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J. California Cooper’s charming short stories and novels are filled with savvy, scrappy black female characters who outwit their antagonists and meet with love and success. Like modern Horatio Alger tales, most of Cooper’s stories deal with downtrodden characters who, through hard work and high moral standards, pull themselves up out of poverty. Her latest book, The Wake of the Wind, follows a family of freed slaves as they search for a better life. Though at times its overly preachy tone dampens the wit and vivid description that characterize Cooper’s best writing, it is still an engaging storyno doubt made all the more lively when the spunky author reads aloud. She’ll also sign copies of her work at this benefit for Sisterspace and Books; premium tickets include the book and a reception with Cooper. At 4 p.m. at George Washington University’s Marvin Center Ballroom, 21st & H Sts. NW. $20-50. (202) 332-3433. (Holly Bass)