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Lets meet to discuss The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7445.The_Glass_Castle. This event will be a themed meeting. Participants are requested to come dressed as an extended member of the Wall Family and bring a food dish that cost less then $10. Examples include hobo dinner foil packs, hash, beans, etc. Discussion Questions: Discussion Questions 1. Though The Glass Castle is brimming with unforgettable stories, which scenes were the most memorable for you? Which were the most shocking, the most inspiring, the funniest? 2. Discuss the metaphor of a glass castle and what it signifies to Jeannette and her father. Why is it important that, just before leaving for New York, Jeannette tells her father that she doesn't believe he'll ever build it? (p. 238). 3. The first story Walls tells of her childhood is that of her burning herself severely at age three, and her father dramatically takes her from the hospital: "You're safe now" (p. 14). Why do you think she opens with that story, and how does it set the stage for the rest of the memoir? 4. Rex Walls often asked his children, "Have I ever let you down?" Why was this question (and the required "No, Dad" response) so important for him — and for his kids? On what occasions did he actually come through for them? 5. Jeannette's mother insists that, no matter what, "life with your father was never boring" (p. 288). What kind of man was Rex Walls? What were his strengths and weaknesses, his flaws and contradictions? 6. Discuss Rose Mary Walls. What did you think about her description of herself as an "excitement addict"? (p. 93). 7. Though it portrays an incredibly hardscrabble life, The Glass Castle is never sad or depressing. Discuss the tone of the book, and how do you think that Walls achieved that effect? 8 Describe Jeannette's relationship to her siblings and discuss the role they played in one another's lives. 9. In college, Jeannette is singled out by a professor for not understanding the plight of homeless people; instead of defending herself, she keeps quiet. Why do you think she does this? 10. The two major pieces of the memoir — one half set in the desert and one half in West Virginia — feel distinct. What effect did such a big move have on the family — and on your reading of the story? How would you describe the shift in the book's tone? 11. Were you surprised to learn that, as adults, Jeannette and her siblings remained close to their parents? Why do you think this is? 12. What character traits — both good and bad — do you think that Jeannette inherited from her parents? And how do you think those traits shaped Jeannette's life? 13. For many reviewers and readers, the most extraordinary thing about The Glass Castle is that, despite everything, Jeannette Walls refuses to condemn her parents. Were you able to be equally nonjudgmental? 14. Like Mary Karr's Liars' Club and Rick Bragg's All Over But the Shoutin', Jeannette Walls' The Glass Castle tells the story of a wildly original (and wildly dysfunctional) family with humor and compassion. Were their other comparable memoirs that came to mind? What distinguishes this book?
Lets read Artemis by Andy Weir http://www.litlovers.com/reading-guides/fiction/11156-artemis-weir. Discussion Questions 1. How would you describe Jazz Bashara? Did you enjoy her flippancy, finding it amusing? Or did you find it tiresome? How do you view Jazz's illegal activities: first her smuggling and then her involvement in the aluminum smelting scheme? Does she have a moral compass? Is she an easy or difficult character to root for? 2. Follow-up to Question 1: If Jazz is so intelligent, which both she and others make frequent mention of, why does she remain in her menial, low-paying job? What role has the rift with her father had on her life choices. 3. What is the moon city like? Consider aspects such as safety, living with 1/6 the gravity of earth, the monetary system, economic stratification … even the seemingly insignificant details like watches or the taste of coffee. Is Artemis a place you would want to visit as a tourist? 4. Follow-up to Question 3: Andy Weir endows his stories with nerdy scientific detail. Many find this minutia fascinating, others not so much. Which camp are you in? 5. Are you satisfied with the way the novel ended? Did the pacing of the last segment live up to the phrase "compulsive reading" or "a real page-turner" for you? 6. If you've read (and/or seen) The Martian, Weir's first work, how does this novel compare? Some (not all, by any means) believe it was written more as a future film than as a literary work.
Lets read White Trash over some food. Discussion questions are: 1. Isenberg says discussions of race and/or gender without references to social class are worthless. If you agree, list concrete reasons why you find Isenberg to be correct; if you disagree, move beyond personal preference and enumerate reasons why you think she’s wrong. 2. Isenberg has a very pessimistic view of American ideals. Do you think she’s right that these are more mythic than historical? What does the evidence suggest? 4. What is a secondary labor force/market? What did Marx say about the exploitation of working people? What is Antonio Gramsci’s “hegemony theory?” Do any of these ideas fit Isenberg’s analysis? 5. Donald Trump’s campaign attracted a lot of white working class voters? Why? In what ways were his followers similar to those attracted to Bernie Sanders? How did they differ? 6. An interesting recent phenomenon: In the late 20th century, nearly 80% of Americans thought of themselves as “middle class;” now just 51% think so (and many sociologists would place the objective number at closer to 35%.) What are the differences between being middle class and working class? How have those definitions changed over time? Why are fewer Americans seeing themselves as middle class? Does this mean that the “white trash” is growing in numbers? 7. Isenberg gives us an incomplete (and dated) list of TV shows and entertainment that present the white underclass and she’s not very good at all with movies. Come up with your own list of music, shows, and movies that deal with the white underclass she describes. How is class represented in these? 8. Other than a handful of characters such as Davy Crockett and the “common man” meme of the 1930s, Isenberg gives very few examples of working-class heroes and heroines. Can you compile a list of positive working class and/or poor folks that ought to be part of the discussion? 9. Is Isenberg guilty of casting underclass whites as historical victims without agency? What about, for example, the labor movement? Welfare rights advocates? 10. Does Isenberg unintentionally justify boorish, racist, and sexist behavior? Does she make excuses for people to wallow in ignorance? Does the underclass have any responsibility for liberating itself? Do we believe in Isenberg’s pathology model? How does one escape the past? Should one? 11. Is it as racist to use terms such as “white trash” as it is to use the “N” word.
Lets enjoy discussion Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan http://www.litlovers.com/reading-guides/fiction/9303-crazy-rich-asians-kwan. Discussion Questions 1. Compare how Nick’s mother and Rachel’s mother react to hearing about their trip to Singapore. What do their reactions reveal about each of them as mothers? What is the significance of the "Chinese Way" (p. 68) in the mothers’ approach to courtship and marriage? 2. Does Nick’s description—"It’s like any big family. I have loudmouthed uncles, eccentric aunts, obnoxious cousins, the whole nine yards" (p. 67)—match the way we view our own families? Why doesn’t he tell Rachel more about the background and status of his family before their trip? 3. What does Rachel’s view of Asian men reveal about the complications of growing up Asian in America (p. 90)? How does Kwan use humor to make a serious point here and in other parts of the novel? 4. Discuss the role of gossip in the novel. What kinds of rumors do Nick’s friends and family spread about Rachel, and why How do misunderstandings and misinformation propel the plot and help define the characters? 5. Do you see the events surround Colin’s wedding and the ceremony itself as brazen, even crude displays of wealth or are there aspects of the celebrations that are appealing (pp. 393–416)? 6. What sort of future do you imagine for Nick and Rachel? Is it possible for Rachel to fit into a world "so different from anything [she’s] used to" (p. 431)? Does Nick understand her doubts and unhappiness? 7. Why does the author devote different sections of the novel to specific characters? What effect does this have on your impressions of and sympathies for the problems and prejudices that motivate them? 8. What do the marriages of Eleanor and Philip, Astrid and Michael, and Eddie and Fiona show about what makes a marriage work and what can undermine even the best-intentioned husbands and wives? 9. F. Scott Fitzgerald famously said, "The rich are different from you and me." In what ways are the characters in Crazy Rich Asians different from you and the people you know? 10. The novel makes a clear distinction between old money (the Youngs and their extended family) and new money (Peik Lin’s family, for example), as well as between Mainland and Overseas Chinese. What differences do you see between these groups and the way they deal with their wealth? How does this shape their perceptions of themselves and one another? 11. Crazy Rich Asians is a story of the extremes of conspicuous wealth and consumption. Which scenes and settings in the novel best capture this excess? What do the many references to well-known luxury brands and exotic, expensive settings contribute to your sense of the time, place, and worldview of the characters? 12. Discuss the impact of wealth and privilege on each generation, from imperious Eleanor to status-consumed Eddie to Astrid, the It girl of Asian society, to Nick. Despite their very different approaches to life, what rules or traditions influence their behavior and interactions? What elements from his past does Nick retain, despite his new life in America? 13. What role does the legacy of European imperialism play in the older generation’s tastes and style? How is the younger generation affected by their travels abroad and exposure to modern-day Western society? What insights does Rachel and Nick’s conversation with Su Yi give into the melding and clashing of European and Chinese cultures (pp. 335–38)? 15. Behind its satirical tone and intent, what does the novel suggest about the ethical and emotional implications of the behavior that the characters indulge in?