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Discussion Questions: Spring Moon by Bette Bao Lord

Cover of Spring MoonTitle: Spring Moon
Author: Bette Bao Lord
Page Count: 464 pages
Genre:  Historical Fiction, Family Saga
Tone: Lyrical, Poignant, Moving

Summary from publisher:
Behind the garden walls of the House of Chang, Spring Moon is born into an exclusive world of luxury and privilege. Her servant, Plum Blossom, attends to her every need and inadvertently alters the course of her life forever. Her uncle, Bold Talent, who has returned to China from the United States with radical new ideas, educates her against the wishes of the family, and intervenes at the moment when Spring Moon most needs his help. But the tempests of change sweep Spring Moon into a new world — one of hardship, turmoil, and heartbreak; one that threatens to destroy her husband, her family, and her darkest secret love.

SPOILER WARNING:
These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

1. What was Bette Bao Lord’s purpose in writing this novel?

2. One review (New York Times 12/1/81) felt that Lord covered too much history in her novel and that it overwhelmed her characters. Do you agree or disagree?

3. What was Lord’s reason for providing the stories in italics at the beginning of each chapter? Did it add or detract from the story?

4. What was Spring Moon’s role in this story? Was Spring Moon the main character of the novel?

5. How would you describe the relationship between Spring Moon and Lustrous Jade? How did that relationship change throughout the years?

6. On page 350, why did Spring Moon demand that Lustrous Jade kneel before her? Why was it so difficult for Lustrous Jade to kneel before her mother, yet she easily kneeled before shopkeepers and others to get them to join her cause?

7. Did you feel that August Winds and Lustrous Jade belonged together as man and wife?

8. How did the role of the family change or not change in China?  Consider the theme of devotion to family versus devotion to one’s principles. What characters were more devoted to family? What characters were devoted to their principles? Was it possible for them to be devoted to both?

9. What were the differences in the love Spring Moon had for her first husband, Glad Promise, and the love she had for her lover Bold Talent?

10. Do you think the clan suspected the love between Bold Talent and Spring Moon? Were they jealous of Spring Moon’s ability to read?

11. Did Bold Talent love his wife, Golden Virtue?

12. Do you think Bold Talent knew that Enduring Promise was his and Spring Moon’s son? What about Golden Virtue?

13. On page 248, Spring Moon was about to leave Bold Talent to return to her mother-in-law, and Bold Talent talked about what was wrong with the Chinese. He said, “Do you not see what is wrong. In the end, we always yield – to tradition, to foreigners, to family, to authority, to duty. To everything and everybody, living and dead-except our needs, our dreams, our passions! If we do live for ourselves, it is not for long. A moment here, a month there. As long as no one knows. As long as nothing is truly changed. Then, once more we yield. Once more we live as others would have us live.” Do you agree with this assessment?

14. How did you feel when Spring Moon took her son away from Dummy and her husband?

15. What was the relationship between Lustrous Jade and August Winds? How about between Lustrous Jade and Resolute Spirit? How were they similar and how were they different?

16. On page 383, in a letter to Bold Talent talking about parading elders in dunce caps across public squares, Noble Talents asks, “Is this what revolution means?” What did revolution mean to Lustrous Jade?

17. How did you feel when Bold Talent, Lustrous Jade and Resolute Spirit left Bold Talent’s body behind in order to smuggle Lustrous Jade and Resolute Spirit to safety?

18. How did the women of the Chang family change throughout the years?

Other Resources

Lit Lovers’ Discussion Questions
Interview with Bette Bao Lord
Video interview with Bette Bao Lord

If you liked Spring Moon, try…

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The Twentieth Wife by Indu Sundaresan
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
The Bathing Women by Tie Ning

By Jenny, Readers' Advisor on February 25, 2015 Categories: Book Discussion Questions, Books, Historical Fiction

Nonfiction: Past Imperfect: History According to the Movies

Past Imperfect book coverAcademy Award Best Picture runners-up Selma, The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything, and American Sniper have something else in common. Though each claims to be based on actual events, all have come under fire for taking too many liberties with the facts. These are hardly the first dramatizations to cause a stir. In Past Imperfect: History According to the Movies, enthusiastic experts consider how specific films have skewed our understanding of historical events. From Gandhi to Malcolm X, Gone with the Wind to JFK, and even Jurassic Park to Dr. Strangelove, films have the power to change what we think we know to be true. Don’t know much about history? Watch a movie! Just bear in mind that events may have unfolded a bit differently than as portrayed.

By Cathleen, Readers' Advisor on February 23, 2015 Categories: Books, Movies and TV, Nonfiction

New: Fiction and Nonfiction Books

Every Friday the Library will bring you short lists of buzz-worthy books in a rotating series of popular genres.

For these and other fresh reads, stop by the second floor Fiction/AV/Teen desk. While there, talk to a Readers’ Advisor about new and old titles tailored to your taste.

 

New: Fiction Books

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Mobile Library by David Whitehouse
The Sculptor by Scott McCloud
Miracle at the Higher Grounds Cafe by Max Lucado

Cover of First Bad Man Cover of Etta and Otto and Russell Cover of Uncle Janice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The First Bad Man by Miranda July
Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper
Uncle Janice by Matt Burgess

New: Nonfiction Books

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It’s What I Do by Lynsey Addario
How to Read the Solar System by Chris North and Paul Abel
Alphabetical by Michael Rosen

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Unrequited by Lisa A. Phillips
Listellany by John Rentoul
The Reaper by Nicholas Irving with Gary Brozek

By Jenny, Readers' Advisor on February 20, 2015 Categories: Books, New Arrivals, Nonfiction

Fiction: The Panic Zone by Rick Mofina

Cover of The Panic ZoneReporter Jack Gannon is on the hunt for truth in the gripping international thriller The Panic Zone. Through the fiery wreckage of a devastating car accident in Wyoming, Emma Lane swears her one-year-old son is not dead and she saw someone take him. A bomb goes off in a Rio de Janeiro café, killing ten people including two reporters. On a cruise ship headed toward Florida a passenger dies, bleeding from every pore of his body. Three seemingly unrelated incidents are more connected than anyone could imagine, and only Jack seems to be putting the pieces together. As the stubborn journalist refuses to let go of these twisted stories, Rick Mofina keeps his readers at the edge of their seat.

By Jenny, Readers' Advisor on February 19, 2015 Categories: Books, Mysteries/Thrillers/Suspense

Staff Pick: 41: A Portrait of My Father by George W. Bush

Picture of DonnaYou don’t have to be a Democrat or a Republican to enjoy 41: A Portrait of My Father by George W. Bush. This glimpse into a son’s love and admiration for his father shows a remarkable man who served in WWII, founded an oil company, and was a Congressman, United Nations Representative, Vice President, CIA Director and the 41st President of the USA.

By Jenny, Readers' Advisor on February 17, 2015 Categories: Books, Nonfiction, Picks by Donna, Staff Picks

Nonfiction: Get Wrapped Up in Crafts

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Our Adult Winter Reading Program is in full swing! For every book you read or listen to in February stop by the Fiction/AV/Teen Services Desk on the second floor to fill out a drawing slip and  you could win a prize!

If you’re looking for inspiration on what to read next, while you’re at the Fiction/AV/Teen Desk you can speak with a Readers’ Advisor, email us at readers@mppl.org, or take a look at some of the displays featured throughout the library such as the one highlighted here.

 

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Tiny Whittling by Steve Tomashek
101 Tees by Cathie Filian
30 Min-Knits by Carol Meldrum

Cover of PhotocraftCover of 100 Crafts Under 10Cover of Wheel Throwing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photocraft by Caroline Hertel, Laurie Frankel, & Laura Lovett
100 Crafts under $10 by Susan Banker
Wheel Throwing by Emily Reason

Cover of Glass Engraving Cover of Paper Pups Cover of Dozens of Ways to Repurpose Scarves

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glass Engraving by Sonia Lucano
Paper Pups by Hiroshi Hayakawa
Dozens of Ways to Repurpose Scarves by Nathalie Mornu

Cover of Fresh Quilting Cover of Complete Photo Guide to Cake Decorating Cover of 75 Chinese Celtic and Ornamental Knots

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fresh Quilting by Malk Dubrawsky
The Complete Photo Guide to Cake Decorating by Autumn Carpenter
75 Chinese, Celtic, and Ornamental Knots by Laura Williams

By Jenny, Readers' Advisor on February 13, 2015 Categories: Books, Nonfiction

Fiction: Single, Carefree, Mellow by Katherine Heiny

Cover of Single Carefree MellowKatherine Heiny explores the lives of several contemporary women chasing after their heart.  What is particularly striking is how unlike the title of Single, Carefree, Mellow the narrators are, from Maya who is considering breaking up with her boyfriend right after her dog dies to Nina, a woman having an affair with a runner in the neighborhood while hosting a priest at her house. Tied together with infidelity and humor, these primarily standalone stories are funny and interesting on the surface, yet they have a depth to them willing the reader to sink further. The observant and complicated inner lives of the narrators bring extra color to ordinary life, adding meaning where you might not have noticed it before.

By Jenny, Readers' Advisor on February 12, 2015 Categories: Books

Discussion Questions: Quiet by Susan Cain

Cover of QuietTitle: Quiet
Author: Susan Cain
Page Count: 352 pages
Genre:  Non-Fiction
Tone: Thought-provoking, Reflective, Accessible

Summary from publisher:
Passionately argued, impressively researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet shows how dramatically we undervalue introverts, and how much we lose in doing so. Taking the reader on a journey from Dale Carnegie’s birthplace to Harvard Business School, from a Tony Robbins seminar to an evangelical megachurch, Susan Cain charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal in the twentieth century and explores its far-reaching effects.

 

 

SPOILER WARNING:
These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

1. Quiet has had a lot of popularity and has been on numerous bestseller lists, including the NYT bestseller list for sixteen weeks. Why do you think Quiet has been a bestseller of this magnitude?

2. How did your perception of introversion and extroversion change or not change after reading Quiet?

3. Why do you think Western society evolved from a Culture of Character to a Culture of Personality?

4. Is it better to have people perceive you as a “competent leader” or overlook your leadership?

5. Why do you think we’re more inclined to follow those who initiate action?

6. What are ways we can look past sparkly speaking skills on a group level? How about when you are speaking with an individual?

7. What studies or facts surprised you?

8. Cain uses a lot of anecdotes to back up her claims. Would you count anecdotes as a credible source?

9. How do you think Cain did writing a book on the strengths of introverts without discounting the value extroverts bring to society?

10. What are the advantages of being an introvert? What are the advantages of being an extrovert?

11. One of the anecdotes Cain shares is of a tax lawyer who had trouble performing speaking events with very short notice. She thought it spoke poorly of her skills and knowledge, but it turns out she needed more advance notice for speaking. Cain writes, “But once Esther understands herself, she can insist to her colleagues that they give her advance notice of any speaking events” (126). This is one example of one of the kinds of tweaks, Cain suggests introverts make for their success. How do we begin to understand ourselves, so we can make these kinds of tweaks in our own lives?

12. How realistic do you think those tweaks are that we might make in our daily life? How about in the tweaks Cain talks about in the workplace?

13. Cain shares a statement by a woman from Taiwan who attended graduate school at UCLA, “Oh in the U.S., as soon as you start talking, you’re fine.” How does this statement ring true in the U.S.? How does it differ? Are there situations when this could be of benefit or of detriment?

14. There is a part of the book where Cain talks about fixed and free personality traits, basically saying that there are some personality traits that we are not stuck with having, and there is more flexibility in our personalities. She asks the question, “But if we’re capable of such flexibility, does it even make sense to chart the differences between introverts and extroverts?” (206) How would you answer that question?

15. What lessons did you glean from Quiet about interacting with the people around you, whether you’re an extrovert, introvert, or ambivert?

16. What are ways you can modify your behavior to better connect with introverts? How about extroverts?

17. Do you think introverts or extroverts tend to use the internet to communicate more, whether it be email or social networks like Facebook?

18. Who wouldn’t like this book? Who would disagree with it?

19. This book was divided in four different parts discussing essentially the workplace, the biology of introversion, Western culture and other cultures, and finally relating to others. What section or sections did you find most useful or interesting?

20. Do you think Quiet will have any lasting power? It’s popular now, but will it still be popular/enlightening/necessary in ten years from now? How about twenty? Or forty?

21. Cain is advocating for the Quiet Revolution in which we go about in life paying more attention to introverts. What would be risked if we pay more attention to introversion? What would be gained?

22. Do you see the emphasis on groups appearing in places other than work or school?

23. Do you trust Susan Cain as the author? Why or why not?

24. Do you have any suggestions of interesting psychology/science nonfiction books?

Other Resources

Publisher Discussion Questions
Susan Cain’s TED Talk
Networking for Introverts (Video)
Q&A with Susan Cain
The Accidental Creative Podcast with Susan Cain

 

If you liked Quiet, try...

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The Introvert’s Way by Sophia Dembling
The Circle by Dave Eggers
Multiplicity by Rita Carter

By Jenny, Readers' Advisor on February 11, 2015 Categories: Book Discussion Questions, Books, Nonfiction

Staff Pick: In the Land of Dreamy Dreams by Ellen Gilchrist

Picture of NancyEscape the winter chill and transport yourself to the South with a collection of short stories by Ellen Gilchrist. The critically acclaimed In the Land of Dreamy Dreams showcases her frank yet warm and lively writing style. Her daring, spirited female protagonists are sometimes flawed but always entertaining.

By Jenny, Readers' Advisor on February 10, 2015 Categories: Books, Picks by Nancy, Staff Picks

Fiction: To Please a Lady by Susan Johnson

To Please a Lady book coverRoxane Forrestor, twice-widowed Scottish beauty and Countess of Kilmarnock, has succeeded in keeping several powerful suitors at bay, but her defenses are tested when a wanted rebel earl surprises her in her bedchamber. No matter how her heart feels, she must keep her head. The safety of her children may depend on it. Author Susan Johnson is celebrated for scenes of sizzling seduction, and To Please a Lady lives up to that promise. Balancing rich historical detail and dramatic turns of story, this early novel doesn’t shy from exploring heated encounters while maintaining brisk pacing. The partnering of an older woman with a persistent younger man isn’t often represented in historical romances, but breaking with convention only adds to the intensity of Robbie and Roxane’s love story.

By Cathleen, Readers' Advisor on February 9, 2015 Categories: Books, Historical Fiction, Romance