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Book Discussion Questions: $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America by Kathryn J. Edin and H. Luke Shaefer

2.00 a Day book coverTitle:  $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America
Author:  Kathryn J. Edin and H. Luke Shaefer
Page Count: 210 pages
Genre: NonfictionSocial Justice, Call-to-Action
Tone:  Eye-Opening, Anecdotal, Sobering

Summary:
A revelatory assessment of poverty in America examines the survival methods employed by households with virtually no income to illuminate disturbing trends in low-wage labor and income inequality.

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

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement:  2018 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

  1. 1. Think back to when you first picked up this book. What kind of book did you expect to read? Is that the book you read? How was it different?

2. In what ways did this passage from the introduction strike a chord: “Recent public discussions of rising inequality in the United States have largely focused on the biggest winners of the past decade, the top one percent. But there is a different inequality at work at the other end of the income scale” (xxiii)?

3. As you think back over the experience of reading the book, what made the biggest impression? Are there stories or issues or feelings that will stay with you months later?

4. How accessible was the book? Did you feel you understood what the authors were trying to communicate?

5. Would you describe this as a heavy read? A depressing one? An inspiring one? What words would you use?

6. Several of the illustrative narratives are set in Chicago. Do you think that affected your experience of them? In which way(s)?

7. “[Representative surveys] have consistently shown that between 60 and 70 percent of the American public believes that the government is ‘spending too little on assistance for the poor.’ However, if Americans are asked about programs labeled ‘welfare’ in particular, their support for assistance drops considerably.” (14) Is this understandable? Fair? What might be done?

8. After reading about the mischaracterization of welfare recipients (e.g., the ‘welfare queen’) and ongoing perceptions, how does this compare to our the current buzz phrase of ‘fake news’?

9. “How is it that a solid work ethic is not an adequate defense against extreme poverty?”(45) How might you answer this question based on what you’ve read?

10. Have any of you ever applied for a job via an online application? Did the scenario described in the book (pp. 50-51) seem reasonable?

11. How is lack of schedule flexibility a complicating factor once employment is found?

12. Were you surprised to read how extensive the selling of food stamps can be? If you were in that position, what would you do?

13. What roles can the library play in the lives of families who struggle? Give examples from the book – or from those you know.

14. Contrast the situations of the extreme poor in cities with those in rural communities such as the Appalachian regions. Did this surprise you? How accurate is the chapter title, “A World Apart”? Are there commonalities?

15. How do the families portrayed in the book find the will to keep going? Do they have hope? Are they happy? What does this tell us?

16. According to the authors, what has gone terribly wrong in welfare reform? Has anything gone right?

17. What role might the government play in creating and supporting job opportunities?

18. What issues were raised about housing? Are there viable solutions?

19. Several sources take issue with the premise and statistics cited in this book, and one is included in the resources below. What is the counter-position? How convincing are these arguments? Is there truth on each side?

20. Does the book have potential to bring about real change?

21. Does this book have potential to spark real empathy? What good does that do?

22. How did you respond to this statement: “Yet despite all they’ve been through, despite the abuse and trauma, the hunger and fear, despite the anger they carry with them at what they have endured, many of the everyday experiences of the $2-a-day poor are – truly—American to the core”?

23. Were you confronted with any personal preconceptions and/or misperceptions? Are you different for reading this book? Did it change your mind about anything?

24. What, if anything, can we do? Do you see opportunities? How do we not forget?

25. What did you learn from this book?

26. Are you glad you read this book? That it was chosen for discussion?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!

OTHER RESOURCES:

Detailed Group Discussion Guide from official book website
Video: Author Kathryn J. Edin on PBS NewsHour
Counterpoint: “The Number of Americans Living on $2.00 a Day Is Zero” via Forbes
Interview with Edin and Shaefer via The Atlantic
The Washington Post reports “What It’s Like to Live on $2 a Day in the United States
Reviews from The New York Times, Kirkus, and The Boston Globe

READALIKES:

Staff Pick: Brick

Picture of EvanIn the film Brick, you follow Brendan, a high school loner turned hard-boiled detective, who ends up a bit over his head investigating the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend. The byzantine social structures and confusing slang of high school meld perfectly with the tropes of classic film noir in this smart, witty, and twisty genre mash-up. It’s also the first feature film written and directed by Rian Johnson, who helmed the recent Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

DVD: Everything Old Is New Again

These television series have all recently come back for a reboot, but did you know you can check out the original seasons here at the library in our DVD “television show” section? If you’re looking to see how it all began, visit us on the second floor!

It was in 1993 that fans first met FBI special agents Mulder and Scully, and were quickly caught up in their pursuit of the paranormal and extraterrestrial on the sci-fi series, The X-Files. In the first season we see the origins of their relationship and reason why they grow to trust only each other and a select few more. The truth is out there, and the prior seasons are in here, at the library.

 

 

 

 

With its lofty influence on the cultural zeitgeist of the late 20th century, it’s hard to believe Twin Peaks only lasted two seasons, from 1990 to 1991, with the feature film Fire Walk with Me  released in 1992. The dark and mysterious happenings in the small town of Twin Peaks, Washington, were introduced through the finding of a corpse belonging to Homecoming Queen Laura Palmer. Her disoriented and amnesic friend is found wounded nearby. What happened to the girls and what is going on in the town? Start to piece together the clues by checking out season one.

 

 

 

The turn of the 21st century brought the mother-daughter drama The Gilmore Girls to the small screen. The debut of mother Lorelai Gilmore and her daughter Rory, came in October 2000 and lasted seven seasons. The show explores the relationship between the precocious and academic Rory and the easygoing Lorelai, who became Rory’s mom when she was just 16 years old. This closeness in age adds an element of sisterhood to their relationship, with Rory sometimes assuming a more grown-up role in their close dynamic.

 

 

 

Although not exactly following up where the previous series ended, these current editions to long running series aim for much of the same charm and allure of their predecessors. How do they match up to these originals?

Dr. Who started nearly fifty-five years ago. The first Doctor, played by William Hartnell, introduced the TARDIS, the spaceship that can transport through time and looks like a British police phone booth. This passport to other times and other worlds takes Dr. Who and his companions through many engaging and sometimes dangerous adventures. Unfortunately not all of the episodes have survived, but most have, including the very first episodes that premiered in 1963, They are at the library titled Doctor Who: The Beginning.

 

Star Trek: The Original Series was first broadcast on television in 1966. It was viewers first chance to meet the crew of the starship Enterprise, with Captain Kirk, First Officer Spock, and Chief Medical Officer Leonard McCoy at the helm. This crew charted exciting inter-space courses and led its watchers to new planets, new beings and new societies throughout the Milky Way, (all while predicting a tremendous number of advancements that wouldn’t become reality for several decades.) Many subsequent series have come forth from this show, with no limit to the episodes’ plots, save human imagination.

 

 

Staff Pick: Midsomer Murders

Picture of DonnaMidsomer Murders, a British series available on DVD, started in 1997 and is still running now in 2017. It is based on Caroline Graham’s Inspector Barnaby mysteries.. The settings are contemporary and quaint villages in the English countryside. Each episode has several murders, interesting characters and keeps you guessing who is the villain is till near the end.

Nonfiction: Electric Arches by Eve L. Ewing

Electric Arches book cover“Poetry allows for us to lead first with the heart.” –Eve Ewing

If you don’t read poetry often and are curious to read more, Electric Arches is a great place to start. Eve L. Ewing, Chicago essayist and poet, frankly explores contemporary society, sprinkling a little magical what-if into stark reality. The structure and tone vary greatly from poem-to-poem, resulting in a rounded picture of Ewing’s life and heart as she opens the door into her experience as a black girl and woman. An extra bonus for those familiar with Chicago are the references Ewing makes to this city she has grown up in, painting pictures of places impactful to her, such as Logan Square and Fullerton Avenue.

Staff Pick: The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henríquez

Rachel from South Branch suggests The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henríquez

The Book of Unknown Americans book coverThe Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henríquez, is written as a series of interconnected stories, each of which could stand on its own. The book tells the story of several immigrant families from countries in Central and South America who end up in Delaware. We learn their backstory, what brought them to the US, and a little about how they got here, as well as getting a vivid picture of what life here is like for them living as immigrants in a country with a culture and language so distinct from their own and one in which immigrants are not always openly welcomed.

The families all live in the same apartment complex, owned by another immigrant, and their lives are at once interconnected and isolated, each family with its own challenges and obstacles to overcome. The core of the stories involve a family who comes to the US to provide educational opportunities to their daughter, who was brain damaged in an accident, and her relationship with the son of another tenant. At the same time, Henríquez interweaves this story with that of the other tenants, who face language barriers, economic hardship, and discrimination, among other challenges.

Henríquez’s writing draws you into the lives of her characters and you feel their disappointments and frustration and their small moments of joy as well. When you finish the book, you will be left hoping there will be a second book so you can continue following their stories.

Like this? Try These!

Girl in Translation
by Jean Kwok
Emigrating with her mother from Hong Kong to Brooklyn, Kimberly Chang begins a secret double life as an exceptional schoolgirl during the day and sweatshop worker at night, an existence also marked by her first crush and the pressure to save her family from poverty.
A Manual for Cleaning Women
by Lucia Berlin
Taking place in the American Southwest, an anthology of short stories, celebrating the author’s trademark blend of humor and melancholy, finds miracles in everyday life and uncovers moments of grace in cafeterias, laundromats, homes of the upper class and hotel dining rooms..

 

How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents book coverHow the García Girls Lost Their Accents
by Julia Alvarez
Forced to flee their native Caribbean island after an attempted coup, the Garcias–Carlos, Laura, and their four daughters–must learn a new way of life in the Bronx, while trying to cling to the old ways that they loved.
We Never Asked for Wings book coverWe Never Asked for Wings
by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
After fourteen years of working multiple jobs to make ends meet, Letty Espinosa must learn to be a mother when her parents, who have been raising Letty’s teenage son and six-year-old daughter, decide to return to Mexico.
The Leavers book coverThe Leavers
by Lisa Ko
One morning, eleven-year-old Deming Guo’s mother, an undocumented Chinese immigrant named Polly, goes to her job and never comes home. Deming is eventually adopted by two white college professors who move him from the Bronx to a small town. This is a poignant story of a boy who struggles to find his footing in a new world. It’s also an unflinching look at the difficult decisions a mother faces.

Fiction: Mysteries with Indian Detectives

In addition to their love for the whodunit, mystery fans appreciate both a fascinating investigator and a strong sense of place. Most often this may manifest in stories of British detectives or in Scandinavian thrillers, but crime narratives set in all parts of the globe deserve attention. One quieter trend to discover is that of mysteries set in the complex lands of contemporary Southeast Asia. If you have yet to explore the delights of puzzling through a case set in India, use your deductive skills to identify the most likely suspect to spark new curiosity.

Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra book coverThe Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra
     by Vaseem Khan
Baby Ganesh Agency Investigations series

A young man found drowned in a puddle of water, an eight-month-old elephant, and the last day before forced retirement all compete for full attention of a longtime police officer. With offbeat charm and obvious affection for Mumbai, this first in a series establishes a winning premise to engage mystery fans.

 

 

Case of the Missing Servant book coverThe Case of the Missing Servant
     by Tarquin Hall
Vish Puri Mysteries series

If Agatha Christie’s iconic Hercule Poirot were Indian rather than Belgian, he would look a lot like Vish Puri, a careful investigator with amazing deductive skills and keen powers of observation. The search for a missing woman, a suspected victim of foul play, provides introduction both to the vibrancy of Delhi and to a celebrated series.

 

 

Six Suspects book coverSix Suspects
     by Vikas Swarup

When playboy Vicky Rai was acquitted of a senseless murder committed in front of 50 witnesses, riots broke out. So it is no surprise that he himself is murdered at the very party he throws to celebrate his release. However, when six different guests are found to have guns in their possession, stories need to be heard. Presented in alternating points of view, this satirical yet tightly constructed mystery invites the reader to play the role of detective against the backdrop of modern India.

 

Perfect Murder book coverThe Perfect Murder
     by H.R.F. Keating
Inspector Ghote Mysteries series

Not quite as contemporary but with the time-tested credibility of a long-running series, the first case in the classic Inspector Ghote series presents a perplexing death in Bombay complicated by misinformation, incompetence, and corruption.

 

 

MPPL Staff Favorites of 2017

Staff Favorites HeaderTake a moment to reflect: what did you love this year?

As 2017 is drawing to a close, MPPL staff took time to look back on everything they watched, read, listened to, and played throughout the year in order to choose some of their favorite items they experienced. With forty staff members sharing, you’re bound to find plenty to add to your own reading, listening, watching, and gaming lists!

 

Picture of ErinAudiobook: Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood
by Trevor Noah
Book: Her Right Foot
by Dave Eggers
Book: The Empty Grave
by Jonathan Stroud
Picture of ChelseaAudiobook: Touch
by Courtney Maum
Audiobook: The Fix: Volume 1
by Nick Spencer
BookBrief Histories of Everyday Objects
by Andy Warner

 

Picture of JoanneCD: Colors
by Beck
Book: Where’d You Go, Bernadette
by Maria Semple
Book: This Is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare

by Gabourey Sidibe
Picture of LaRaieAudiobook: I’m Just a Person
by Tig Notaro
DVD: Insecure: The Complete First Season
CD: Something More Than Free
by Jason Isbell
Picture of JessicaBook: I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
by Erika L. Sánchez
DVD: Bleach anime series
Book: Walt Disney’s Alice in Wonderland
retold by Jon Scieszka

 

Picture of ClaireBook: Moxie
by Jennifer Mathieu
Book: Auma’s Long Run
by Eucabeth A. Odhiambo
DVD: I Am Not Your Negro
Picture of AnneDVD: Lion
Book: A Casualty of War
by Charles Todd

 

 

 

 

Picture of KeldaBook: The Hate U Give
by Angie Thomas
CD: Life Love Flesh Blood
by Imelda May
Audiobook: Ready Player One
by Ernest Cline

 

 

Picture of CaitlinBook: The Talisman
by Stephen King and Peter Straub
DVD: Power Rangers
CD: Strange Desire
by Bleachers
Picture of ChrisBook: Ready Player One
by Ernest Cline
Book: Artemis
by Andy Weir
Book: The Empty Grave
by Jonathan Stroud
Picture of MichaelBook: A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories
by Lucia Berlin
Book: The Rosie Project
by Graeme Simsion
CD: Travelogue
by Blues Traveler

 

Picture of FrankBook: The Alexandria Quartet
by Lawrence Durrell
Book: Euclid’s Window: The Story of Geometry from Parallel Lines to Hyperspace
by Leonard Mlodinow
Book: A Legacy of Spies
by John Le Carré

 

 

Picture of TaylorBook: Storm Front
by Jim Butcher
Book: Cinder
by Marissa Meyer
DVD: The Newsroom: The Complete First Season
Picture of RebecaAudiobook: Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood
by Trevor Noah
Book:The Last Black Unicorn
by Tiffany Haddish
Book: I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
by Erika L. Sánchez

 

 

Picture of LindaBook: Defending Jacob
by William Landay
Book: Out of the Silent Planet
by C. S. Lewis
Book: The Light Between Oceans
by M. L. Stedman
Picture of AmyCD: Joanne
by Lady Gaga
Audiobook: The Boy on the Bridge
by M. R. Carey
Book: Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
by Bryan Stevenson
Picture of JohnCD: Drunk
by Thundercat
Book: Spinning
by Tillie Walden
DVD: Twin Peaks

 

 

Picture of JenniferBook: Meddling Kids
by Edgar Cantero
Book: The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter
by Theodora Goss
Book: Everything You Want Me to Be
by Mindy Mejia
Picture of ElizabethAudiobook: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
by Gail Honeyman
Audiobook: Pachinko

by Min Jin Lee
Book: Waking Gods
by Sylvain Neuvel

 

 

Picture of DonnaBook: The Hate U Give
by Angie Thomas
DVD: The Good Place: Season One
Book: Exit West
by Mohsin Hamid
Picture of JoeGraphic Novel: The Flintstones: Volume One & Two
by Mark Russell
Graphic Novel: Hot Dog Taste Test
by Lisa Hanawalt
Video Game: The Last of Us
Picture of AllisonBook: The Creative Habit: Learn it and Use It for Life
by Twyla Tharp
Book: Utopia for Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal World
by Rutger Bregman
Graphic Novel: March
by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin

 

Picture of NancyBook: Born to Run
by Bruce Springsteen
Book: Another Brooklyn
by Jacqueline Woodson
Book: Today Will Be Different
by Maria Semple
Picture of RosemaryBook: Glass Houses
by Louise Penny
Audiobook: Dovekeepers
by Alice Hoffman
Book: Killing Season
by Faye Kellerman
Picture of EvaDVD: Hidden Figures
DVD: Queen of the Desert
Book: A Column of Fire
by Ken Follett

 

 

Picture of MaryAudiobook:  Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood
by Trevor Noah
Audiobook: Listen Slowly
by Thanhha Lai
Book: Boy on the Bridge
by M. R. Carey

 

 

Picture of SamAudiobook: First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies
by Kate Andersen Brower
Audiobook: To Kill a Mockingbird
by Harper Lee
Audiobook: Shutter Island
by Dennis Lehane
Picture of EvanDVD: The Good Place: Season One
Book: Vacationland: True Stories from Painful Beaches
by John Hodgman
CD: The Nashville Sound
by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
Picutre of JulieBook: In My Kitchen: A Collection of New and Favorite Vegetarian Recipes
by Deborah Madison
DVD: Séraphine
Song: Piano Concerto no 1 in C major, op 15
composed by Ludwig van Beethoven, performed by Tafelmusik

 

 

Picture of DaleBook: Horrorstör
by Grady Hendrix
Audiobook: Set the Boy Free: The Autobiography
by Johnny Marr
CD: Sleep Well Beast
by The National
Picture of JennyBook: Sonata Mulaticca: A Life in Five Movements and a Short Play
by Rita Dove
Book: Home Fire

by Kamila Shamsie
Book: Version Control
by Dexter Palmer

 


Want more? Take a look at what staff chose in 2014, 2015, and 2016 as their favorites.

We would love to hear from you!
Write to us on Facebook or Twitter and share what your own favorites this year were. If you’re interested in personalized reading, watching, and/or listening suggestions… Ask!

DVD: Love The Good Place?

There is a lot to love about NBC’s popular television series The Good Place, which premiered in September of 2016. Set in the next world, the show follows the experiences of Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) as she adjusts to a utopian eternity designed by an after-life architect named Michael (Ted Danson), but soon discovers she may be there under false pretenses. If this show is your cup of next-world tea, you may enjoy the following DVDs from our collection.

Defending Your Life is the story of a successful businessman, Daniel Miller (Albert Brooks) who crashes his car on his 39th birthday and finds himself in an Earth-like afterlife, where he learns his life will be judged. If he can make a successful defense for himself he will be upgraded to a better afterlife, but the deliberations with his lawyer only serve to confound him and make him worry he won’t move up. To top it off he finds himself falling in love with Julia (Meryl Streep) who appears to have lived such a spectacular life that she will certain move up, perhaps leaving him behind.

 

 

 

When the quarterback for the L.A. Rams, Joe Pendelton (Warren Beatty) dies in a bike accident, he goes directly to Heaven, guided along by a helpful guardian angel. The only problem is that he was never supposed to have died in the first place, and the angel made a mistake in bringing him to Heaven. In Heaven Can Wait, (based on the play of the same name by Sidney Buchman and Seton I. Miller,) Joe returns to Earth, but since he cannot go back to his current body he has to assume the body and life of a person who is just about to die. It turns out the body he returns to inhabit is that of a greedy businessman. Joe must figure out how to proceed in life, love and sports. The 1948 movie Here Comes Mr. Jordan is also based on the same play by Buchman and Miller.

 

 

 

Heart and Souls starts on a San Francisco bus ride at night. Four passengers are on their way to various engagements, but are killed when the bus on which they are riding crashes off an overpass. In a car that nearly collided with the bus before the crash, a woman gives birth to a baby boy, Thomas (played as an adult by Robert Downey, Jr.). The four bus passengers become the boy’s guardian angels and attempt to help him navigate life. When Thomas grows up to become a cunning and unkind businessman, the guardian angels must work together to help him and gain peace for themselves.

 

 

 

In a slightly different tone with a hint of melancholy, the Japanese film After Life (written by Hirokazu Kore-Eda) is set in a processing station for the recently departed. Here, the newly arrived will pick one favorite memory from their life on earth, and will be able to bring that, and nothing more, with them into eternity. There are counselors in this way station who help the new arrivals examine their memories to find the one they love most, and then recreate it for them to take with. Tangles of love and wistfulness add a sober and poetic feel to this film.

Readalikes for “Cat Person”

Kristen Roupenian’s New Yorker short story that went viral, “Cat Person,” has sparked long arguments on social media, think pieces, declarations that Roupenian is genius for shedding light on something hard to characterize and critiques that her story is too commonplace and not worth the attention. A major draw to the story for many readers is Roupenian’s ability to sink into the mind of a twenty-year-old woman and tell the story of a potential budding relationship with a thirty-four year old man from her perspective. If that close narration was something you enjoyed about “Cat Person,” one of these female-focused story collections is bound to strike your fancy.

Her Body and Other Parties book coverHer Body and Other Parties
by Carmen Maria Machado
An eclectic range of stories exploring womanhood, power, and more.
Single-Carefree-Mellow book coverSingle, Carefree, Mellow
Katherine Heiny
Most of the women in these stories are not single, carefree, or mellow, resulting in a fascinating look at how complex the mind can be.
no one belongs here more than you book coverNo One Belongs Here More Than You
Miranda July
July draws close to the inner workings of her characters in this quirky collection.
Barbara the Slut book coversBarbara the Slut and Other People
Lauren Holmes
Taking slices out of life, Holmes mixes humor with the unexpected for a spread of wildly different personalities and situations.