Month: August 2017

Check It Out Blog

List: If You Like Ready Player One

Ready Player One coverWe’re just six months away from the film adaptation of Ernest Cline’s 2011 dystopian novel, Ready Player One. The story takes place in the not-too-distant future, 2044, in a world that’s been blighted by environmental excess, forcing most people to live in poverty. The only respite is the online virtual reality of Oasis, which is a world unto itself. It is in this Oasis that Wade Watts searches for a real-life treasure left posthumously by an eccentric businessman. But the closer he comes to finding it, the more dangerous Wade’s life becomes. If you enjoyed the book, here are three others you may want to check out as well.

 

 

For the Win by Cory Doctorow is another novel set in the near future and also centers around a multi-player online world. In this story the the world economy has gone online. Goods such as gold are mined virtually, then sold and traded around the world. The gold farmers try to assert their rights, but the wealthy elite are not willing to let them go…at least not without a fight.

Widely considered to be the original cyberpunk novel, William Gibson’s 1984 classic Neuromancer is another story of people living impoverished lives in a high tech world. Henry Case capitalizes on his advanced computer prowess by earning a living hacking into systems to steal information he then sells. But when he crosses the wrong line he pays for it dearly, violently thrust from the virtual world seemingly for good. Danger, crime and subterfuge consume the cyber world once again in this book which still resonates on all levels more than three decades after it was originally published.

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson is set in a 21st century United States no longer united, but instead divided among corporations, with varying degrees of safety and freedom. Blurring lines between the virtual world and the physical one, people and their computer avatars are beginning to be infected with a mind numbing virus that affects them in both worlds. Seemingly average guy Hiro Protagonist is in fact a highly evolved warrior prince in the virtual world, and he along with equally tech savvy YT must track down the source of the infection before it’s too late.

Book Discussion Questions: The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant

The Boston Girl book cvoerTitle: The Boston Girl
Author: Anita Diamant
Page Count: 322 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Tone: Dramatic, Reflective

Summary:
Recounting the story of her life to her granddaughter, octogenarian Addie describes how she was raised in early-twentieth-century America by Jewish immigrant parents in a teeming multicultural neighborhood.

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: 2017 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1) When Aaron courts Addie, he says he’s going to turn her into a real Boston girl by taking her to the symphony, Red Sox game, and Harvard Yard. Where would you take someone to turn them into a real Chicago girl?

2) One definition of historical fiction says that the goal of historical fiction is to bring history to life in novel form. Did Diamant succeed?

3)Did you learn something from The Boston Girl?

4) What impression do you think would you get of the United States if you were from another country and reading this book?

5) Where the characters beliefs and mannerisms appropriate for the time?

6) Diamant titled the book The Boston Girl. With what you know about Boston, do you think her life would have played out the same way in another city? How important is location to the story line?

7) How would you describe it the tone and style of The Boston Girl? Did that work for you as a reader?

8) Addie’s granddaughter asks her what made her the woman she is today. Addie’s answer is a monologue. Would The Boston Girl have been as effective told in a different way?

Diamant says that she was concerned that Addie’s story leading to a happy marriage might be too small and mundane to keep readers turning the pages. From Diamant: “But once I made Addie the narrator, I realized- or remembered- that we don’t experience history in the abstract; we live inside of it. Addie experiences the momentous events of the early 20th century at eye level. A girl bobs her hair. A veteran of the Great War collapses on the beach. A friend dies because she ignores the warnings about the flu epimic and goes dancing. In Addie’s life, the geopolitical is personal, the immigrant success sage is hantued by loss and despair: war and disease are tests of reliance, even for those on the sidelines. Even for those who survive.”

9) What national or global events happened during Addie’s lifetime?

10) Which ones does she mention? Do you feel she was deeply affected by them?

11) If you were retelling your life story, what weight would you give large scale events?

12) Some critics unfavorably compared this to The Red Tent, which has a more serious mood and is told in the third person. Do you think literary fiction is as effective when the tone is cheerful? Why or why not?

13) Describe Addie’s mom. Are Addie and her sisters equally affected by her?

14) Celia was the most loved by Mameh and had her whole family’s love. She married Levine, a kind man. Why do you think Celia found life so very difficult?

15) Her other sister, Betty, is described by Addie as the most like her mom. What made Addie say that? Do you agree? Did your feelings for Betty change as the story progressed?

16) How would you describe Addie? What do you think made her able to stand up to her mom?

17) This is how Addie describes her father: “I didn’t know my father very well. It wasn’t like today, where fathers change diapers and read books to their children. When I was growing up, men worked all day, and when they came home we were supposed to be quiet and leave them alone.” It seems as if Addie absolves her father of responsibility to his family because of the times. Do you agree? Was he at all to blame for the home dynamic?

18) How does Addie’s world begin to expand beyond her home?

19) Who were some of the people who gave her a chance? Do you have a favorite, or one character that you think made the biggest difference in her life?

20) She had a lot of good fortune with the people she met- people willing to give her friendship, learning opportunities, vacation destinations, and jobs. Was this a realistic portrayal of life for a young female, Jewish daughter of immigrants? Is it within the realm of possibility?

21) Some people Addie mentions were definitely not friends, but she included them in her answer to Ava about how she became the woman she is today. One of them was her first romantic interest, Harold, “the wolf.” Why do you think she told her granddaughter about him? Why do you think she continued to see Harold?

22)Addie says, “I’m still embarrassed and mad at myself. But after seventy years, I also feel sorry for the girl I used to be. She was awfully hard on herself.” What does she mean?

23) It’s actually Harold who calls her, “My favorite Boston girl.” (p 82) If you were going to call yourself _______boy/girl, how would you fill in the blank?

24) Addie’s next boyfriend is Ernie. She doesn’t seem too emotional about him, and decided to let him go, so why do you think he is included in her story about what shaped her? What did she learn from him?

25) Addie says that many young women were focused on getting married. What do you believe she was focused on?

26) The chapter where Addie meets her future husband, Aaron Metsky, is entitled “Never apologize for being smart.” What connections do you make between the title and Addie and Aaron’s relationship?

27) Addie spends more time talking about her jobs along the way: cleaning for the summer, working for her brother in law, the newspaper office than she does about her current job. How were these experiences important enough to relay to her granddaughter?

28) Addie tries on pants for the first time (p.108) when she and Filomena visit Leslie and Morelli. Addie says, “It makes me want to try riding a bicycle and ice skating and all kinds of things.” Leslie asks what other kinds of things and Addie answers, “I’d go to college.” Do you believe that clothes so powerfully affect what a person feels capable of doing?

29) Would you say Addie had a blessed life, or a difficult one?

30) Based on Ava’s question at the beginning of the book, “What made you the woman you are today?”, how would you speculate Ava saw her grandmother?

31) Addie answers through a book’s worth of stories. If you were to sum it up, what made Addie the woman she is today?

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

Other Resources:

Reading Group Guide from publisher
Washington Post book review
Q&A with Anita Diamant
Anita Diamant interview with Jewish Book Council
Biography of Anita Diamant

Readalikes:

Someone book coverSomeone
by Alice McDermott

Florence Gordon book coverFlorence Gordon
by Brian Morton

Triangle book coverTriangle
by Katharine Weber

School Days…

School is back in session, and there’s no better way to remember your own high school hi-jinks than by watching a movie. Check out these high school classics set in Chicagoland.

Cooley Vocational High School (in a 1964 version of Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood) is the setting for Cooley High, the fictional story of best friends Preach and Cochise. Preach is studious and has his sights set on a writing career; Cochise is the star of the basketball team, and both are ready for a fun adventure whenever the opportunity arises. Sometimes that opportunity presents itself as a chance to skip school and hang out at the zoo, or crash a party, or pursue a girl. But when a group of troublemakers begin to target them, adult realities start to collide with teenage innocence.

Breakfast Club dvd coverDirector John Hughes’ name is synonymous with teen drama films, and 1985’s The Breakfast Club is a big reason why. Students at New Trier High School in suburban Winnetka dubbed early morning detention “breakfast club,” and this movie, (filmed in Des Plaines at the former Maine North high school) perhaps more than any other, gave a closeup look at five teen stereotypes of the 1980s – the popular girl, the jock, the geek, the punk and the loner. They find themselves awkwardly thrust together on a Saturday morning, but come to learn some deep things about each other and realize they may all be more multidimensional than their stereotypes would suggest.

Teen ballerina Sara Johnson’s life is struck by tragedy, and she decides to give up dance and return to high school in Chicago in 2001’s Save the Last Dance. She soon finds herself learning hip hop, and pairs up with a hip hop dancer named Derek. Romantic feelings develop between them, and Sara confides in Derek about her tragedy and her dream of attending Julliard, while Derek confides that his dream is to attend med school at Georgetown. Their interracial relationship causes backlash from others, and they ultimately must decide whether to follow their dreams or settle for a lesser path that seems predestined.

It’s the senior year of high school for North Shore student Joel Goodson, and with his exceptional grades and bright path ahead, he feels he deserves to let loose a little while his parents are out of town. Things quickly spin out of control, and Joel must find a way to cover his tracks after a weekend of partying, call girls and criminals results in thousands of dollars in damages to his parents’ Porsche and lavish home (an actual residence located in Highland Park.) Senoritis definitely takes a unique spin in the movie classic, Risky Business.

Hoop Dreams is the true story of two high school basketball players, William Gates and Arthur Agee, trying to make it to the NBA. Both teens make more than hour-long commutes from their homes in Chicago housing projects to the same high school in Westchester, Illinois that Isaiah Thomas attended. Both teens must find their places within the social structure of the school, which is predominantly white and very different from their own community, and find ways to remain athletically elite while surviving in abject poverty.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is another John Hughes’ classic teen drama. Ferris’ idyllic suburb (based on Hughes’ hometown of Northbrook) provides the launching off point for an epic decision to ditch high school (Glenbrook North, circa 1986) and tour around downtown Chicago. To the chagrin of his sister Jeannie, Ferris’ faux sick day garners him the sympathy and support of not only their parents, but almost everyone in their high school, and by the end of the day a full-fledged Save Ferris campaign has engulfed the school. His whirlwind tour takes him and his friends to the Art Institute, The Sears Tower, Wrigley Field and even the German-American parade marching down Dearborn.

List: Solar Eclipses in Fiction

While you wait down the days to August 21, check out a novel that counts a solar eclipse as a major plot point. Choose from classic, thriller, science fiction, general fiction, historical mystery, or a whole lot of horror. Maybe it’s the dark? 

Strength of the Sun book coverThe Strength of the Sun
Catherine Chidgey
Dolores Claiborne book cover

Dolores Claiborne
Stephen King

He Said_She Said book coverHe Said/She Said
Erin Kelly

Geralds Game book coverGerald’s Game
Stephen King

Eclipse book coverEclipse
John Banville

Nightfall book coverNightfall
Isaac Asimov & Robert Silverberg