Friday, March 29, 2013

Next Meeting

The Meetings page has now been updated to reflect the next book club meeting of Thursday, April 4th from 5-7 pm. The books being discussed will be:

  • Two Old Women by Velma Wallis
  • Everything you know about Indians is Wrong! by Paul Chaat Smith
You're welcome to come if you've read all, part, or even just some of the titles above :)

Happy Spring Break!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Discussion Questions

We welcome questions from all participants at the book club, here are some questions that may spark our Friday discussion or simply get us started...

Overall Questions:

Through Blasphemy, we have examined a handful of "quintessential" Alexie works. What do you think his overall themes and/or arguments are? What are his main messages? 

Were you offended at any point while reading? What are your reactions to Blasphemy?

How does this book choice add or detract from discussing aspects of American Indian culture? 

Story-specific Questions:

Because My Father Always Said He Was the Only Indian Who Saw Jimi Hendrix Play “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Woodstock
  • One possible theme in this work is that of "war", both physical and cultural war. As a reader, what is your reaction to this theme of "war"?
  • This is arguably one of Alexie's most popular works. Why do you think it is so popular? 
The Toughest Indian in the World
  • One possible motivation Alexie had for this work was to deconstruct Indian standards for males. Do you agree? Why or why not? What other motivations may have Alexie had within this text?
  • Some of the more graphic or intimate details in this story may disturb readers. How does this story build an understanding of love and human need while providing the opportunity for readers to move beyond their own cultural contraints? 
Do You Know Where I Am?
  • Does David believe that his ethnicity is a help or hindrance? How do you know? 
  • How does Sharon feel about her ethnicity? 
  • What are the various methods for coping with feelings of anger, powerlessness, and disenfranchisement used by Sharon or David in this story? Do you identify with these strategies?
Indian Education
  • What overall impression does Alexie create of life on the reservation? What examples do you have to support your thoughts?
  • The title refers to more than just formal schooling. What are some of the other implications of "Indian Education"?
  • How did you react to the ending of the story? There is ambiguity of whether or not the narrator will engage in an affair, what do you think will happen? 
  • Why do you think it was necessary for "flirty teacher" to work with Indian kids? 
Search Engine
  • How do you feel about the dialogue between Corliss and Harlan? What do you find interesting? Why?
  • Is "making fun" specific to American Indian culture? Why or why not? 
  • What is the meaning of the title "Search Engine"?
War Dances
  • What is a "War Dance"?
  • Consider the following quotation from “War Dances”:
    • "I want to feel reassured, but I had a brain tumor. How does one feel any optimism about being diagnosed with a brain tumor? Even if that brain tumor is neither cancerous nor interested in crushing one’s brain? (54-55).
    • Now, cast aside the possibility that Alexie used the above questions for persuasive effect, and imagine that he expects his reader—you—to reply. How would you reply?
The Approximate Size of My Favorite Tumor
  • This is perhaps the most humorous of the stories selected to read from Blasphemy. How do you feel about Alexie’s use of humor in this story? 
  • Do you think Alexie uses humor to ameliorate devastating situations, like terminal illness or do you think he makes light of a serious situation? Does his use of humor make situations like poverty and despondency bearable or unbearable? 
  • The last exchange between Jimmy and Norma is partcularly poignant. What do you think of Norma's statement that she returned because the man she was living with got too serious and that "maybe because making fry break and helping people die are the two last things Indians are good at." What does Norma mean by this? What is Alexie saying?
Please feel free to comment on this post with additional questions you would like raised or comments you have. We look forward to seeing you on Friday!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Book Discussion Guidelines

Friday, March 8th is our first book club meeting and we'll be discussing selections from Blasphemy by Sherman Alexie!

As a good reminder for everyone and especially those of you who are new to book clubs, here are some great guidelines we'll be following which have been borrowed from the CCBC.

Look at each book for what it is, rather than what it is not.
  1. Make positive comments first. Try to express what you liked about the book and why. (e.g. "The illustrations are a perfect match for the story because....")
  2. After everyone has had the opportunity to say what they appreciated about the book, you may talk about difficulties you had with a particular aspect of the book. Try to express difficulties as questions, rather than declarative judgments on the book as a whole. (e.g. "Would Max's dinner really have still been warm?" rather than "That would never happen.")
  3. Avoid recapping the story or booktalking the book. There is not time for a summary.
  4. Refrain from relating personal anecdotes. The discussion must focus on the book at hand.
  5. Try to compare the book with others on the discussion list, rather than other books by the same author or other books in your experience. 
All perspectives and vocabularies are correct.
There is no "right" answer or single correct response.
  1. Listen openly to what is said, rather than who says it.
  2. Respond to the comments of others, rather than merely waiting for an opportunity to share your comments.
  3. Talk with each other, rather than to the discussion facilitator.
  4. Comment to the group as a whole, rather than to someone seated near you.