About the Summer Months: We discussed July/August meetings and have decided to skip those months for the next while and see how that goes. We're having a hard time getting together even 3-4 people for a meeting and it seems unfair to the hosts to plan and prepare for a meeting that either doesn't happen, or ends up being just 2 ladies enjoying an evening coffee and pie! Since we have 10 members, that still allows us to host once a year (Sept-June) and if we get back up to 12 members, then we host a little less often, but have some more variety about when we're hosting. For now, we'll just drop our July/August themes with the idea of being able to incorporate another Library Kit (August) into the rotation now and then. Here's a look ahead at the next few months, with some changes as noted below!
I've watched his 8th Fire series on CBC, so I was excited to read this memoir next on my list. Book summary: When his father was given a diagnosis of terminal cancer, Winnipeg broadcaster and musician Wab Kinew decided to spend a year reconnecting with the accomplished but distant aboriginal man who'd raised him. The Reason You Walk spans the year 2012, chronicling painful moments in the past and celebrating renewed hopes and dreams for the future. As Kinew revisits his own childhood in Winnipeg and on a reserve in Northern Ontario, he learns more about his father's traumatic childhood at residential school. An intriguing doubleness marks The Reason You Walk, a reference to an Anishinaabe ceremonial song. Born to an Anishinaabe father and a non-native mother, he has a foot in both cultures. He is a Sundancer, an academic, a former rapper, a hereditary chief, and an urban activist. His father, Tobasonakwut, was both a beloved traditional chief and a respected elected leader who engaged directly with Ottawa. Internally divided, his father embraced both traditional native religion and Catholicism, the religion that was inculcated into him at the residential school where he was physically and sexually abused. In a grand gesture of reconciliation, Kinew's father invited the Roman Catholic bishop of Winnipeg to a Sundance ceremony in which he adopted him as his brother. Kinew writes affectingly of his own struggles in his twenties to find the right path, eventually giving up a self-destructive lifestyle to passionately pursue music and martial arts. From his unique vantage point, he offers an inside view of what it means to be an educated aboriginal living in a country that is just beginning to wake up to its aboriginal history and living presence. Invoking hope, healing and forgiveness, The Reason You Walk is a poignant story of a towering but damaged father and his son as they embark on a journey to repair their family bond. By turns lighthearted and solemn, Kinew gives us an inspiring vision for family and cross-cultural reconciliation, and a wider conversation about the future of aboriginal peoples.- from amazon.ca My thoughts: Wab openly acknowledges that he and his people are proud and stoic - which makes this open, honest and emotionally intense memoir all the more compelling. You can hear, at times, in his story-telling that he's reluctant to reveal difficult situations or deep feelings - and sometimes, he pulls back from the reader - but many times, he bravely tells his story, and the story of his father and his sons, as it needs to be told. I learned so much about Indigenous culture, spirituality, and families; I saw in a very real way how the horrors of residential schools affected the survivors, but also their families - their children and grandchildren. And I was humbled and amazed to hear how Wab's father worked relentlessly to make peace, reconciliation and forgiveness a very real aspect of his everyday life. An important, positive, hopeful and emotional look at how Indigenous people and other Canadians can learn from each other, understand each other and put true reconciliation into action.
We're getting together at Danielle's house on Thursday, September 7th at 7:30 pm, with discussion to begin at 8 pm.
Discussion Questions: 1. Did you like the book? Why or why not?
2. What is Miss Brodie's "prime"? What does she mean by the term and why is it so significant—she announces it to her class and refers to it time and again? It also brought up in the last line of the book.
3. Do we ever learn why she selects the particular girls she does as her Brodie girls? Talk about the girls, their relationships with one another, and their relationship with the school. Are they individuals...or conformists?
4. What is Miss Brodie's purpose in creating the Brodie set? Is it purely educational...or something else? What does she want for (or from) them? In what ways, if at all, does the Brodie set change over the years? Do the girls alter their feelings for Miss Brodie by the time their schooling ends?
5. What do you think of Miss MacKay, the headmistress, who continually attempts to undermine Miss Brodie? At the end, she says to Sandy, "I'm afraid she put ideas into your young heads." Why has that bothered her for so many years? Is that not precisely what education is about, at least Miss MacKay's own philosophy of teaching? Is Miss MacKay a watchful headmistress doing her job? Or is she inhibiting a vibrant, creative teacher?
6. We know Miss Brodie only through the eyes of the girls, primarily Sandy. How does their perception of her change by the time they are 17 years of age...and also when they are even older?
7. Muriel Spark wrote with a great deal of wit, and her humor is particularly evident in this novel because we view the adult world through the eyes of innocents. What are some of the sections you find particularly funny?
8. Is Miss Brodie a good person? Is she a good teacher? Try, in fact, to explain the enigma that is Miss Jean Brodie? What, for instance, is her background—do we ever find out?
9. What about Teddy Lloyd and Gordon Lowther, Miss Brodie's two love interests? What does she want with them? She refuses Lowther's entreaties to marry her—why? And more mysteriously, she encourages Rose to have an affair with Lloyd—why, again?
10. When she is finally betrayed, was the one who did so right or wrong? What prompted the girl tell Miss MacKay what she told her? Was it a betrayal?
11. In the final analysis, how do you come to think of Miss Brodie? Is she a noble figure? A tragic one? A visionary? Is she silly? Is she dangerous or well-meaning? What impact did she have on her girls, lasting or short-term?
12. Would you recommend the book? Why or why not?
(Questions 2-11 by LitLovers.)
Menu: "A Scottish Tea at Twilight"
Let's sit in the twilight, either on the carpet like Sandy and Jenny or on my couches, and discuss Miss Jean Brodie and her girls, while enjoying delicious Scottish desserts. And we can toast to the fact that we, fellow book clubers, are the creme de la creme! :) (how's the for post-survival summer vacation encouragement ;) )
Date: August 3rd (to be rescheduled to Aug 10 if there are not enough able to come)
Place: Emily's house. Plan to sit outside (by the fire) in keeping with the setting of the book!
1. Did you like the book? Why/ Why not?
Who did you first suspect of attacking Grace? Did your suspicions
change over the course of the book? Were there clues that pointed
you toward the perpetrator? What were some of the red herrings that
misdirected your attention?
3. Adele has a very lenient,
alternative parenting style, homeschooling and preferring to let her
children make their own choices, whatever they are. She repeatedly
suggests that she feels judged by others for her lifestyle. How did
you feel about how she is raising her children? Were there points in
the book you felt supportive or critical of her maternal
4. The police suggest that Grace is “mature for
her age” (page 206). Do you agree that Grace is (or is acting)
more mature than her age? If so, how? How do Grace’s or Pip’s
experiences compare with your own experience of being twelve and
5. Do you
think Clare made the right decision in keeping Pip and Grace’s
father’s release from the hospital a secret? Why or why not?
Adele asserts that “with parenting there’s a long game and a
short game. The aim of the short game is to make your children
bearable to live with. Easy to transport. Well behaved in public
place . . . But the aim of the long game is to produce a good human
being” (page 150). Do you agree with her belief that you can
“skip” the short game? Is there a middle ground between her
viewpoint and Gordon’s discipline-focused approach?
draws Clare to Leo? Is her attraction to him based more on her own
circumstances or something about him?
8. Why do you think
Lisa Jewell wrote primarily from Pip, Clare, and Adele’s
perspectives? What do these narrators have in common? What is unique
about their different standpoints, and how does this affect the
9. Did you relate to any of the girls or parents more
than the others? In what ways?
10. Do you think you would
enjoy living in a home with a communal garden like the one
described? What are some of the benefits and drawbacks?
What drives Catkin and Fern to follow Tyler’s lead? What do you
think were their motivations for taking the actions they took?
Why does Adele ultimately look after Tyler? Are her motives purely
13. Do you think Adele does the right thing by
keeping quiet after she discovers what happened to Grace? What would
you have done in her position?
14. All of the girls go
through both traumatic and formative experiences during the course
of the book. What do you think the various girls will be like when
they are grown up?
15. Read the following excerpt of a review of the book. Do you agree, disagree?
characters of The
Girls in the Gardenwere
overall unlikable, unbelievable, and therefore, unrelatable. Pip is
the only exception, and she proves to be a wise, intuitive, caring
girl. (...) While
Pip and Grace are the main characters, we’re introduced to a host
of secondary characters in this book, all residents of the communal
garden, and each with their own social standing. The other children
are odd, and their behavior often distressed me. More than that, it
seems the parents in this book don't care for their children, and in
fact, are scared of their children. Scared of their disdain, of their
temper tantrums, of their arrogance and ego. And so, they allow their
children to run wild and to run over them in the process. Is this how
families are run in the UK? I think not -- but this book would have
you believing otherwise!
There are lots of mentions of food in the book! Some ideas, although not all will work too well eaten outside by the fire:
Chicken noodle soup, oaty cookies, crumble- pg 19
Spaghetti and peas, chamomile tea- pg 28
Wholesome muffins with raisins- pg 55
Plums- pg 57
Chicken curry, lentil curry, sag aloo- pg 86
Fudge, pg 94
Lasagna- pg 152
Red velvet cake- pg 167
Chicken, sausage, vegetable kabobs- pg 177
Jacket potato (with cheese and baked beans)- pg 262
Hummus and breadsticks, pasta salad- pg 270
I will supply chocolate (pg 129), tea, coffee, wine (maybe champagne?) and look for cordial, and Pimm's
August's title is Truth and Bright Water by Thomas King. I enjoyed his nonfiction book so much that I thought I'd try a novel too. And he didn't disappoint! Book Summary:Truth & Bright Water is the tale of two young cousins and one long summer. Tecumseh and Lum live in Truth, a small American town, and Bright Water, the reserve across the border and over the river. Family is the only reason most of the people stay in the towns, and yet old secrets and new mysteries keep pulling the more nomadic residents back to the fold. Monroe Swimmer, famous Indian artist, returns to live in the old church with the hope of painting it into the prairie landscape and re-establishing the buffalo population. Tecumseh’s Aunt Cassie has come back too, already arguing with his mother. Why has his mother given Cassie a suitcase full of baby clothes? And why is Lum interested only in winning the Indian Days race?
Tecumseh has more questions than anyone will answer, until the Indian Days festival arrives and the mysteries of the summer collide in love, betrayal and reconciliation. Equally plainspoken and poetic, comic and poignant, Truth & Bright Water is a crackling good story that resonates with universal truths. My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this book... King's sense of humor clearly shines through and at the same time, he doesn't hold back on the darkness either. I found Monroe Swimmer a fascinating character... he's one of the few who seems to "escape" from Truth and Bright Water and find success out in the world, but he returns seeming so broken. I love how he buys the mission church and paints it so that it disappears into the landscape and sets up sculptured buffalo in the fields around it...a very literal use of art to erase the damage done by missions among the Indigenous people and to try to restore the old order. Swimmer restores the old practice giving away all your possessions at a pot latch and uses this to bring healing in the community. He says he's moving on... he's heard there's a former residential school for sale and he's going to buy it and paint it away. And Lum; Oh, Lum... Lum will baffle you and break your heart, especially if you're the parent of a teen aged boy. This book has it all - mysteries, memorable characters, relationships, art, nature, culture, humor, darkness and overall, a glimmer of hope. Definitely worth the read!
Inspired by our recent discussion of Wenjack by Joseph Boyden, I've decided to celebrate Canada's 150th anniversary in my own, strange, book-ish way: by reading an indigenous author every month for the year and I thought you all might get a kick out of following along. I'm purchasing these books to build my collection, so feel free to borrow one if anything along the way tickles your fancy! So, here's my July title:
The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America
by Thomas King
Book Summary: Rich with dark and light, pain and magic, The Inconvenient Indian distills the insights gleaned from Thomas King's critical and personal meditation on what it means to be "Indian" in North America, weaving the curiously circular tale of the relationship between non-Natives and Natives in the centuries since the two first encountered each other. In the process, King refashions old stories about historical events and figures, takes a sideways look at film and pop culture, relates his own complex experiences with activism, and articulates a deep and revolutionary understanding of the cumulative effects of ever-shifting laws and treaties on Native peoples and lands. This is a book both timeless and timely, burnished with anger but tempered by wit, and ultimately a hard-won offering of hope--a sometimes inconvenient but nonetheless indispensable account for all of us, Indian and non-Indian alike, seeking to understand how we might tell a new story for the future. - from amazon.ca My thoughts: I really enjoyed this nonfiction title. King has a great sense of humor and a keen eye for the bigger picture and I was surprised how often I found myself laughing out loud... and it was very refreshing to be able to laugh with the author in the midst of this difficult history. I like how King dealt in a very straightforward way with many of the questions that people ask and comments that people make... like: why can't you just get over it? And, you were conquered, move on! And, quit your complaining and move off the reserve already! And, why should you get all these freebies and handouts? Using history, logic and personal experience, King exposes many of the misunderstandings of today and shows how racism is still very much alive in North America. I like how he uses the phrase "Dead Indian" to describe the stereotypical movie image of a half-naked, child-like savage warrior who's brave but needs the guidance of a kindly white leader to succeed. King shows how we've become attached to that romantic image of and how the very real, alive Indigenous people of today are a disappointment in that they don't fit that mold. Society enjoys the old-time dress-up "Dead Indian" at a summer time Pow-wow, but doesn't know what to do with young, angry, white-collar Native people living and working in cities, for example. We like the image of the fur-clad Inuit living in igloos and eating seal blubber (as long as no seals were harmed in the making of this movie!), but can't get our heads around a modern, northern hunting and trapping operation or the idea that Inuit people might want to work in industries other than hunting and trapping! Overall, King does a terrific job of facing many of the modern issues facing Indigenous peoples by exposing the past and confronting the racism that is still alive today. An excellent tool for building context and a valuable overview for anyone with a deeper interest in the fate of Indigenous people in North American today.
Meeting Details:We're getting together at Tessa's house on Thursday, July 6th at 7:30 pm, with discussion to begin at 8pm. - cancelled; possible rescheduling at Chandra's next week Discussion Questions:
1. Did you enjoy the book? Why or why not?
2. Discuss the guide, John Leivers, and his role and how he impacts the author’s trip.
3. Discuss the similarities and differences between Bingham I, II and III.
4. On page 52, John says to Mark regarding hiking and that it will get easier as his body adapts, “ There’s a general law in life. The body and mind only get stronger when they’re traumatized.” Do you agree with this law of John’s?
5. Discuss the author’s transition from desk editor to adventurer/explorer and how it changes his life.
6. Why does the Inca culture and civilization hold so much fascination for us today?
7. Why was the longer traditional second trip to Machu Picchu more meaningful that the author’s first trip there?
8. Discuss the role and interrelatedness of the different Inca sites and paths.
9. Discuss the Spanish encounters with the Inca civilization and how its effect are evident today.
10. Does this book inspire you to visit Peru? Machu Picchu? If so, why and if not, why?
11. Would you recommend this book to others? To who and why?
Menu Ideas: "Holiday in Peru"... a cool nibbling menu for a hot summer day!