Saturday, March 5, 2011

"Falconer" by John Cheever

The story begins with a man by the name of Ezekiel Farragut who has been sent to Falconer, a one hundred year old prison for the murder of his brother. He is (or at least used to be) a college professor but nothing more then a criminal with no name, only a prison number and a small 8x8 foot cell he must share. The book continues with the day to day life in the prison where the prisoners are treated like animals with injustice and violence. The story also tells of Ezekiel's married life before his sentencing, which was stressed, unfaithful and mentally violent which also leads to the main theme i have come to accept for this book, when people are treated like animals, they will eventually become animals. In prison, Ezekiel lied, cheated, and acted very primal as a result of his surroundings while his social life as well has his love life out of prison forced built up anxiety and esteem issues that lead to the act of him killing his brother with a fire poker over just a disagreement. The book ends with Ezekiel successfully escaping from the prison in a body bag that was intended for his recently deceased cell mate.

1- Do you believe that if people are treated like animals, they will eventually let their surroundings be all they know?

2- Can you relate this to any story that you have heard or experienced first hand?

Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut takes place during the WW2 period and a few years after. Billy Prilgrim is a soldier in the war and witnesses te devastating bombing massacre of Dresden, a "safe city" that only housed POWs(Prisoners of War) and civilians, by the U.S. Slaughterhouse 5 is a war satire and a psychological thriller as well. Chalk full of flashbacks, extraterrestrial abductions, death, satire, death, mysteries, death, millions of symbols, and more death. Billy 'travels' to Tralfamadore, a planet where these alien type creatures see everything at once, and only focus on the good things, and ignore the bad. Tralfamadore symbolizes a government that does terrible things like start wars, impose many taxes, and take away rights, that tells its' citizens not to focus on the bad things the government might do, but try to find happiness in the things that they do provide. Billy falls infatuated with that ideal and tries to spread the word of the Tralfamadorians to everyone else. Obviously, others react by calling him crazy and by pointing fingers and laughing. Billy eventually gets assassinated by Paul Lorrenzo, another soldier in the war who was a car thief and that committed many crimes and was just an all around bad person. Most of the soldiers Billy encounters in the war seem to take pride in war. They take pride in looting from who they have killed, they take pride in killing many enemy soldiers, and they also take pride in supporting their country, which in fact sent them there in the first place and took them away from their peaceful lives. Many of the war veterans have trouble coming back into society without massive violence. Some go crazy, and others commit murders and get thrown into jail. Billy just uses 'time travel' to escape the bad, aka WW2, and replaces his current situations with happy ones. Whatever happens, though, bad things always seem to happen to Billy, and he keeps on ignoring them. Billy only follows what the Tralfamorians have taught him when they abducted him and put him in a display on their planet so that he could be observed. Billy also takes advice from his favorite author, Killgore Trout. Trout's books are about propaganda and the cruel effects of what can happen if others follow what the government tells them to do and do not keep their own beliefs. The only place to find Trout's books are in the back corners of pornography shops. This shows that they are just tossed aside for the needs of those who are out of the war. Pornography is one of the many escapes to the fictional world where people can follow their dreams instead of following their heads.

1. If you knew that your government was unfair to you, would you stand up and say something? What problems might you encounter with going against everyone else? Why would you want to start problems instead of leaving it alone/Why would you want to leave it alone and not try to help your country grow and realize what's wrong?

2. What does war really do for people? Why does war happen? What can be done to prevent war and ensure that things like this don't happen? If you had gone to war and came back with a psychological trauma or disease, how would that affect you and would you try to be like you were before? In other words, would you try to hold the same job, talk to the same people, be as outgoing as you were etc, even with your disability?

The Handmaid's Tale

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, a totalitarian and theocratic state that has replaced the United States of America. Because of dangerously low reproduction rates, Handmaids are assigned to bear children for elite couples that have trouble conceiving. Offred serves the Commander and his wife, Serena Joy. Offred is not the narrator's real name. Handmaid names consist of the word "of" followed by the name of the Handmaid's Commander. Every month, Offred must have impersonal, wordless sex with the Commander while Serena sits behind her holding her hands. Offred's freedom, like the freedom of all women, is completely restricted. She can leave the house only on shopping trips, the door to her room cannot be completely shut, reading is forbidden, and the Eyes, Gilead's secret police force, watch her every public move. As Offred tells the story of her daily life, she often slips into flashbacks, that tell the events leading up to the beginning of the novel. Before Gilead, Offred married a man named Luke, and they had a daughter together. She often talked about her mother, who was a single mother and a feminist activist, and her best friend Moira, who was very independent. The founders of Gilead began their rise to power in a time when pollution and chemical spills led to declining fertility rates. Using the military, they assassinated the president and the members of Congress. They claimed they were taking power temporarily. They soon suspended the Constitution, and cracked down on women's rights, forbidding women to hold property, have jobs, and even have their own money. Offred and Luke took their daughter and attempted to flee accross the boarder into Canada, but they were caught and separated from one another, and Offred hasn't seen them since. After her capture, Offred was sent to the Rachel and Leah Re-education Center, called the Red Center by the Handmaids. At the center, women were prepared for becoming Handmaids. Aunt Lydia supervised the women, giving speeches stressing Gilead's beliefs that women should be subservient to mean and solely concerned with bearing children. Moria is brought to the Red Center, but she escapes, and Offred does not know what becomes of her. Once assigned to the Commanders house, Offred's life settles into a restictive routine. She takes shopping trips with Ofglen, another Handmaid, and they visit the Wall outside what used to be Harvard University, where the bodies of rebels hang. She must visit the doctor frequently to be checked for disease and other complications, and she must endure the "Ceremony" every month. One day when she is visiting the doctor, he offers to have sex with her to get her pregnant, suggesting that her Commander is probably infertile. She refuses, because the doctor makes her uneasy, and his proposition is too risky. After a Ceremony, the Commander sends his gardener and chauffer, Nick, to ask Offred to come see him in his study the following night. She begins visiting him regulary. They play Scrabble (which is forbidden), and he lets her look at old magazines like Vogue. At the end of these secret meetings, he asks her to kiss him. After some time had gone by without Offred becoming pregnant, Serena suggests that Offred should secretly have sex with Nick and pass the child off as the Commander's. Serena promises to bring Offred a picture of her daughter if she sleeps with Nick. The same night that Offred is supposed to sleep with Nick, the Commander secretly takes her out to a club called Jezebel's, where the Commanders mingle with prostitutes. Offred sees Moira working there. The two women meet in a bathroom, and Offred learns that Moira was captured just before she crossed the border. She chose life in Jezebel's over being sent to the Colonies, where most political prisoners and dangerous people are sent. After that night at Jezebel's Offred says that she never sees Moira again. Soon after Offred returns from Jezebel's, late at night, Serena arrives and tells Offred to go to Nick's room. Offred and Nick have sex. Soon they begin to sleep together frequently, without anyone's knowledge. One day, during one of their shopping trips, Ofglen reveals to Offred that she is a member of "Mayday," an underground organization dedicated to overthrowing Gilead. Offred becomes so caught up in her affair with Nick that she ignores Ofglen's requests that she gather information from the Commander for Mayday. Soon after this, Offred goes out shopping, and a new Ofglen meets her. This new woman is not part of Mayday, and she tells Offred that the old Ofglen hung herself when she saw the Eyes coming for her. At home, Serena has found out about Offred's trip to Jezebel's, and she sends her to her room, promising punishment. What will happen to Offred? You'll have to read to find out the ending. =]

1) The Republic of Gilead is a totalitarian and theocratic state that replaced the United States of America and it's democracy. Do you think this could ever happen in real life?

2) Handmaids lived a very unhappy life. Many commited suicide or tried to escape. Some just went along with it. What would you do if you were in Offred's situation? Would you commit suicide, try to escape, join Mayday, or just go along with it?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

1984 by George Orwell

Written in 1949, the novel takes place in 1984 and presents an imaginary future. The state is called Oceania and is ruled by The Party, who control every aspect of life, including people's thoughts. Winston Smith is a 39 year old man living in London who secretly hates The Party, and wants to rebel against Big Brother, the dictator. He starts keeping a diary of his rebellious thoughts, knowing that he will soon be caught by the Thought Police and most likely killed. Winston then becomes fascinated by "proles", or the lowest social class of Ocieania who aren't under 24 hour surveillance. He befriends a prole shop owner, Mr. Charrington, who reminisces about life before Big Brother. He eventually starts a relationship with a girl at work when she secretly slips him a note saying "I love you". Winston and Julia sneak around, meeting in discreet places such as a clearing in the woods, and begin to rent the room above Mr. Charrington's shop as a private place for the two of them. O'Brien, a member of the Inner Party, finds an excuse to give Winston and Julia his home address and meet with them. He eventually enlists them in the Brotherhood, a secret organization dedicated to fight Big Brother. Winston is thrilled that he is not alone and goes to the room above Mr. Charrington's shop where he gets arrested by the Thought Police and discovers Mr. Charrington is really a Thought Police agent. He is taken to the Ministry of Love where he learns O'Brien is an orthodox government agent and deliberately tricked him. O'Brien tortures and brainwashes him until he fully believes in the Party and its ideals. In the end, Winston has submitted completely and all feelings are destroyed, including the ones he had for Julia.

1. Do you think there are any similarites with our society and the society in the novel?

2. Do you think that anything or anybody can really control people's thoughts or beliefs?

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Madame Bovary is a novel set in the mid 1800's in France. It focuses on Emma Bovary's unhappy life. The novel begins with Charles Bovary going to school for the first time. He does not fit in with the other children and is not anything special. He blends into the backround and gets his work done but not in an extraordinary way just average. He goes to school to become a doctor at his parent's urging and passes the test late after failing it once and only passes the second time because his mother helps him. He goes on to marry Heloise because she is supposed to have money but she ends up with nothing and he lives a few unhappy years with her. Monsieur Bovary then begins to treat Roualt, an old farmer, and falls in love with his daughter, Emma. He does not act on it beyond visiting often. His wife begins to suspect him and Mrs Bovary Sr then visits with the news that Heloise has no money and Heloise has a stroke and dies.
After the funeral, Charles begins to court Emma and they eventually marry. They have a huge, lavish wedding, and as soon as they are married and settling in to their new lives Emma begins to regret her decision. She soon realizes Charles is only an ordinary middle class frenchman and begins to resent him for it. She ignores her duties as his wife and falls into a depression. Charles decides she needs new surroundings to help her and they decide to move to another small town close by. Soon before they move Emma discovers she is pregnant. She is hoping for a boy because she wants a strong child who can fend for himself unlike her apathetic husband. She has the baby after they move and it ends up being a girl, who they name Berthe. The name is suggested by their neighbor and new friend Homais. Another person they meet in their new home is Leon. The more time they spend with Homais and Leon the more it is apparent that he has feelings for Emma. She sees him as an escape from her average life and begins to fantasize about how happy she would be with him but neither of them act on it. Soon Leon realizes he is being suffocated by being so close to her but not being able to love her and he moves to Paris.
Next Emma meets Rodolphe, who quickly sweeps her off her feet. He takes her riding in the woods and writes her love letters. Charles is completely oblivious to the affair and even buys Emma a horse and encourages her to ride with Rodolphe. Her meetings with him become weekly and soon begin to suffocate Rodolphe. Meanwhile her husband tries to perform a surgery to fix a local's club foot and fails miserably and ends up taking the man's whole leg off. This makes Emma hate him even more and she tries to get Rodolophe to run away with her. The night before they are supposed to leave he writes her a letter explaining why he can't. He claims she would not be happy and he doesn't deserve to take her from her husband when in reality he doesn't love her enough. Throughout this whole time Emma has been decorating the house as if she is royalty and buying clothes to impress Rodolphe and has built up a debt with the shopkeeper. The heartbreak of Rodolphe and stress of living with Charles becomes too much and she lays in bed for a month. Charles spends the whole time taking care of her and believes her to be seriously ill. He decides that she needs a distraction and takes her to the opera in Paris.
While at the opera they run into Leon who takes them out to dinner. He convinces her to stay in Paris one day and let Charles return alone. While she is there alone Leon professes his love for her and they begin their affair. She tells Charles that she is taking weekly piano lessons in the city and goes to meet up with Leon. The frequent trips and hotel push her further into debt. After a few months Leon begins to be suffocated by her consuming love and decides he wants to be married with a legitimate relationship and breaks it off with Emma. Soon after this Emma is required to pay off her debts. If she does not pay them in 24 hours she will be required to give her furniture and all her belongings to her debtors. Emma begs everyone she knows for a loan including Leon and Rodolphe. They both seem to want to help but do not have the money. Emma believes that they are saying no because they do not love her and falls into a delirium and ends up injesting arsenic.
She goes home and lays down to sleep and the poison begins to take affect. Charles begins to panic and calls Homais who gives her a drug to make her vomit. He claims that if she empties her stomach the arsenic will be gone but the drug only makes her worse. She soon dies and Charles becomes a mad man who does nothing but wallow in his grief. He refuses to sell anything of hers and falls into such debt that he cannot clothe his own child and ends up killing himself. This leaves the daughter who lives with a poor aunt and works in a cotton mill.
Discussion Questions:
1. How do you think this could have been prevented?
2. What would make you act the way Emma did?
3. Do you think Emma was selfish or clinically depressed?
4. What is the purpose of this story?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens, is a novel about a young troubled boy named Oliver Twist. After Oliver was born in a warehouse in the 1830's, his mother dies shortly after on the streets. Because of this, Oliver is sent to a poor orphanage until the age of nine. He struggled greatly with being bullied by the other orphans, and eventually gets kicked out of the orphanage because the bullies pushed him to ask for more food from the "parish beadle," Mr. Bumble. Oliver struggled to stay in a stable, safe home, until a man named Fagin took him in. He sheltered many young boys that helped him pick-pocket random people on the streets. Because Oliver was too afraid to run away, he agreed to pick-pocket people for Fagin, along with some other boys. On their first mission, Oliver runs off because he is too afraid to actually steal from another person. A man named Mr. Brownlow, who had been pick-pocketed by some of the boys Oliver was with, took Oliver in and nursed him to safety. This did not last long, because two of Fagin's accomplices captured Oliver and brought him back to Fagin. Then, Oliver was pressured into doing committing burglary and gets shot. At an all time low, Oliver is taken in by the woman who lives in the home, named Mrs. Maylie. Her niece Rose lives there as well. Oliver lives with them for a perfect summer together. It only gets better from there when Oliver discovers a man named Monks is his half-brother. Their wealthy father had an affair with Oliver's mother (Agnes Fleming), so now Oliver gets his share of their family's inheritance money. He also finds out that Mrs. Maylie's daughter, Rose, is his Aunt (His mother's younger sister). Fagin is also hanged for all his wrong-doings. In the end, Mr. Brownlow, who sheltered Oliver earlier in the novel, adopts him and they live happily ever after in the countryside with the Maylie's.

Discussion Questions:

1. Oliver Twist was under a lot of peer pressure his entire life. How does peer pressure appear in our modern society today?

2. How would you react if you found out you had a half-brother or sister you never knew about?

3. Some novels and movies have a happy ending, and some do not. Oliver Twist on the other hand had a very happy ending. Do you think we all have a happy ending in life? Do we have the potential to make happy endings for ourselves? Do you think fate has something to do with it?

Monday, February 28, 2011

A Streetcar Named Desire

A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams takes place right after World War II in New Orleans, Louisiana. Stella is in her mid-twenties and is pregnant with her blue collared husband, Stanley Kowalski. It is the middle of summer when Stella's sister, Blanche Dubois arrives unexpectedly carrying all her belongings with the news that she has lost Belle Reeve, the family mansion, and that she is taking a break from her teaching job. Blanche is not impressed with the Kowalski's apartment as it is small and not well kept. Stella left widowed Blanche with their dying family to pursue a life of her own. Upon meeting Blanche Stanley does not trust her thinking that she is lying to them and trying to keep the money from the estate to herself but eventually learns she is not the lying type. Blanche takes long baths and criticizes the apartment every chance she gets, irritating Stanley to no end. One night during a poker game with his friends, Stanley gets too drunk and abuses his wife Stella after getting mad at Blanche for talking to his friend Mitch. Blanche is shocked and the women go upstairs to stay with their neighbor but later that night Stella returns to Stanley. Blanche is infuriated and can't understand why Stella stays with a man like Stanley. The next day Blanche is trying to talk Stella into leaving Stanley and is saying nasty things about him when he overhears her. He threatens her with things he has heard about her past and wants to destroy her reputation. Blanche turns to alcohol to help her cope with her nerves about people finding out her past. One night after a date with Mitch, Blanche opens up and tells him how her young husband committed suicide after she found out he was a homosexual. Mitch tells her how he has lost a love and that they are meant for each other. About a month later while Stella is setting up for Blanche's birthday dinner, Stanley tells Stella about how she slept around with men and got kicked out of hotels and "she didn't resign temporarily from the high school because of her nerves...they kicked her out... I hate to tell you the reason that step was taken! A seventeen-year-old boy -- she had gotten mixed up with" (101). Stanley tells Mitch about Blanche's past and Mitch no longer has any interest in her even though they were set to be married. Stella is horrified at Stanley's birthday present which is a one way ticket back to Blanche's hometown. Stella and Stanley are about to get into a fight when Stella goes into labor. When Stanley returns from the hospital Blanche tells him that she is leaving to be with her former suitor, Shep Huntleigh, who is now a millionaire. Stanley realizes that Blanche has made up this story and takes a step toward her. Blanche threatens to break a liquor bottle that she has been drinking from in his face. Stanley then, "picks up her inert figure and carries her to the bed" (130) Stella does not believe that her husband raped Blanche as she claims and the send her to an insane asylum even though she thinks she is going to be with Shep.

Discussion Questions
1. At one point in the play, Blanche tries to guess what Stanley's astrological sign is based on his loud personality. What is your astrological sign and do you think they are an accurate read of a person's personality?

2. Blanche does not have a strong hold on reality at the end of the play. How can this be good and bad?

3. At the end of the play when Blanche is being taken away by the doctor to an asylum while she thinks she is just being escorted outside she says, "Whoever you are - I have always depended on the kindness of strangers." Do you think that strangers can ever be depended on to be helpful in today's world? Do you have any examples?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Pip, a young boy living in Kent, was raised by his sister and brother-in-law after his parents died. They have barely any money, and Pip spends his time thinking about his future in following is sister's husband, Joe, in the Blacksmith trade, however Pip really wants to grow up and become a gentleman. Early in the book, Pip is coming home from the cemetary where his parents were buried when he meets a convict who threatens his life in exchange for a file to break his chains, and as much food as Pip can bring, as well as Pip's vow of silence. Pip follows these orders and never tells anyone of what he did. Shortly after this, his uncle unites him with an elderly woman by the name of Miss Havisham, who is very wealthy and very generous to Pip. She has a very proud, conceited and rude adopted daughter named Estella, who she raises to to break mens hearts; it is therefore no surprise when Pip falls madly in love with her. Because he is so in love with Estella, he feels that it is necessary to become a gentleman so they can be together. After he finishes him time at Miss Havisham's house, Pip recieves his Expectations: he has come into a large sum of money, and he has to use the money to leave his apprenticeship with Joe and to become a Gentleman, however his benefactor wished to remain uknown, although Pip was at the time certain it was Miss Havisham. So, Pip moves to London and learns how to enjoy become a gentleman as well as learn how to spend his money, therefore quickly goes greatly into debt. Several years go by until one night :the convict who Pip had once helped to escape comes into the local bar. He stuns Pip by annoucing that he was actually the source of Pip's expectations. Due to this news, Pip feels morally bound to help the convict escape the town, while the police are searching for him. As he attempts to help the convict escape, they are caught by the police, the convict is sentenced to death, and Pip loses all his fortune.
Once Pip is again poor and back where he was, and he sees Estella again. After she had been married and widowed, Pip found that she had become "nicer" and the book ends as the two leave Miss Havisham's empty house hand in hand.

In the book, Pip was only truly happy when he stopped pretending who he was and went back to the social status he belonged in.
1. Why do you think it is that a lot of people still today believe that money can make them happy? And what do you think leads to true happiness?
2. If you were completely poor and someone gave you a TON of money, do you think you would be able to handle it in a responsible way and make it last, or do you think you would waste it away and lose it and eventually end up in debt like Pip?

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

This novel is about a boy who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty. It starts with Basil Hallward painting a picture of Dorian Gray while his friend, Lord Henry, observes. After talking with Lord Henry on many occasions, Dorian soon believes that beauty is the only aspect of life really worth striving for and keeping. He wishes that the picture Basil painted of him would grow old in his place so he can stay young and beautiful forever. Soon after, Dorian finds Sybil Vane preforming Romeo and Juliet in a dingy playhouse and proposes to her within a week. She thinks she is completely perfect and goes home to tell her skeptical mother and brother about him. Her brother, James, says that if Dorian (whom she refers to as Prince Charming) harms her, James will kill him.
Dorian invites Basil and Lord Henry to see Sybil preform one night and she does a horrendous job. He goes to speak with her after the play and realizes he feels nothing for her because she can no longer produce beautiful preformances and tells her the engagement is off. In a fit, she kills herself. When Dorian comes home and looks at the painting, there is a subtle, cruel sneer on his face. This is the last of Dorian's love affairs. Over the next eighteen years, Dorian does everything wrong that he can think of mainly under the influence of a novel given to him by Lord Henry as a gift.
One night, before he leaves for Paris, Basil arrives to question Dorian about rumors of his indulgences. Dorian doesn't deny his debauchery. He takes Basil to the portrait, which is as hideous as Dorian's soul. In anger, Dorian blames Basil for his fate and stabs him to death. He then blackmails an old friend into destroying Basil's body. Wishing to escape this crime, Dorian travels to an opium den. James Vane is nearby and hears someone refer to Dorian as "Prince Charming." He follows Dorian outside and attempts to shoot him, but is deceived when Dorian asks James to look at him in the light, saying he is too young to have been involved with Sibyl 18 years earlier. James releases Dorian but is approached by a woman from the opium den who chastises him for not killing Dorian and tells him Dorian has not aged for 18 years.
While at dinner, Dorian sees James stalking the grounds and fears for his life. However, during a game-shooting party a few days later, James is accidentally shot and killed by one of the hunters. After returning to London, Dorian informs Lord Henry that he will be good from now on, and has started by not breaking the heart of his latest innocent conquest, named Hetty Merton. At his apartment, Dorian wonders if the portrait has begun to change back, losing its senile, sinful appearance now that he has given up his immoral ways. He unveils the portrait to find it has become worse. Seeing this, he questions the motives behind his "mercy," whether it was merely vanity, curiosity, or the quest for new emotional excess.

1. Do you think Dorian and Lord Henrey are right in thinking that beauty and the conquest for it are the only important things in life? Why or why not?
2.If you had the option of never aging past 17, would you take it? What would you do if you stayed 17 forever?
3. The last aphorism in the preface of the novel is "All art is quite useless." Do you agree or disagree with this?

How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez

This novel shows the struggles of finding one's identity in relation to one's family and heritage. The Garcia family leaves the Dominican Republic for their own safety when their father is targeted by the politicians in power. The four Garcia sisters, Carla, Sandra, Yolanda, and Sofia, must adjust to their new, lower economic status in New York after living a fairly high class life in the Dominican Republic. They also had to adjust culturally, with many people around their new home making derogatory statements because the family is of Hispanic descent. All the daughters deal with different issues throughout their life. Carla wanted to be a writer, though her father deemed this an inappropriate career for a woman and even tore up her valedictorian speech the night before graduation because he found it disrespectful. She becomes a psychologist and begins analyzing her family's many mental problems. Yolanda, also known as Yo, Yoyo, and Joe, had trouble relating to men, which caused her divorce, and she eventually suffered a mental breakdown during which she wouldn't form an original sentence, only quoted, sometimes incorrectly, things she had previously heard. After her divorce and mental breakdown, she returned to the Dominican Republic, where she finds that she feels more comfortable speaking English than Spanish and she realizes she is generally more comfortable identifying as American than Dominican. As the youngest daughter, Sofia only has vague memories of the Dominican Republic. She also has the most openly hostile relationship with her father as she continually challenges the double standards involving gender and sexuality of Dominican/Hispanic culture by embracing American attitudes toward relationships and sex. She eventually elopes and has children with a German man.
1) This novel is told in reverse chronological order. At the beginning, the reader gets to know the adult Garcia girls who are more comfortable speaking English than Spanish and who consider themselves to be American. As the book progresses, the reader sees the struggles of the Garcias when they were younger and learning English and American culture. Do you think this says something about the experiences of immigrants? Why do you think Alavarez chose to write the book this way?
2) There are a couple recurring types of conflicts (men vs. women, Dominican vs. American, younger generation vs. older) in this novel. Which do you think would be the most challenging to deal with or overcome?