Just can't type it). The girls decide they will find the girls from this troop and fight them to regain their self-respect. Of course, when they do the White girls have their own stigma to reckon with. This is a clever story, beautifully written and very surprising. 

If I had one quibble it would be that the girls think and speak more intelligently than I would have at 8 or 9 years old. This is always something of a problem with stories written about children. Do you want to have them speak like children really do or do you want to articulate a more mature thinking process that may come later? I vote for the latter. 

I have my own story about Brownies. Maybe I can try to write it although it certainly can't compare to this excellent one.

Kevin Tipple

Jerry House 


George Kelley


Margot Kinberg said...

It is so hard to get young people's voices right, Patti! Still, this sounds like a really interesting story, and a clever way to explore racism.

Jeff Meyerson said...

I agree. I thought she did an excellent job with it, the girls and the milieu were very different from the norm, and it was even a fairly successful wrap up. Definitely one of the better stories in a very good collection.

Nothing in my reading jumps out this week like "Brownies" does. I finished the second Nathan Englander collection, WHAT WE TALK ABOUT WHEN WE TALK ABOUT ANNE FRANK. Nothing came close to the excellent title story, but overall I thought it was better than his first collection.

Currently reading SOME FUN by Antonya Nelson and LIKE YOU'D UNDERSTAND, ANYWAY by Jim Shepard. I like Shepard's writing but some of his stories, not so much. He clearly does a ton of research for these historical settings, as in "Hadrian's Wall" set during the Roman occupation of Britain, and puts it out there to see, not always to the benefit of smooth story telling (IMHO). "The Zero Meter Diving Team," about Chernobyl, works somewhat better. Nelson writes a lot about families, not just parent and child but the dynamics of brother/sister relationships.

Jerry House said...

An author I'm unfamiliar with. I'll have to check her out. Thanks, Patti.

George said...

Very few writers capture the essence of children. As you point out, their conversations are key...but difficult to make realistic.

TracyK said...

That does sound like a good story. Interesting comment on how children's voices should be written and what we want to hear.

Todd Mason said...

Some kids (I was one) achieve a certain amount of sophistication in their speech and thought at some times, and (oddly enough like all adults) have their regressed/age and maturity-appropriate moments as well. Or whatever degree of tantrum they allow themselves. I remember having an argument at age 9 with the husband of one of my mother's friends about to what extent he could speak with me as at least similar to an adult, and the somewhat odd situation he found himself in, speaking to me as a peer, to at least some extent, as to how it wasn't possible for him to speak with me as a peer.