Drinking Coffee Elsewhere is a very interesting story that brings up a number of thought-provoking issues in a relatively short format. Among these are questions of race, identity, and stereotyping. The narrator of the story is a young woman named Dina who feels lonely and confused in her new surroundings. As a poor, African American female at Yale (which the narrator portrays as a rich, male, and subtlety racist institution) she has difficulty adapting to the expectations of the university. From the very beginning, her differences set her apart from her classmates, until, from her point of view, she becomes a pariah, invisible and despised by the community. Of course, one must view these complaints with some skepticism. The narrator deliberately isolates herself with off-hand comments and antisocial behavior. She seems to take pride in her jarring attitude toward authority and friendliness. Only on rare occasions do we see her treated poorly by the other characters. While her behavior is rude and obnoxious, they seem to be welcoming and sincere in their attempts to reconcile her depression. It soon becomes apparent that Dina finds comfort in her intentional isolation. She takes some satisfaction from stereotyping others unfairly and irrationally, since stereotypes provide a simple and lazy detour around human interaction.
The narrator in Drinking Coffee Elsewhere has many problems with communication that prevent her from forming healthy relationships. During her sessions with the school psychiatrist, his probing questions provide a window into some of the difficulties she has. One of his most insightful statements is that Dina’s constant deceptions and dismissals have accustomed her to an offensive reaction. Whenever someone asks her a question her response belittles and mystifies them. Because she has set herself up for this attitude it is a natural custom. For example, in the first few pages, during an...