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It’s one thing to know that ZZ Packer published her first short story in Seventeen magazine when she was 19. It’s another to learn that the award-winning, still-just-30-year-old author went to Yale planning to be an engineer. Since her precocious debut, Packer’s fiction has been published in the New Yorker, Harper’s, and The Best American Short Stories 2000. Her first book, Drinking Coffee Elsewhere, is a collection of eight stories told mostly from the perspectives of young black teenagers. Packer’s tales are full of the heartache of adolescence, whether found in her razor-sharp portrayal of gentle misfits or a character’s sudden awareness that ugliness exists beyond the schoolyard. In “Brownies,” a quiet protagonist known as Snot tells her troop that her father once had Mennonites, who vow to do whatever is asked of them, paint his porch. Another girl asks why he didn’t ask for, say, a hundred bucks instead. Snot considers: “‘He said,’ I began, only then understanding the words as they uncoiled from my mouth, ‘it was the only time he’d have a white man on his knees doing something for a black man for free.’ I now understood what he meant, and why he did it, though I didn’t like it. When you’ve been made to feel bad for so long, you jump at the chance to do it to others….and suddenly [I] knew there was something mean in the world that I could not stop.” Packer reads with Stuart Dybeck at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 21, at the Folger Shakespeare Library, 201 E. Capitol St. SE. $15. (202) 544-7077. (Tricia Olszewski)