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Monarch Book Club

October 2021: They Could Have Named Her Anything by Stephanie Jimenez

They Could Have Named Her Anything Cover

About the book

Every morning, seventeen-year-old Maria Anís Rosario takes the subway an hour from her boisterous and close-knit family in Queens to her private high school on the Upper East Side, where she struggles to fit in as one of the only Latina students—until Rocky welcomes her into this new life. White, rebellious, and ignored by her wealthy parents, Rocky uses her money toward one goal: to get away with anything. To Maria, it’s a dazzling privilege.

As a bond develops between these unlikely friends, neither can see what they share most—jealousy and the desire for each other’s lives. But crackling under the surface of their seemingly supportive alliance, the girls begin to commit little betrayals as they strive to get closer to their ideals regardless of the consequences.

Told from the perspectives of Maria, Rocky, and their fathers, They Could Have Named Her Anything explores the heartfelt expectation of what it means to live up to the name you’ve been given and the more rewarding discovery of what really matters.

Discussion Questions

  1. What did you think of the book?

  2. What did you think of the main characters, especially Maria and Rocky? Did they seem realistic? Were they likable?

  3. What role does identity play in the book? How is Maria’s experience shaped by the intersections of her gender, class, and racial identity? Are there ways in which she is privileged?

  4. The title of the book is They Could Have Named Her Anything and the books pays a lot of attention to the names that characters are given and choose for themselves. What is the significance of names in the book?

April 2021: Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake

Girl Made of Stars cover art April 15, 2021, 7-8:30 PM

About the book [CW: sexual assault]

When Mara’s twin brother Owen is accused of rape by her friend Hannah, it turns Mara’s life upside down. She is forced to confront her own trauma while navigating the tension between her commitment to believing survivors and her bond with her brother. School Library Journal calls Girl Made of Stars "a compassionate and engaging novel about what it means to tell your truth, no matter how painful it might be.”

 

Discussion Questions

  1. Did you enjoy this book? Would you recommend it to others? Why or why not?
  2. Did Mara handle the complications of her relationships (with Charlie, Owen, Alex, etc.) well? Was she right to beat up Owen and/or Jaden? How would you have reacted in her overall situation?
  3. How do family dynamics work in this novel, particularly with Mara’s mother? How does her defense of Owen contradict what we know about her?
  4. The issue of sexual consent is also an important aspect of this novel. How well do you think it was explored? Could this novel be a catalyst for social change?
  5. At the end of the novel, Mara concludes that she is a girl made of flesh and bone rather than stars. How does this realization reflect her changed relationship with Owen? Do you think that he was persuaded into telling the truth by Mara’s final story?

March 2021: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

https://external-content.duckduckgo.com/iu/?u=https%3A%2F%2Fnerdybookclub.files.wordpress.com%2F2015%2F01%2Fwe-were-liars.jpg&f=1&nofb=1March 11, 2021, 7-8:30 PM

We Were Liars Discussion Questions

  1. Did you enjoy this book? Would you recommend it to others? Why or why not?  
  2. Consider the moral questions raised by this novel. How are racism, land ownership, inheritance, materialism, greed, and manipulation handled by Lockhart? In your opinion, in what ways do these elements enrich the story? 
  3. Discuss the significance of the title, We Were Liars. In what ways does it accurately describe the events and relationships portrayed in the novel?  
  4. What did you think of the fairy tales that Cady tells? What role did they play in the story? How does the author’s use of Shakespeare’s King Lear and Brontë’s Wuthering Heights influence the story? 
  5. What conclusions do you think that the book makes about the power and consequences of resisting—or conforming to—social and familial expectations?  
  6. Do you trust Cady's narration? Is she lying...or hallucinating? (Does it matter?) 

 

November 2020: Mexican Gothic, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

November 12, 2020, 7-8:30 PM

Discussion Prompts

  • How did you feel about the historical period and setting the book takes place in?
  • How did the book evoke terror? What made it so powerful?
  • What was the creepiest moment of Mexican Gothic for you?
    I am haunted by that poor lady at the very end. You know the one.
  • Race and colonialism were significant players in the novel, both indirectly and
    more literally later on. All the residents at High House are white and from England, while Catalina and Noemí are mixed.
    • How does the author tie race into the fantasy elements?
    • How does race affect the way the story is understood?
    • How are indigenous people and their cultures considered?
  • Gender also played a large role. Consider the female characters Noemí, Catalina, Florence, Ruth, and Marta Duval, among others.
    • How does the book benefit from Noemí's perspective?
    • How are the women used in the book?
    • What does the book say about the patriarchy?
  • Gothic literature relies on emotion, in particular "the sublime," an indescribable feeling that "takes us beyond ourselves" (via Wikipedia).
    • If you've read gothic literature, how does "Mexican Gothic" compare?
    • What elements of the traditional gothic story are present, and which
      are changed?
    • Is "Mexican Gothic" a gothic novel?
  • ​​​​​​​Would you read a sequel to this story? Would you prefer it feature Noemi and Francis, or would you prefer a story in the same world with new characters?

September 2020: Slay, by Brittney Morris

October 1, 2020, 7-8 PM via Zoom.

Discussion Prompts

  1. How does SLAY build community among players? How do you see this reflected in the chapters written from other gamers' perspectives? What is your favorite instance of community building in the book?
  2. The debate around SLAY, both in the media and within Kiera's friendship, is centered around the question of whether it is exclusionary. What are your thoughts on this?
  3. Think about why Kiera created SLAY. Why do you think people feel comfortable demonstrating abusive behaviors in online games? How might game developers work to prevent or combat this behavior? What do you think can be done to protect vulnerable people?
  4. Kiera introduces readers to her two identities, a parallel which challenges her throughout the book as she tries to keep her worlds separate. How does this divide affect her relationships and responsibilities?
  5. The media suggest that SLAY and its creator are to blame for Jamal's death. What do you think? Can Kiera be held responsible in any way?

February 2020: The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas

Discussion Questions

  • What do you think of the book? Which part resonated with you the most?
  • In the opening scene, Starr reflects, "there are just some places where it's not enough for me to be me. Either version of me."  
    • Explore the practice of code switching, and discuss how you might code switch in your own life. In what places have you felt this same tension?
    • In what ways is this tension particular to people from historically oppressed groups?
  • When Starr loses her friend to a police shooting, she's surprised by her response, reflection, "I always said that if I saw it happen to somebody, I would have the loudest voice, making sure  the world knew what went down. Now I am that person, and I'm too afraid to speak."
    • How do you imagine you'd respond if you were an eye witness, like Starr?
    • Why do you think her own response surprised her, and why do you think did not respond the way she thought she would?
  • At the police station, after Starr details the events leading up to the shooting, the detective shift her focus to Khalil's past.
    • Why do you think the detective did this?
    • Discuss how Khalil is portrayed in the media. How does Starr work to counteract this portrayal?
  • How do you think Starr would define family? What about Seven, DeVante, Kenya, and Khalil?

Adapted from https://www.readinggroupguides.com/reviews/the-hate-u-give/guide

Students discussing the Hate U Give The Hate U Give, Book Cover

October 2019: The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood

Discussion Questions

  • What were your initial thoughts on this book?
  • Let's talk about Luke and Offred.
    • Before the coup, did you understand Luke's reasoning that he would be able to help Offred in spite of the government restrictions?
    • In times of sudden conflict, do people generally try to rationalize rather than react swiftly?
    • Could Offred and Luke have done anything to stop what happened after the coup? As the U.S. government was collapsing, why didn't Luke and Offred do more to escape?
  • Why is the Bible in Gilead under lock and key?
  • The commander says "you can't cheat nature." How do characters find ways to follow their natural instincts?
  • What do you think happens to Offred in the end?

 

 

 

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