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Short Story Discussion: The Short of It

The Short of It book coverIf you are a short story reader you won’t want to miss The Short of It, our upcoming discussion on Monday, September 17 at 7:00pm. Enjoy a compelling discussion and engage with other literature lovers! Join retired high school teacher Ron Crowley-Koch for a discussion revolving around the following three short stories freely available online and linked below. Please read the stories twice to glean their true beauty.

Revelation Book Cover

 

Revelation” by Flannery O’Connor

 

 

 

 

 

Haircut Book CoverHaircut” by Ring Lardner

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Fly book coverThe Fly” by Katherine Mansfield.

Book Discussion Questions: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale book coverTitle: The Handmaid’s Tale
Author: Margaret Atwood
Page Count: 311 pages
Genre: Dystopian Fiction, Literary Fiction
Tone: Complex, Introspective, Disturbing, Reflective

Summary:
Offred, a Handmaid, describes life in what was once the United States, now the Republic of Gilead, a shockingly repressive and intolerant monotheocracy. It is set in the near future in which women are no longer allowed to read and are valued only as long as they are viable for reproduction.

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. Did you find this book relatable and believable, or did you find it far-fetched as Mary McCarthy did in her 1986 New York Times’ book review? What triggered the rise of this theonomy in the pre-Gilead United States? What part did infertility and declining birthrates play? Is this a realistic premise?

2. Let’s talk about taking away the credit cards and freezing the bank assets. Did you understand Offred and her husband Luke’s reaction to the situation? Did you understand Luke’s reasoning that he would be able to help her 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?

3. If you read this in 1986 when it was written, would anything resonate differently for you? Did anyone read this long ago? Is history repeating itself, or why has this story made a comeback?

4. What accounts for the Commander’s interest in Offred? Is it genuine? Is genuine possible in Gilead?

5. What do you think of Moira’s placement at the brothel? Why was she not simply killed or made to work in the radioactive fields? What happens to strong women who don’t follow the crowd? Is it different than what happens to strong men who don’t follow the crowd?

6. In this novel handmaids no longer have unique names, but are given the name of the male head of the household, e.g. Of-Fred, Offred. How is that effective in eliminating these women’s identity? Is there any modern day custom in our culture that is similar? What are your thoughts about that?

7. Author Margaret Atwood said, “I didn’t put in anything that we haven’t already done, we’re not already doing, we’re seriously trying to do, coupled with trends that are already in progress… So all of those things are real, and therefore the amount of pure invention is close to nil.” What means of effective oppression previously used in history did the rulers of Gilead use to keep their system in place?

8. Why, if many of the novel’s plot points were literally true, would people have difficulty finding them believable or relatable?

9. Let’s talk about Serena Joy, the commander’s wife. How did you feel about her? What made her who she was? Talk about her life before Gilead? Was this what she wanted, did she “buy into” the premise of Gilead? Did she have more of voice that the handmaids? Did she have a better position?

10. Ofglen is the first character Offred meets who is a part of the resistance. How does she know Offred would be a potential member of the resistance? Why would any handmaid not be a part of the resistance?

11. How did you feel religion was handled in this book? It is a missive against religion? Atwood said the people running Gilead are “”not really interested in religion; they’re interested in power.” Do you agree?

12. How would you classify this book?

13. As Anna Sheffer writes in The Epilogue of the Handmaid’s Tale Changes Everything You Thought You Knew About the Book, “Pieixoto himself describes the process of naming the transcribed document, saying that “all puns were intentional, particularly that having to do with the archaic vulgar signification of the word tail; that being, to some extent, the bone, as it were, of Gileadean society.” The two male researchers take full advantage of their ability to title the manuscript and bestow on it a cheeky name that alludes to and, by making a pun, mocks Offred’s sexual servitude.” How does that make you feel?

14. Offred’s true identity was never discovered, but the commander was believed to have been one of two men, both of whom were glorified for their services to Gilead. How does that resonate with the way in which history is communicated? Does that weaken Offred’s story?

15. This book was written in a way that was less polished and more disjointed than other Atwood books. Why might that be? What is the book supposed to be? How did Offred communicate her story?

16. There was not much written about the powerful people at the top of the government who ran Gilead? Why would that be? In this story we are looking back a couple hundred years in the past. How does that vantage point affect what we’ve learned? How is history illuminated or distorted by the way it is told? Who usually writes history?

17. Are you glad you read this story? Why or why not?

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

OTHER RESOURCES:

Why The Handmaid’s Tale Is So Relevant Today” via The BBC
“The Epilogue of The Handmaid’s Tale Changes Everything You Thought You Knew About the Book” via Electric Lit
interview with Forbes: “Author Margaret Atwood On Why ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Resonates in 2018
New York Times 1986 book review
SparkNotes literary guide
Margaret Atwood’s official author website
LitLovers discussion guide
Literary Hub interview with Margaret Atwood

READALIKES:

When She Woke book coverWhen She Woke
by Hillary Jordan

1984 book cover1984
by George Orwell

The Silence of the Girls book coverThe Silence of the Girls
by Pat Barker

The Swallows of Kabul book coverThe Swallows of Kabul
by Yasmina Khadra

Future Home of the Living God book coverFuture Home of the Living God
by Louise Erdrich

Brave New World book coverBrave New World
by Aldous Huxley

Books: Recommended Reads for a Long Weekend

The Labor Day Weekend is upon us, which just might offer you the opportunity to sit back and enjoy that book you’ve been meaning to start. If you haven’t already found that perfect book, take a look at the following celebrity recommended reads.

 

Warlight book coverWarlight by Michael Ondaatje
Recommended by Barack Obama
In 1945, just after World War II, siblings stay in London when their parents move to Singapore, leaving them in the care of a mysterious figure named The Moth.
In Other Words book coverIn Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri
Recommended by Mindy Kaling
Lahiri’s meditation on the process of learning to express herself in the Italian language.
Grist Mill Road book coverGrist Mill Road by Christopher J. Yates
Recommended by Selma Blair

The year is 1982; the setting, ninety miles north of New York City. There, three friends―Patrick, Matthew, and Hannah―are bound together by a terrible crime.
Of Human Bondage book coverOf Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham
Recommended by John McCain
After studying in Heidelberg, and a brief spell in Paris, Philip settles in London to train as a doctor where he meets Mildred, the waitress with whom he plunges into a tortured affair.
Heart Berries book coverThe Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot
Recommended by Emma Watson
A powerful, poetic memoir of a woman’s coming of age on the Seabird Island Band in the Pacific Northwest.
The Mother of Black Hollywood by Jenifer Lewis
Recommended by Questlove
This gripping memoir is filled with insights gained through a unique life that offers a universal message: “Love yourself so that love will not be a stranger when it comes.”

Books: August Is Women In Translation Month

Books are universal, and as global readers we have translators to thank for bringing great books to us from around the world. August is Women in Translation month, and as such here are some of our favorite authors who have had their words translated into English.

LaDivineLaDivine Book Cover by Marie NDiaye (French)

Clarisse Riviere’s life is shaped by a refusal to admit to her husband Richard and to her daughter Ladivine that her mother is a poor black housekeeper. Instead, weighed down by guilt, she pretends to be an orphan, visiting her mother in secret and telling no-one of her real identity as Malinka, daughter of Ladivine Sylla. In time, her lies turn against her.

 

 

 

In the Midst of WinterIn the Midst of Winter Book Cover by Isabel Allende (Spanish)

Richard Bowmaster—a 60-year-old human rights scholar—hits the car of Evelyn Ortega—a young, undocumented immigrant from Guatemala—in the middle of a snowstorm in Brooklyn. What at first seems just a small inconvenience takes an unforeseen and far more serious turn when Evelyn turns up at the professor’s house seeking help. At a loss, the professor asks his tenant Lucia Maraz—a 62-year-old lecturer from Chile—for her advice. These three very different people are brought together in a mesmerizing story.

 

 

Convenience Store Woman Book CoverConvenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata (Japanese)

Keiko Furukura had always been considered a strange child, and her parents always worried how she would get on in the real world, so when she takes on a job in a convenience store while at university, they are delighted for her. However, eighteen years later, at age 36, she is still in the same job, has never had a boyfriend, and has only few friends. She feels comfortable in her life, but is aware that she is not living up to society’s expectations and causing her family to worry about her. When a similarly alienated but cynical and bitter young man comes to work in the store, he will upset Keiko’s contented stasis―but will it be for the better?

 

 

The Almond Picker Book CoverThe Almond Picker by Simonetta Hornby (Italian)

The child of poor farmers, La Mennulara became a maid for a well-to-do local family when she was only a girl; by dint of hard work and intelligence, she became the indispensable administrator of the family’s affairs. Still, she was a mere servant, and now (as this story begins) she is dead. As the details unfold about this mysterious woman, The Almond Picker assumes the witty suspense of a thriller, the emotional power of a love story, and the evocative atmosphere of a historical novel.

 

 

 

S. A Novel Book CoverS., A Novel About the Balkans by Slavenka Drakulic (Serbo-Croatian)

Set in 1992, during the height of the Bosnian war, S. reveals one of the most horrifying aspects of any war: the rape and torture of civilian women by occupying forces. S. is the story of a Bosnian woman in exile who has just given birth to an unwanted child—one without a country, a name, a father, or a language. The birth only reminds her of an even more grueling experience: being repeatedly raped by Serbian soldiers in the “women’s room” of a prison camp. Through a series of flashbacks, S. relives the unspeakable crimes she has endured, and in telling her story—timely, strangely compelling, and ultimately about survival—depicts the darkest side of human nature during wartime.

 

 

Beyond Illusions Book CoverBeyond Illusions by Duong Thu Huong (Vietnamese)

A brilliantly spun tale of a young woman who marries her professor because she so admires his idealism. When he sells out everything he believes in order to support her, her love goes. Only when they are both beyond illusions can they try again for a real relationship. Deeply lyrical and wholly believable, this novel is illuminated by the haunting language and unflinching honesty.

Favorite Books Discovered This Summer

Our Summer Reading participants discovered the following gems this June and July. Though the official Summer Reading Program is over, the warmth and sunshine of summer continues, so if you’re looking for a great book try one of these fellow patron suggestions:

The Strange Library
by Haruki Murakami
In a fantastical illustrated short novel, three people imprisoned in a nightmarish library plot their escape.
Dear Mister Rogers: Does It Ever Rain in Your Neighborhood?
by Fred Rogers
In this collection of letters and replies, Mister Rogers encourages parents, grandparents, and teachers to cherish the questions and comments that come from their children.
Finders Keepers
by Stephen King

King’s instantly riveting story about vengeful reader John Rothstein, an iconic author who created a famous character, Jimmy Gold, but who hasn’t published a book for decades.
Under the Never Sky
by Veronica Rossi
Aria has lived her whole life in the protected dome of Reverie. Her entire world confined to its spaces, she’s never thought to dream of what lies beyond its doors.
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
by Rachel Joyce
Harold Fry is convinced that he must deliver a letter to an old love in order to save her.
Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance
by Ruth Emmie Lang
Raised by wolves after being orphaned in childhood, Weylyn Grey, a man with astonishing powers, is evaluated by the people who care or wonder about him.
An American Family
by Khizr Khan
This inspiring memoir by a Gold Star parent is the story of one family’s pursuit of the American dream and why–especially in these tumultuous times–we must not be afraid to step forward for what we believe in when it matters most.
After Anna
by Lisa Scottoline
Noah Alderman, a doctor and a widower, has remarried a wonderful woman, Maggie, and for the first time in a long time he and his son are happy. But their lives are turned upside down when Maggie’s daughter Anna moves in with them.
Encore Provence
by Peter Mayle
Peter Mayle is back in his beloved Provence, celebrating his homecoming by sharing with us a whole new feast of adventures, discoveries, hilarities, and culinary treats, liberally seasoned with a joyous mix of Gallic characters.

Summer Reading: Last Call for Entries

Today is the final day to enter your raffle tickets for Summer Reading! Where has reading taken you?

Did you journey to another country or read about someone’s travels or did you stay close to home?

Did you meet amazing people or find new friends or learn something about someone you thought you knew?

Whether you adventured with abandon or trekked a familiar path, we’d love to hear which books you discovered this summer. Stop by the desk to share your favorites!

Summer Reading: Destination E – Read a Book of 150 Pages or Less

Have you taken up this summer’s challenge of Reading Takes You Everywhere? If Destination E: Read a Book of 150 Pages or Less is a stop on your journey, perhaps one of these books will get you there! Check out the first lines of these five books to see if any pique your interest.

“While this walking tour will cover a distance of only three city blocks, the compilers of this guide book suggest, based on our experience, that tourists and the curious be prepared to devote an entire day to it; there will be much to see and experience in your walk.”

A Walking Tour of the Shambles by Neil Gaiman

 

 

 

 

“In the department of — but it is better not to mention the department. There is nothing more irritable than departments, regiments, courts of justice and, in a word, every branch of public service.”

The Overcoat by Nikolai Gogol

 

 

 

 

“The first thing I would like to say is ‘thank you.’ Not only has Harvard given me an extraordinary honor, but the weeks of fear and nausea I have endured at the thought of giving this commencement address have made me lose weight.”

Very Good Lives by J. K. Rowling

 

 

 

 

“He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.”

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

 

 

 

 

“Ennis del Mar wakes before five, wind rocking the trailer, hissing in around the aluminum door and window frames.”

Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx

Summer Reading: Destination P – Read a Collection of Poetry

Have you taken up this summer’s challenge of Reading Takes You Everywhere? If Destination P: Read a Collection of Poetry is a stop on your journey, perhaps one of these books will get you there! Check out the first lines of these five books to see if any pique your interest.

“I thank the universe / for taking / everything it has taken / and giving to me / everything it is giving.”

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

 

 

 

 

“I celebrate myself / And what I assume you shall assume / For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.”

Leaves of Grass by Walk Whitman

 

 

 

 

“who are you,little i / (five or six years old) peering from some high / window;at the gold / of november sunset / (and feeling:that if day has to become night / this is a beautiful way).”

Selected Poems by E. E. Cummings

 

 

 

“Sit where the light corrupts your face. / Mies Van Der Rohe retires from grace. / And the fair fables fall.”

In the Mecca by Gwendolyn Brooks

 

 

 

 

“Her heart was wild / but I didn’t want to catch it / I wanted to / run with it / to set mine free”

Love Her Wild by Atticus

 

 

 

 

Summer Reading: Destination S – Read a Book by an Author Using a Pseudonym

Have you taken up this summer’s challenge of Reading Takes You Everywhere? If Destination S: Read a Book by an Author Using a Pseudonym is a stop on your journey, perhaps one of these books will get you there! Check out the first lines of these five books to see if any pique your interest.

“The truth is, if old Major Dover hadn’t dropped dead at Taunton races Jim would never have come to Thursgood’s at all.”

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carre (David John Moore Cornwall)

 

 

 

 

“Though Robin Ellacott’s twenty-five years of life had seen their moments of drama and incident, she had never before woken up in the certain knowledge that she would remember the coming day for as long as she lived.”

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (J. K. Rowling)

 

 

 

 

“Summer’s here. Not just summer, either, not this year, but the apotheosis of summer, the avatar of summer, high green perfect central Ohio summer dead-smash in the middle of July, white sun glaring out of that fabled faded Levi’s sky, the sound of kids hollering back and forth through Bear Street Woods at the top of the hill, the tink! of Little League bats from the ballfield on the other side of the woods, the sound of power-mowers, the sound of muscle cars out on Highway 19, the sound of Rollerblades on the cement sidewalks and smooth macadam of Poplar Street, the sound of radios – Cleveland Indians baseball (the rare game day) competing with Tina Turner belting out ‘Nutbush City Limits,’ the one that goes ‘Twenty-five is the speed limit, motorcycles not allowed in it’ – and surrounding everything like an auditory edging of lace, the soothing, silky hiss of lawn sprinklers.”

The Regulators by Richard Bachman (Stephen King)

 

 

“Victoria Claire Huntington knew when she was being stalked.”

Surrender by Amanda Quick (Jayne Ann Krentz)

 

 

 

 

 

“The prince had all his young life known the story of Sleeping Beauty, cursed to sleep for a hundred years, with her parents, the King and Queen, and all of the Court, after pricking her finger on a spindle. But he did not believe it until he was inside the castle.”

The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty by Anne Roquelaure (Anne Rice)

Summer Reading: Destination Y – Read a Book From the Young Adult Collection

Have you taken up this summer’s challenge of Reading Takes You Everywhere? If Destination Y: Read a Book from the Young Adult Collection is a stop on your journey, perhaps one of these books will get you there! Check out the first lines of these five books to see if any pique your interest.

“I shouldn’t have come to this party.”

The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas

 

 

 

 

 

Simon VS the homo sapiens agenda book cover

“It’s a weirdly subtle conversation. I almost don’t notice I’m being blackmailed.”

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

 

 

 

 

Pick me. It’s all I can do not to scream.”

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

 

 

 

 

“At the time I first realized I might be fictional, my weekdays were spent at a publicly funded institution on the north side of Indianapolis call White River High School, where I was required to eat lunch at a particular time – between 12:47 P.M. and 1:14 P.M. – by forces so much larger than myself that I couldn’t even begin to identify them.”

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

 

 

 

Divergent book cover

“There is one mirror in my house. It is behind a sliding panel in the hallway upstairs. Our faction allows me to stand in front of it on the second day of every third month, the day my mother cuts my hair.”

Divergent by Veronica Roth