Check It Out Category: Nonfiction

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:

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.

Kelda’s Pick- Travels with Charley: In Search of America by John Steinbeck

Picture of KeldaRoad trip anyone? Give a listen to Travels With Charley: In Search of America by John Steinbeck, read by Gary Sinise. Steinbeck sets out to find the truth about our country and he finds it accompanied by his noble steed Charley, a French poodle with personality. The prose of Steinbeck and the styling of Sinise are a perfect pairing.

Books: If You Like The Crown

Season Two of Netflix series The Crown drops today, and you may be inspired to choose your next read based on the drama played out through these fascinating characters and their situations:

Becoming Elizabeth II

Lillibet book coverLilibet
Carolly Erickson
Young Elizabeth book coverThe Young Elizabeth
Kate Williams
Brian Barker

 

Regal Relationships

Elizabeth and Philip book coverElizabeth and Philip
Geoffrey Bocca
Royal Sisters book coverRoyal Sisters
Anne Edwards
Sonia Purnell

 

Fiction about Women of Influence

Victoria book coverVictoria
Daisy Goodwin
Royal Nanny book coverThe Royal Nanny
Karen Harper
Elizabeth Loupas

 

Spotlight on Major Players

Churchill book coverChurchill
Martin Gilbert
Philip book coverPhilip
Tim Heald
Christopher Warwick

 

Staff Pick: This is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare by Gabourey Sidibe

Joanne from Community Services suggests This is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare by Gabourey Sidibe 

This is Just My Face Try Not to Stare book coverAcademy Award-nominated Gabourey Sidibe became a household name shortly after the release of the movie Precious. Focusing more on her early life as a child of a proud, cab-driving, African father and a free-spirited, teacher-turned-subway-singing mother, this deeply honest memoir will make it seem like you are out to dinner with Gabourey and a couple of girlfriends trying to outdo each other with crazy family stories.

Gabby was constantly getting in trouble for being disruptive and disrespectful due to her laugh. She describes it as more like a shrill scream followed by a loud snort. Everything she did was intense and that sometimes left her lonely. Being different on the outside when everyone else is the same can make you doubt what you are on the inside. She says, “I was Gabourey in a school of Jennifers.”

After a few false starts in college and intense therapy to treat her deep depression, she found steady work using her voice-over talent. Gabourey first read the novel Push five years before auditioning for the role as Precious for the film. It was an act of fate which got her to the audition, but she had the job two days later. The rest is history.

Jenny’s Pick: You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie

Picture of JennyA mosaic of stray thoughts, stories and poems,  You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie is a powerful meditation on Alexie’s complicated relationship with his mother in the aftermath of her passing. This book left me in awe of Alexie’s ability to wring your heart as he reaches into his history one moment and have you bursting out in laughter the next.

What to Read for National Reading Group Month

Reading Group Month logoThe truth that “good books bring people together” is one of the founding principles of National Reading Group Month. Whether you have been involved with a book club for years or have been thinking of trying your first, there is no better time to explore the possibilities of a story ripe for discussion. Find your category below and celebrate with a new title that entertains, challenges, and inspires!

 

Fabulous for First Discussions

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society book coverThe Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
Sandra Dallas

 

Never Tried Nonfiction?

Year of Yes book coverYear of Yes
Shonda Rhimes
Warren St. John

 

Looking for a Lighter Option

Crocodile on the Sandbank book coverCrocodile on the Sandbank
Elizabeth Peters
Laura Dave

 

Staff-Selected Superstars

Cover of The Book of Unknown AmericansThe Book of Unknown Americans
Cristina Henríquez
Candice Millard

 

Not Afraid of Next-Level Reads

Station Eleven
Emily St. John Mandel
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Tiphanie Yanique
Kate Atkinson

 

UPDATE: Find more suggestions in Part Two of this series!

Interested in more suggestions? Stop by Fiction/AV/Teen Services on the second floor or ask online to visit our virtual desk. Also, check out titles in our book discussion collection, shop those available as Books-to-Go discussion kits, and help yourself to original questions and resources available through our website.

Staff Pick: Greetings from Utopia Park by Claire Hoffman

Dale from Research Services suggests Greeting from Utopia Park by Claire Hoffman

Greetings from Utopia Park book coverGreetings from Utopia Park chronicles author Claire Hoffman’s personal experiences living and participating in the Transcendental Meditation movement. At age 5, Claire moves with her mother and brother to Fairfield, Iowa to join the followers of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. This book is both the story of Claire’s childhood spent living in this community and a history of what Maharishi called the Global Headquarters of World Peace. Claire eventually rebels, moving away from the teachings of Transcendental Meditation, only to return later in life to examine and attempt to reconnect with her spiritual upbringing. If you have ever been curious about Transcendental Meditation and wanted to learn more about both the positive and negative aspects of this practice, you will find this book fascinating and enlightening.

 

Looking for something similar? Try one of these books!

Cover of Free Spirit Growing Up on the Road and Off the Grid

Free Spirit: Growing Up on the Road and Off the Grid
by Joshua Safran
A mother and son head for the road to find a utopia they could call home

by Augusten Burroughs
 A memoir detailing the unusual childhood of a boy sent to live with his mother’s eccentric psychiatrist.

 

A Tale of Love and Darkness book coverA Tale of Love and Darkness
by Amos Oz
Chronicles the author’s childhood in 40’s and 50’s Jerusalem.
Trancendence healing and transformation through transcendental meditation book coverTranscendence: healing and transformation through transcendental meditation
by Norman E. Rosenthal
This book discusses the benefits of Transcendental Meditation through stories of both ordinary people and well-known artists.
A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel book coverA Girl Named Zippy
by Haven Kimmel
 A memoir about growing up in small town Indiana.

 

Book Discussion Questions: The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan

Title:The Girls of Atomic City
Author: Denise Kiernan
Page Count: 309 pages
Genre: World War II Nonfiction, History
Tone: Informative, Atmospheric

Summary:
The story of several women who worked in various positions at the Clinton Engineering Works in Oak Ridge, Tennessee during World War II to secretly make fuel for the atomic bomb.

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. Chapter one opens with women riding on a “train to nowhere”. What were some of the things made these women open to doing this? How hard was it on people to leave? Was it harder for some than others? What about those who had families?

2. How did secrecy affect the community at Oak Ridge?

3. How did privacy affect the community at Oak Ridge? How did the residents feel about the fact that anyone could be watching them or listening to them at any time? Was this different than the broader United States at that time?

4. How did the earlier residents of this area feel about their land being taken from them to use for this project (“the taking.”) How did this follow some of the other “land taking” they’d experienced, like the Great Smoky National Park and the Norris Dam? Did patriotism and the war effort affect this? If so, in what ways?

5. How were African Americans treated differently than the white Americans in Oak Ridge? How do you feel about this? (Hutment: 16’x16’ plywood box with a door and a shutter, heated by a potbellied stove, housing 4 women, for $6.50/person/month with no spouses. Whites had dorms for 2 people at $10/person/month. Also trailers, houses, etc where couples and families could live.) What other ways were African Americans discriminated against? Did they sacrifice more?

6. This was an untold story of WWII that the author has brought to light. The part women have played in history has often been overlooked. Why are these important to tell even years later? Have you read other books or seen movies that have told their stories? (Hidden Figures) Why do you think the book is called “The Girls of Atomic City” not women?

7. Before reading this book had you heard of some of the notable female scientists who worked with atomic physics? Have their contributions been given the same weight that males in that discipline have?

8. Lise Meitner played a large part in discovering atomic fission, but when she realized the application of this discovery she decided not to join the Manhattan Project? How do you feel about that?

9. Read these quotes from Albert Einstein and discuss how you feel about them?

He wrote to physicist Niels Bohr in December 1944, “when the war is over, then there will be in all countries a pursuit of secret war preparations with technological means which will lead inevitably to preventative wars and to destruction even more terrible than the present destruction of life.”
Einstein withheld public comment on the atomic bombing of Japan until a year afterward. A short article on the front page of the New York Times contained his view: “Prof. Albert Einstein… said that he was sure that President Roosevelt would have forbidden the atomic bombing of Hiroshima had he been alive and that it was probably carried out to end the Pacific war before Russia could participate.” (“Einstein Deplores Use of Atom Bomb”, New York Times, 8/19/46, pg. 1). Einstein later wrote, “I have always condemned the use of the atomic bomb against Japan.”
In November 1954, five months before his death, Einstein summarized his feelings about his role in the creation of the atomic bomb: “I made one great mistake in my life… when I signed the letter to President Roosevelt recommending that atom bombs be made; but there was some justification – the danger that the Germans would make them.” (http://www.doug-long.com/einstein.htm)

10. Do you think it was acceptable to hire people to work on this project without them knowing what it was that they were helping to make? Who do you think risked exposure to radiation? Any people stand out? (Those who carried the canisters to Los Alamos. Ebb Cade’s experimentation.) How did the statement, everything’s going in, nothings coming out play into this?

11. Talk about the “ordinary” people who worked on the bomb. Who stood out to you and why? What were their jobs? Who did you empathize with? Who were the “extraordinary” people involved in the project? What were their jobs? Did you feel you got to know them?

12. Talk about the physical characteristics of Oak Ridge? Why was it selected for Site X? How did the environmental conditions affect the residents of the town?

13. How did people try to bring a sense of normalcy to the structured and secretive life at Oak Ridge? Why do you think some were successful in adapting to Oak Ridge while others were not?

14. Was Kiernan successful in transporting you to the world of World War II? Why or why not? What things gave you that sense of time or the era? How did you feel about the way in which the book moved from the stories of the “ordinary people” to the stories about the scientists, generals and politicians involved in the highest level of the project?

15. How much did you know about The Manhattan Project before reading this book? Did you learn anything interesting about it you didn’t know before. (One example for me is just this past summer I saw the headquarters of the Bohemian Club in San Francisco, and I knew it was a private, all-male club, but I didn’t know it was involved with the Manhattan Project.)

16. How did WWI and WWII differ from previous wars and subsequent wars the US has been involved in? Are wars unifying or divisive for a country?

17. What did most Americans at that time feel about the war and the use of the atomic bombs? Has our thinking about this changed with time? Why or why not? What have been the ramifications of the atomic bomb and atomic energy, both positive and negative? Let’s talk about how the bombs were used. How were the targets chosen? What were the outcomes? How did the US try to lessen casualties? Hiroshima – August 6, 140,000 killed. Three days later Nagasaki – 40,000 killed. Five days later Japan surrendered.

18. There was a real sense that Americans trusted their government and military leaders and would follow them in this period of time. How is our world different today? Is something this huge, involving so many people, over so long a period of time, with such secrecy possible today? Is that a negative or a positive?

19. How many of you liked this book? How many disliked it? Reasons for or against? Would you have liked this better as a movie?

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

OTHER RESOURCES:

The Girls of Atomic City website
PBS feature “Women on a Top- Secret Mission in ‘Atomic City'”
Simon and Schuster Discussion Questions
The Manhattan Project: An Interactive History from the U.S. Department of Energy

READALIKES:

Our Mothers’ War
by Emily Yellin

Rise of the Rocket Girls
by Nathalia Holt

Hidden Figures
by Margot Lee Shetterly