Why are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum is a must-read, conversational sociology book that lays out the structural racism inherent in the United States. In a non-combative manner, Tatum defines racism and reveals ways to talk about it, especially to children.
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Hope Warren isn’t living up to her given name. A bad breakup and an unfulfilling job have left her outlook less than sunny. When a beguiling young Irishman wants to spend time with her, she doesn’t know whether to be flattered or annoyed, especially when his noble optimism reminds her of the life she doesn’t have. Fortunately, Dylan sees more in Hope than she sees in herself, and he’s willing to be persistent for the sake of both business and pleasure. You Give Good Love by J.J. Murray is a sweet reminder of the delights of new love and the spice of intense attraction. Fun banter, sweet gestures, and heated chemistry combine to satisfy the hopeless romantic in all of us.
Richard Pryor once said, “What I’m saying might be profane, but it’s also profound.” Pryor pushed the boundaries of topics that comedians explored. He could make people laugh – and, by proxy, talk about – everything from love to racial inequality. Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him explores the flaws and genius of Richad Pryor. National Book Award-winner Colum McCann says of Furious Cool, “Part memoir, part biography, part poem, part history, part ballad, it manages to sing a wake song for an incredible American.”
When you’re done with Furious Cool, have a listen to Is it Something I Said? Released in 1975, it was Pryor’s first comedy album for Warner Brothers.
SPOILER WARNING: These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points, if you have not read the book.
Author: Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Page Count: 353
Genre: Political autobiography
Tone: Candid, thought-provoking, impassioned
1. Was this book what you expected? How so? How did it surprise you?
2. The publisher’s description reads, “Ultimately a celebration of triumph over adversity, Hirsi Ali’s story tells how a bright little girl evolved out of dutiful obedience to become an outspoken, pioneering freedom fighter. As Western governments struggle to balance democratic ideals with religious pressures, no story could be timelier or more significant.” Is this a fair representation of the book?
3. In your opinion, who is the intended audience for this book?
4. The Guardian published an article entitled, “Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Taking the Fight to Islam” in which it addresses the claim that Ayaan moved from one extreme to the other primarily because she was ‘traumatized’ by her upbringing. Ayaan responded that she finds this idea patronizing and wrote Infidel partly to combat that assumption. In her words, “People can see that there is not much trauma in my story.”
a. Is there trauma in her story?
b. Does it surprise you that she would characterize her experiences this way?
c. How does the way she relates difficult events illustrate her perspective?
d. She even acknowledges that her account is subjective, that her family may remember things differently. Do you trust Ayaan’s story?
e. Do you think her past experiences color her present activism? Even if so, does that make her points any less valid?
5. Were there actions Ayaan took at any point in her life that you questioned or that made you uncomfortable? If so, does that color your opinion of her character or politics?
6. What stood out about her family relationships?
7. Contrast the character arcs of Ayaan and her sister Hawaye.
8. Did Ayaan have friends?
9. Did the events of Ayaan’s life shock you? Did they seem real? Does reading about this have impact for American readers?
10. What would you say are some of the more memorable scenes or events from her life?
11. Are there any respects in which you might say Ayaan has had a fortunate life?
12. Was there a country or setting that seemed a little more vivid to you? Was it her depiction of the area or the events that happened there?
13. Would you go so far as to characterize Ali as a role model? For whom?
14. The fact she lies on her application for Dutch citizenship becomes a recurring issue. Do you agree with her decision to do so? Would you have done the same? How did you feel when that was explained away – both at the time and when it caused difficulty as a political leader?
15. Hirsi is a self-described rationalist. How is this evident in her life and relationships?
16. How did you react to her inclusion of her father’s letter?
17. What would you say is her “big idea(s)”? What argument is she trying to advance?
18. Even Ayaan’s allies and friends tried to caution her that she was being too provocative; too explosive in her comments and criticisms. Why didn’t she just back off a little, espouse a little more tact? Should she have? Does she help the cause? Harm it?
19. The event that brought her notoriety outside of her home was the brutal murder of Theo. Discuss him, their project, the reaction, and the repercussions of his murder.
20. How did you feel about the security issue – the around-the-clock bodyguards, housing issues, loss of freedom. How did Ayaan adjust?
21. Did you find the style of writing to enhance the narrative? How would you characterize it?
22. Is this a personal story? Do you feel you know her?
23. Maria Golia, an Egyptian-based academic, wrote in the NYT supplement that “Hirsi Ali seems far more interested in indicting Islam than helping damaged women, whose horror stories she conveniently trots out whenever she needs to bludgeon home a point.” Based on what you know, is there any truth to this? Does it matter?
24. Does she speak for Muslim women? Does she believe she does?
25. Is there room for feminism in Islam?
26. At a time when we are urged to embrace tolerance, especially as Americans, Hirsi Ali seems set on exposing Islam as flawed [at least in current state]. On Colbert, “I want us to judge. We should say that one religion is better than another; one culture is better than another.” How do you feel about this?
27. Does the fact that she was devout when younger give her the right to criticize Islam? The credibility?
28. In your opinion, does her persona advance or inhibit her agenda? Would her ideas be received the same (pro or con) if she were male? Older? Less forthright? Less striking?
29. Did you like Ayaan?
30. Infidel spent 31 weeks on the NYT bestseller list. What explains the interest? The appeal? Do you think it has/had/will have a lasting impact? In what way? Is it a positive contribution to the ongoing conversation?
Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Wikipedia page
AHA Foundation reading group guide
Lit Lovers book discussion questions
Interview with the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne
Interview with the Boston Phoenix
Infidel reviews on Goodreads
Infidel review by The New York Times
Are you hooked on Downton Abbey? Did you know the series was inspired by Robert Altman’s film Gosford Park? Julian Fellowes, creator of Downton Abbey, won the Oscar for Best Screenplay for Gosford Park. Check out Maggie Smith as Countess of Trentham before she became Downton Abbey’s Countess of Grantham!
Do you know that you can check out cookbooks for your tablet or e-reader? Now’s the perfect time to whet your appetite! Food Network and Cooking Channel star Aida Mollenkamp is the latest author to be chosen for OverDrive’s Big Read program, a promotion that offers a featured title to as many users as want to read it simultaneously. Until March 5, Keys to the Kitchen: The Essential Reference for Becoming a More Accomplished, More Adventurous Cook is available to you with just a few clicks and no waiting list. Enjoy a buffet of contemporary recipes, mouthwatering illustrations, and tips to improve your culinary skills. Visit MyMediaMall, MPPL’s shared digital library, to claim your copy, and browse the menus for other adult, teen, and children’s fiction and nonfiction titles.
Every Friday the Library will bring you two 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.
Get your reading glasses on, because here we go!
• Be Careful What you Wish for by Jeffrey Archer
• Death of a Policeman by M.C. Beaton
• Do or Die by Suzanne Brockmann
• Hidden Fires by Sandra Brown
• Orange is the new Black by Piper Kerman
• Someone by Alice McDermott
• Private L.A. by James Patterson
• Concealed in Death by J.D. Robb
• The Geek’s Guide to Dating by Eric Smith
• Brooklyn by Colm Tolbin
New: Fantasy and Sci-fi
• Honor’s Knight by Rachel Bach
• Shadow Ops: Breach Zone by Myke Cole
• Autumn Rose by Abigail Gibbs
• Dark Bites by Sherrilyn Kenyon
• Red Delicious by Kathleen Tierney
• Arcanum by Simon Morden
• To Sail a Darkling Sea by John Ringo
• Influx by Daniel Suarez
• Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
• The Vanishing by Wendy Webb
If you want historical fiction set in New York, Kevin Baker is the author for you. His latest novel, The Big Crowd, explores the life of Charlie O’Kane – a real immigrant who came to NYC and worked his way up from beat cop to district attorney to mayor. Tom, Charlie’s younger brother, sees Charlie as everything good in a city that’s gone bad. The brothers live the high life…until Charlie is accused of murder and Tom sets out to clear his name. A sprawling family saga intertwined with a mob mystery, The Big Crowd is a great read for those who like dramatic historical fiction, The Godfather, or chronicles of New York.
If you’re a fan of Christopher Guest movies (like Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show), you’ll love his TV series, Family Tree. Tom Chadwick plays an Englishman who inherits a mysterious box from a great-aunt he has never met. This begins a splendid, funny adventure to find his roots.
Badfellas was the original English title, and that alone gives a tease of what Malavita has on tap. When a Mafia kingpin testifies in exchange for witness protection, Giovanni Manzoni becomes Fred Blake, and he and his family find themselves living in Normandy, France. They mostly follow the rules, but old habits are hard to break. It only takes one slip before old friends who’ve become new enemies come calling all the way from Alcatraz. A film adaptation, The Family, stars Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer, but you can’t miss the story in audio. Sopranos actor and 2013 Audie Award winner for Best Solo Narration, Edoardo Ballerini deliciously balances the menace, the dark comedy, and the Italian sensibilities of Tonino Benacquista’s international crime caper.