Supplementary Discussion of ZZ Packer's "Brownies"

  You are not assigned a specific question to answer in supplementary discussion, but feel free to use any of the question below or create your own. 

You are required to post to 5 supplementary discussions over the course of the semester. You can do more for extra credit, so long as you do it in the scheduled timeframe.

13 Questions To Ask of Every Story: 

1.          What makes this story “literary”? 

 

2.          Why is this story considered one of the best stories of the past hundred years? If it’s an old story, why has it endured?

 

3.          Why do you think this story was considered one of the best / most iconic stories at the time of its publication? What made it a “successful” story?

 

4.          Plot: What is the “rich ground situation” (conflict) of the story? What happens to complicate this ground situation?

 

5.          Plot: What is the climax of this story? How does the moment irrevocably change everything?

 

6.          Character: In what ways does the writer show character?

 

7.          Character: In what ways does the character drive the action of the story?

 

8.          Point of view: Why do you think the writer chose this particular point of view for the story? How does the point of view function to establish distance or make us feel a certain way?

 

9.          Setting: How does the setting work within the story? What are the key places, and in how does the writer describe them?

 

10.      Pick three of the best lines in the story. Why are they good lines?

 

11.      Do a little bit of research on this author. Is this story a good example of his/her work? Is there anything else you learned that could add to our understanding of the story?

 

12.      What do you think the reader is supposed to take from the story? What can we, as writers, learn from studying it?


13. How is this story similar to others we've read? How is it different?

Comments

  1. 11. Do a little bit of research on this author. Is this story a good example of his/her work? Is there anything else you learned that could add to our understanding of the story?

    ZZ Packer was born in Chicago in 1973. She was first published in Seventeen when she was only 19 years old. She attended Yale university and went on to study at Johns Hopkins University and the Iowa Writers Workshop at the University of Iowa. She was then named a Stegner Fellow in fiction at Stanford University. She has a short story collection called Drinking Coffee Elsewhere that was published in 2003 and it was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner award, chosen as New York Times Notable Book and selected by John Updike for the Today show Book Club. Packer won a Guggenheim Fellowship and was named one of Americas best Young Novelists by Granta, named one of the New Yorkers 20 under 40, as well as one of Smithsonian magazines Young Innovators in October 2007.

    I think that Brownie is a good example of Packers work. Packer focuses a lot of her work on minorities and people of color. she stated, "I think a lot of my characters wish race didn't matter as much as it does, but it does." Race and class are closely associated. In Brownies we see the girls make assumptions about troop 909 who they have never meet based on racial relations and try to corner and fight them in the bathroom. They find out the girls are disabled and even accuse one of the girls called them a racial slur, and find out that girl is not able to speak. Brownies offers a powerful platform for discussions about race and bias which is why I think it is such a popular short story.

    - Zoe

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  2. 6. Character: In what ways does the writer show character?

    The writer shows character through their actions and dialogue. The way that Arnetta and Octavia take charge of the group and lead them to misbehave says a lot about who they are. Also the main character being called “Snot” says a lot about her as well. Before that, there wasn’t much about her character and she seemed more like a passive observer but once she begins to speak, she becomes more active in the story. The way that she doesn’t want to participate in their schemes but does anyway says a lot about the characters as well, not only the main character but Arnetta also.

    -Bailey

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  3. 5. Plot: What is the climax of this story? How does the moment irrevocably change everything?

    I felt like the climax of the story is when the girls go to confront troop 909 in the bathroom scaring them. After this moment the girls are put under a more careful watch and their fun at camp is ruined. As well on the bus ride home we can see that there is some more tension with the narrator, Arnetta, and Olivia. Granted, the narrator didn't seem to get along with the other two that well to begin with, but after the event with the troop 909 girls they seem to isolate and bully her more (When on the bus ride home they told the narrator to shut up).

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  4. 13. How is this story similar to others we've read? How is it different?

    I feel like this story has the same style as stories we've read in the past. It also is very character and action driven, which is a good sign of any literary work. The narrator interacts with the two other main characters Olivia and Arnetta to learn different lessons so to speak. Similar to other stories we've read, as readers we follow along with the narrator and slowly learn why things are happening and why the troop and Olivia and Arnetta are choosing to misbehave. This story also discusses race and disabilities which are important issues that are often discussed and used in literary stories we've read in the past. This story however is written from the point of view of a child who is surrounded by mostly other children, which I think is different from the average short story.
    -Taylor

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  5. 3. Why do you think this story was considered one of the best / most iconic stories at the time of its publication? What made it a “successful” story?

    Z.Z Packer does an impressive job of writing the main topic of her piece, and picks everything in it to an impressive degree. Using a child's lens, and showing the harsh social realities people face, creates an interesting paradox for the reader. Specifically "Why is it that we allow this to continue on?", because we see how ingrained these echo chambers are in our society. For this story, we see how it's ingrained for young black women.

    The remarks on race are telling, because at first it seems like children being children, until it gets more specific and prodding. Even after the climax, it's hard to feel bad for any of the characters because of the situation they are in. Packer writes this because it's supposed to show how society treats those who are constantly battered down. How black women and disabled persons are forced to see themselves as lesser, and to make this decision with the setting being Atlanta? It's all the more telling for what she is trying to say.

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