Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Book Discussion: Tenth of December by George Saunders

Which stories did you enjoy most?

Did you notice any overarching themes in these stories? Anything that connects them?
  • The struggle of being a good person when our culture/environment might be otherwise
  • Families with financial burdens
Do any of these stories seem like they take place in the same world?

Were you able to find humor in any of the stories?

Did you identify with any characters in the book?

"Sticks" is short even by short story standards. What do you think Saunders accomplished (or was trying to accomplish) in this one to two pages?

Do any difficult people in your life have something equivalent to the poles -- a way of showing unusual affection or enthusiasm?

Marie thinks, after leaving without the puppy, "it was a nice pup, but Marie was not going to contribute to a situation like this in even the smallest way" (41). In the end, though, her actions led to Callie abandoning the puppy in the cornfield. What does it mean to "contribute" and has Marie already done so? What do you think an appropriate reaction to the situation would be?

"Escape from Spiderhead" could be classified as a different genre than the preceding stories since its premise is science fiction. Did you enjoy that change?

Abnesti justifies his experiments by saying he is working for the greater good and that the people harmed have done very bad things in the past. Do you think he is justified? If prisoners had a choice between regular prison and Spiderhead, then would the experiments be justified?

What sort of work do you imagine the workers Todd is addressing do?

Did you like or sympathize with Al Roosten?

How long did it take you to figure out what an "SG" was?

Do you think Saunders is trying to draw parallels between the Semplica Girls and any situations in our current culture?

In "home," what do you think happened to the narrator while he was at war? How can we explain the animosity he feels towards his family?

Once again Saunders uses a science fiction pharmaceutical drug as a key element in the story. Why do you think he does this? Does the use of the drug allow him to express something about human nature that would be harder to show in a realistic story?

Why do you think the title of this story was chosen as the title for the book?

Monday, August 22, 2016

Book Discussion: Between the World and Me

Coates mentions the American Dream in the book. What aspects of the dream does he discuss?

On pg. 78, Coates speaks of the recent talk about “diversity, sensitivity training, and body cameras.” He says that “these are all fine and applicable, but that (they)understate the task and allow the citizens of this country to pretend that there is real distance between their own attitudes and those of the ones appointed to protect them.”

  •  If speaking about diversity, sensitivity training, and body cameras allows the American people to dissociate racism from themselves, what is it that we should be discussing? 
  • How can we make the American people face the racial injustices and prejudices that still exist? 
Is this book's message hopeful or pessimistic? 

What does Coates want us to take-away from this book?

On page 7 Coates writes "but race is the child of racism, not the father." What is he suggesting here?

On page 60 he states "hate gives identity." Do you agree? Can you think of examples to illustrate that statement.

Some questions pulled from 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Science Fiction Authors

Taken from the August 2016 Library journal Article "Ten Top SF Writers Diverse Voices." p. 26-28

Steven Barnes
Octavia Butler
Samuel R. Delaney
Nalo Hopkinson
Adre Norton
Wesley Chu
N.K. Jemisin
Yon Han Lee
Ken Liu
Ndedi Okorafor

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Book Discussion: Little Children by Tom Perotta

A group of young suburban parents, including a stay-at-home dad, a former feminist, and an over-structured mom, finds its sleepy existence shattered when a convicted  molester moves back into town and two of the parents have an affair

Discussion Questions:

Why is Ronnie's story included in the book?

What do you think about the way we deal with sex offenders in our society?

Which characters do you sympathize most with in the novel?
       Do your sympathies shift over course of the novel?

What did Todd and Sarah represent to each other?    

How are children portrayed in the book?

On page 109 Richard states that "if there was one thing life had taught him, it was that it was ridiculous to be at war with your own desires." What are your thoughts on this statement? How can one make peace with your own desires?

Why is the book called Little Children?

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Book Displays: Funny Families.....and you thought yours was bad!

Many titles from the Novelist List Funny Families compiled by Kimberly Burton http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=neh&tg=UI&an=427634&site=novp-live

Lost in suburbia : how I got pregnant, lost myself, and got my cool back in the New Jersey suburbs
by Beckerman, Tracy

French twist : an American mom's experiment in Parisian parenting
by Crawford, Catherine

Dad is fat
by Gaffigan, Jim

Cool, calm & contentious
by Markoe, Merrill

Dress your family in corduroy and denim
by Sedaris, David
(really most books by Sedaris)

I can't complain : (all too) personal essays
by Lipman, Elinor

My inappropriate life : some material not suitable for small children, nuns, or mature adults
by McDonald, Heather

Dan gets a minivan : life at the intersection of dude and dad
by Zevin, Dan

Sh*t my dad says
by Halpern, Justin

Let's pretend this never happened : (a mostly true memoir)
by Lawson, Jenny

Funny in Farsi : a memoir of growing up Iranian in America
by Dumas, Firoozeh

The life and times of the Thunderbolt Kid : a memoir
by Bryson, Bill

A girl named Zippy : growing up small in Mooreland, Indiana
by Kimmel, Haven

Manhood for amateurs : the pleasures and regrets of a husband, father, and son
by Chabon, Michael

My mother was nuts : a memoir
by Marshall, Penny

Running with scissors : a memoir
by Burroughs, Augusten

Fiction ruined my family
by Darst, Jeanne

Fresh off the boat : a memoir
by Huang, Eddie

The corrections
by Franzen, Jonathan

A spool of blue thread
by Tyler, Anne

Lifesaving lessons : notes from an accidental mother
by Greenlaw, Linda

Monday, April 25, 2016

Book Discussion: Little Bee by Chris Cleave

Discussion Questions:

Little Bee tells the reader, “We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived” (p. 9). Which characters in the story are left with physical scars? Emotional scars? Do they embrace them as beautiful? Do you have any scars you’ve come to embrace? Did you feel more connected to Little Bee as a narrator after this pact?

How did it affect your reading experience to have two narrators? Did you trust one woman more than the other? Did you prefer the voice of one above the other?

Why do readers react so strongly to Sarah? Why don't some readers like her very much? How do you feel about her?

Little Bee begins her story talking about what life would be like for her once
she learned the Queen’s English or if she were a pound note. How is language
currency? Why does language come to represent hope for Little Bee?

Little Bee credits a small bottle of nail polish for “saving her life” while she was in the detention center (p. 7). Is there any object or act that helps you feel alive and beautiful, even when everything else seems to be falling apart?

 Little Bee says of horror films, “Horror in your country is something you take a dose of to remind yourself that you are not suffering from it” (p. 45). Do you agree? Was reading this novel in any way a dose of horror for you? How did it help you reflect on the presence or lack of horror in your own life?

Little Bee figures out the best way to kill herself in any given situation, just in case “the men come suddenly.” How do these plans help Little Bee reclaim some power? Were you disturbed by this, or were you able to find the humor in some of the scenarios she imagines? How do you think she "killed herself back to life."

What do you think happens to the characters at the end of the novel? Do you like that the ending is open, or wish the loose ends were more neatly tied up?

Why does Sarah’s four-year-old son, Charlie, need his Batman costume? What
are the deeper meanings around costumes and masks in this novel?

Why does Lawrence feel threatened by Sarah’s relationship with Little Bee?

Little Bee says, “I do not think I have left my country. I think it has traveled with
me.” How do the places we come from shape us and what does it mean to

Why did the author call this book Little Bee? What do you think of its original
title, The Other Hand?

Why does the novel close with this Nigerian proverb: “If your face is swollen
from the severe beatings of life, smile and pretend to be a fat man”? How
does the proverb relate to the book as a whole?

Monday, April 18, 2016

Poem in Your Pocket Day

Every April, on Poem in Your Pocket Day, people celebrate by selecting a poem, carrying it with them, and sharing it with others throughout the day at schools, bookstores, libraries, parks, workplaces, and on Twitter using the hashtag #pocketpoem.  Poem in Your Pocket Day was originally initiated in 2002 by the Office of the Mayor, in partnership with the New York City Departments of Cultural Affairs and Education, as part of the city’s National Poetry Month celebration. In 2008, the Academy of American Poets made the initiative national, encouraging individuals across the country to join in and channel their inner bard. 

This is the second year in a row I have used the Poem in Your Pocket to do a display. I cut out the tiny poems and roll them up into scrolls as pictured above. I put them out in a cute bowl with a sign and patron take one home to enjoy and pass on.

I also post the poems one a day leading up to April 21 on our Facebook page. Since it's National Poetry Month this is a great little way to make poetry come alive.

These poems come from the Poets.org listing made curated for Poem in Your Pocket day. I copied selected ones and made them into pocket sized poems that you can print out and roll up.