Poem for Halloween, Courtesy of A.E. Houseman

assorted pumpkins

Her Strong Enchantments Failing, by A. E. Houseman

Her strong enchantments failing,
 Her towers of fear in wreck,
Her limbecks dried of poisons
 And the knife at her neck, 

The Queen of air and darkness
 Begins to shrill and cry,
"O young man, O my slayer,
 To-morrow you shall die."

O Queen of air and darkness,
 I think 'tis truth you say,
And I shall die tomorrow;
 But you will die to-day.

Book Review: A Night in the Lonesome October

A Night in the Lonesome October was brought to my attention by io9, which has an excellent review of it here. Since I know we have both animal lovers and Lovecraftian horror people in our midst, I read it and I absolutely intend to add myself to the ranks of those who read it one chapter a day every October. It’s horror, not romance, although there’s a bit of a romance, sort of, and a lot of comedy.

The setting is a village outside of London in the late 19th century. Our narrator and sole point-of-view is Snuff, a dog. Snuff is the companion of a man named Jack. Jack suffers from a curse that makes him have to “do much of his work at night to keep worse things from happening.” Here’s Snuff on page one:

We are the keepers of several curses and our work is very important. I have to keep watch on the Thing in the Circle, the Thing in the Wardrobe, and the Thing in the Steamer Trunk-not to mention the Things in the Mirror. When they try to get out I raise particular hell with them. They are afraid of me. I do not know what I would do if they all tried to get out at the same time. It is good exercise, though, and I snarl a lot.

Snuff and Jack are players in The Game. We are dropped into The Game when it is already well underway, and the purpose and rules of the Game and its players gradually come into focus, some early on and some not until the very end. All of the human players have animal companions, and these companions are the focal points of the story. They are introduced little by little, but I think it fair to say that the characters, but not necessarily the players, are:

Jack and Snuff (a dog)

Crazy Jill and Graymalk (a cat)

The Vicar and Tekela (a albino raven)

Rastov the Mad Monk and Quicklime (a snake)

Morris and McCab and Nightwind (an owl)

The Count and Needle (a bat who is a Vampire Bat in the sense of the company he keeps but  Fruit Bat in the since that fruit is his preferred food)

The Good Doctor and Bubo (a rat)

Owen the Druid and Cheeter (a squirrel)

The Great Detective and a male human companion

Larry Talbot

The Good Doctor

The experiment man

Watching these characters emerge and play their roles with twists and turns and alliances and betrayals is remarkably delightful, especially since almost everything is revealed through the interactions of the non-human animals who make their own alliances. 

There are 31 chapters in the book, leading up to the 31st chapter in which All is Revealed. Thus the tradition of commencing the book on October 1 and reading one chapter a day until October 31. I was too impatient for that last year and I read the entire book in one day. Doubtless all first time readers will want to do the same. However, I rather look forward to this year, and to the slow unfolding of who is doing what and why, and the development of the pace and tone of the book as the chapters progress. Opening chapters are very short and generally humorous. Final chapters are longer and have more explicit, as opposed to implied, horror. 

While the animals are often in danger, no lasting harm comes to them. There’s a very scary chapter that animal lovers may wish to simply skip (October 23). The book develops a strange bittersweet poignancy as friendships between human and human (Jack and Jill are quite fond of each other) and animal and animal (Snuff and Graymalk become good friends). Because of the nature of The Game, people on opposing sides, such as Jack and Jill, can become close before they have to take serious antagonistic action – but it is well known that whoever loses The Game suffers.

I adored this book so much that it would qualify for Squee did it not have some outdated, offensive tropes. The word “Gypsies” is lavishly used, and they are not associated with the good guys. Snuff likes to hang out with them for the music. Also one villain and one hero cross-dress which may once have added to the general weird tone of the book but now just seems bewildering in a “what were they thinking?” way. No one ever makes much of it, it’s just there. The association of albino coloration with evil is also problematic, and there are only two female characters. The book was written in 1993 and while that seems like a million years ago one hopes that even back then we knew better.

I recommend this with reservation for animal lovers who are also fans of Lovecraftian-inspired horror and the Victorian horror classics. People who like a mystery with a slow build, very dry humor, and point-of-view characters who have a limited point of view may also enjoy this book. It can be hard to find but my library came through and Amazon has some copies.

Between the Lines Book Club: Copy Boy Discussion Questions

Our book club this month will be held over zoom (link pending) on October 24 at 10:30AM. We are reading Copy Boy, and will be joined by the author, Shelley Blanton-Stroud.

Here are some discussion questions (they can also be found in the back of the book):

  1. Scientists suggest that our experiences and those of our ancestors live on in our DNA, affecting our and our children’s health and behavior. Is that true for Jane? Can she escape biology? Can any of us?
  2. What influence does Daddy have on Jane? What explains the way she circumscribes her loyalty to him? How do you feel about their reconciliation and his disappearance afterward?
  3. What do you think about Momma after learning what happened when she delivered the twins at fifteen years old? Does this sufficiently explain the way she treats Jane? Should Jane continue to tie herself to such a parent? Why or why not?
  4. Jane says the voice in her head belongs to her dead brother, Benjamin. What do you think? How else can the voice be explained? How does this voice affect what she does and who she becomes?
  5. What do you think about Jane choosing to raise Elsie? What kind of mother would Jane make? Would it have been better to leave Elsie with Momma?
  6. Does Jane really have to pretend to be a boy to succeed? Could she have earned the same opportunities as a girl? Why or why not? Does any part of her situation seem familiar today, or does it live in the past?
  7. What do you expect a masculine character to do and be? What do you expect a feminine character to do and be? How do the characters in the novel match or diverge from these expectations?
  8. Jane becomes a skillful liar about her parents generally, the fight that sends her to San Francisco, and her very identity. These lies lead to her lifelong career success. What do you think about her lying habit and skill? How does it help her, and how might it hurt?
  9. Grete Wright crosses boundaries to make the best, most moving, most powerful photographs, arguing that facts are less necessary than truth. Are documentary photographs or stories more useful with or without artistic framing? What do you think about the relationship between fact and truth?
  10. Some characters in the book concern themselves with basic survival in a time of poverty and hunger. Others work for worldly success. How do they get what they want? What are they willing to discard to win? Is it necessary? Is it worthwhile?
  11. Vee may be the only character who risks herself solely on behalf of others, trying to report the death of the hungry man. How do you explain what makes one person altruistic when others focus only on protecting themselves and their family?
  12. The Okies living along the side of the road are generally despised and blamed for local problems. How might ongoing generations of such families feel about field-working migrants today, and why?
  13. Though the active story ends in 1937, we learn that Jane will write for many decades, becoming an iconic San Francisco gossip columnist. In what way is someone like Jane particularly suited to weather the decades in such a field? What do you imagine for the stories she writes under a different name?
  14. How are the lessons of 1930’s California applicable today?

October Events: Find me on Zoom!

Photo by GEORGE DESIPRIS on

October is a busy month! I have several events happening, so please join me on zoom for these fun events!

October 10, 1PM: Romance Book Club!

Our book this month is Strange Love, by Ann Aguirre. This club is sponsored by the Sacramento Public Library and facilitated by myself and librarian Brendle Wells. Click below for login information!

https://www.saclibrary.org/Event/Special-Events/Book-Clubs

October 17, 2PM: Trivia of Terror: The Weird Lives of Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, and H.P. Lovecraft

Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, and H.P. Lovecraft were not only the creators of some of the most famous horror stories ever. They were also eccentric people who lived scandalous and complicated lives. Join us to get all the dirt on who slept with who at the famous party that led to Frankenstein, why Poe kept writing about pale women with bloody faces, and why H.P. Lovecraft hated dogs. What did Shelley think of Lord Byron? What did Poe die of? And was Lovecraft actually a vampire? Find out in this presentation!

https://saclibrary.evanced.info/signup/EventDetails?eventid=346802

October 24, 2PM: Introduction to Tarot

In this hour, Tarot Consultant Carrie Sessarego will introduce you to the Tarot, a system of divination using symbols and archetypes. You’ll learn a little bit of history and the structure of the deck, and have access to a suggested reading list. We will cover a couple of layout ideas and make sure you leave with plenty of tips so that you can start your own tarot journey!

https://saclibrary.evanced.info/signup/EventDetails?eventid=346803

October 24: 10:30 AM: Between the Lines Book Club

Our book this month is Copy Boy, by Shelley Blanton-Stroud. The author will be joining us for this special book club! Zoom Link will be posted nearer to the book club date on my Friday Between the Lines Book Club posts.

Between the Lines Book Club: Copy Boy by Shelley Blanton-Stroud

Happy October, Book Clubbers! My daughter and my husband both have October birthdays plus we get super excited about Halloween, so it’s a busy time at our house.

Our book this month is Copy Boy, by Shelley Blanton-Stroud. Set in Sacramento, San Francisco, and other locations in California, this exciting novel follows the life of a girl who left the Dust Bowl of Oklahoma with her family and who reinvents herself as a boy, working for a newspaper in San Francisco.

We will be discussing the book via zoom on October 24 at 10:30AM. I’ll be posting a zoom invite closer to the date. Happy reading, and stay healthy!

Book Review: The Regency Years, by Robert Morrison

Here’s a short book review for my Regency Readers!

Historical romance fans, the Regency years were LIT. They were tumultuous and complicated, and they set the stage for so many ideas and values that we hold today. In The Regency Years: During Which Jane Austen Writes, Napoleon Fights, Byron Makes Love, and Britain Becomes Modern, author Robert Morrison makes the case that modern life started not with the Victorian Era but rather with the Regency, the period between 1811-1820 when Prince George ruled on behalf of his father, King George III.

This book is great at looking at different aspects of Regency life and breaking it down in a way that is accessible (not written in High Academinese) but also meticulous. Some chapters get a bit repetitive but for the most part they are informative and entertaining. Romance readers will be especially interested in the section on “Sexual Pastimes, Pleasures, and Perversities,” which addresses sexual mores including same-sex relationships. 

Morrison talks a great deal about women in society, politics, and the arts, but the book deals in wide scope rather than exhaustive detail about any one person or event. Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, and Maria Edgeworth get quite a bit of page time, especially Austen. This book name drops an incredible number of people, so I suspect that any reader who is also a Regency fan is going to be annoyed that their favorite person didn’t get enough attention. I was deeply annoyed with the lack of attention to Anne Radcliffe before I realized that most of her work, including The Mysteries of Udolpho, were written just prior to the Regency. So, I learned something today (and was forced to adjust this grade up accordingly!). If you know of a historical personage from the Regency Era, they probably appear in this book,

History nerds, I highly recommend this book. I’ve read a lot about the Regency but I still learned a great deal and I was entertained as well. On the other hand, if you pick it up looking for a lot of information about a specific person, place, or event, you probably won’t find it here given how quickly the author moves from topic to topic. This is a great overview that puts the Regency period into a broader historical perspective. If all these people could survive the Regency years, surely we can get through the rest of 2020!

Between the Lines Book Club: Discussion Questions

between the lines book club logoI hope all my Book Clubbers have been safely indoors, running their air conditioning and reading under a fan! We will have a Zoom meeting on Saturday, September 26, 2020, at 10:30AM to discuss An American Marriage by Tayari Jones.

Here are some discussion questions (pulled from Oprah’s Book Club and from Book Riot)

  1. Jones named her novel An American Marriage, a title which suggests this novel has something specific to say about marriage in America. What do you think this novel is saying about marriage? What makes the events of this novel specifically American?

2. For Celestial, it seems as if certain behaviors are expected of her as a woman and, even more specifically, as Black woman. What sort of expectations do we see her family and Roy place on her? Are these expectations fair? Do you agree with how she responded to them?

3. This story is told in three alternating perspectives: Celestial, Roy, and Andre. Was there a certain perspective you responded more positively towards? How do you think you would view these characters differently if the story was told only from Celestial’s point of view? Or Roy’s?

4. This novel’s pacing is interesting in that it focuses in on specific moments of time for an extended period, speeds through others through the exchange of letters, and skips over periods of time entirely to move on to the next important moment. Why do you think Jones chose the moments she did to write about in detail? What effect did the fast passage of time have on the narrative?

5. When Celestial asks Roy if he would have waited for her for more than five years, he doesn’t answer her question but reminds her that, as a woman, she would not have been imprisoned in the first place. Do you feel that his response is valid? Do you believe that he would have remained faithful if Celestial had been the one incarcerated? Does this really matter, and if so, why? 

6. You may not have noticed that Tayari Jones does not specify the race of the woman who accuses Roy of rape. How did you picture this woman? What difference does the race of this woman make in the way you understand the novel’s storyline? 

7. Andre insists that he doesn’t owe Roy an apology for the way his relationship with Celestial changed. Do you agree? Why or why not? 

8. There are two father figures in Roy’s life: Big Roy is the one who shepherded him into adulthood and helped him grow into a responsible, capable person, but Walter is the one who taught Roy how to survive. Do you feel these men deserve equal credit? If not, which was the more important figure in Roy’s life and why? 

9. When Roy is released from prison, he first goes to his childhood home and almost immediately makes a connection with Davina. Do you feel that given the tenuous relationship he has with Celestial—who is still legally his wife—he is cheating? Why or why not? And when Roy announces to Davina his intention to return to his wife, do you feel that her anger is justified? 

10. Roy is hurt when Celestial, in discussing her career as an artist, doesn’t mention him or the role he played in giving her the encouragement and freedom to follow her dreams, but Walter argues that she is justified in her silence. Do you agree? Do you think her silence is due to shame, or is she just being practical in how she presents herself to advance her career? 

11. It is obvious that Andre is different from Roy in many ways. Do you feel that he is a better match for Celestial? If so, why? Also, why do you think Celestial and Andre decide against formally marrying? Do you think that as a couple they will be good and nurturing parents? Do you feel that as a couple, they will be better at parenting than Celestial and Roy would have been? If so, why? 

12. Toward the end of the novel, Celestial does a complete about-face and returns to Roy. What do you think her emotions were in coming to that decision? Do you feel that it was the right decision?

13. There are so many beautiful insights about love and the nature of love in this novel. For instance, Jones writes, “Love is the enemy of sound judgment, and occasionally this is in service of the good.” Do you agree with this sentiment? How does love affect characters’ decisions in this novel?

14. How did you feel about the ending of this novel? Was it hopeful at all? Did you want things to turn out differently for these characters, and if so, how? Would the marriage have survived if Roy had not gone to jail?

For more reading, compare this book to James Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk. Also read The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander

A Poem For September

Words of wisdom from Walt Whitman, or, as fans of Dead Poet’s Society call him, Uncle Walt. Life is still happening, we are still here – and we still may contribute a verse.

O Me! O Life!

BY WALT WHITMAN

Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?

  Answer.
That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

Between the Lines Book Club: An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

between the lines book club logoHello Dear Book Clubbers! Our September selection is An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones. Here is the info for the zoom meeting, which will be held on Sept 26 at 10:30AM:

Carrie Sessarego is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Between the Lines Book Club

Join Zoom Meeting
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/4630495746?pwd=MWNjYm55Mkg5Z1NwRjZsSDhzVE9HQT09

Meeting ID: 463 049 5746
Passcode: 423652

Meeting ID: 463 049 5746
Passcode: 423652

An American Marriage is about the repercussions on a family when the husband is sentenced to prison for a crime he did not commit. For more on this topic, try reading If Beale Street Could Talk, a novel by James Baldwin, or see the movie of the same name. You might also read the non-fiction book The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander!

Book Review: The Bone Shard Daughter, by Andrea Stewart

It’s September, readers, and I still haven’t taken the time to play with this new WordPress system, but I HAVE been writing book reviews! Every now and then I write a review for Smart Bitches, Trashy Books that doesn’t work for them because of scheduling issues or because the book doesn’t match our audience. Here’s one of those reviews to get you started with your September reading! The book comes out on September 8, 2020.

The Bone Shard Daughter promised and delivered an #OwnVoices, Asian-based fantasy with a f/f romance. It also promised, as stated in the press release, “a talking aquatic kitten.” It delivered. However, I was too distracted by the promise of an aquatic kitten to notice in advance that this is grimdark fantasy, and full of triggers. I was not prepared for the large amount of child abuse and death, ableism, and incest.

We follow three main characters in alternating chapters and learn about the world and the conflicts as they go about their business:

  • Lin is the daughter in the title, the daughter of the Emperor of the Phoenix Empire. Lin is determined to overthrow her father since he spends all his time building constructs (more on constructs later) and does not rule the kingdom effectively. Also he’s just generally an asshole. 
  • Jovis is a smuggler who has spent years searching for his true love who was kidnapped by an unknown person. Through a complicated series of events he winds up with the talking ocean kitty, Mephi. He does not want to join a rebellion; he just wants to find his girlfriend. I’m sure you can guess where that’s going.
  • Phalue is the daughter of a governor and is in love with Ramani. Ramani is a fisherwoman and a rebel who wants Phalue to join the rebellion. These two women have an established relationship and their problems are related to politics, class, and family loyalty. While this kingdom has many problems, apparently (and refreshingly) homophobia is not one of them. They have the only romance in the book.

The Emperor rules by using “constructs.” These constructs start off as animals that are grown? Engineered? I didn’t understand. They are organic, not automatons and they are usually hybrid (for instance, there’s a spy construct that is part crow and part fox). There’s no explanation of how any of this works, either in terms of how they are created or in terms of how they live. Are they, technically, alive? Does what happens to them count as animal abuse? My husband and I interpreted this differently – I thought of the constructs as engineered animals with feelings despite what I must admit is a glaring lack of evidence, and my husband say them as non-sentient. Regardless, I loathed this idea with every fiber of my being, people, and it gets worse because…

GROSSGROSSSGROSS

….Every child in the kingdom has a piece of bone removed from their skull. Most, but not all, survive the operation, which is carried out without anaesthetic as part of a public ritual.

 The Emperor carves instructions on the bone shards and reaches into the constructs (this involves magic) and just shoves the shards right into their bodies. Lin’s quest for power involves reprogramming as many of her father’s constructs as possible. To me this process seemed like animal abuse. At least some of the constructs appear to be at least as aware and intelligent as a dog or cat and several use language and the whole thing just squicked me the hell out and that’s before we get to the reveal that there are human constructs who work as slaves.

CLEARLY this book is better suited for grimdark fantasy fans than for me. I’m just here for the mercat! As far as recommending this book to grimdark fans, it’s a mixed bag. The actual plot is pretty basic and predictable – Lin tries to win her dad’s approval and, failing that, to depose him, Jovis and Phalue try (separately) to avoid becoming freedom fighters, and we wait for Book 2. 

This might be too simplistic for some grimdark fans, and there’s a lot of optimism in the story so maybe it’s not so much “grimdark” as it’s “slightlyseriousdark.” It also depends big time on “because magic” as an explanation for things as opposed to dealing with the practical ramifications of, for instance, creating animal hybrids. This is a big mileage-will-vary thing – some people have no problem with aspects that drove me up the wall. Just know that that’s how this book works.

The exploration of the world from different geographical and class perspectives is interesting, and everything is laid out skillfully without giant infodumps. I kept wanting to know what would happen next, which is quite an accomplishment for a book that consists entirely of setting all the pieces on the board (this is very much an “intro to the series” book). Even though the plot is predictable, there were certain revelations that weren’t, and that added to the suspense. It’s very refreshing to see a fantasy story that isn’t set in a quasi?-European background, and the debates about ethics and privilege are certainly relevant. 

As with most series, it’s hard to recommend this one without knowing how things will wrap up eventually. However, I know that many of our readers are very triggered by animal abuse and I interpreted the making of and controlling of constructs as abusive. The book is undeniably good at creating a horrific situation, one in which the lives of an Empire’s subjects are drained literally (using a bone shard slowly drains life from the person it came from) and figuratively (most of the Empire’s subjects are worried about future invasion from another force and live in poverty). It’s concerns are all too relevant.

Should you read this book, do so knowing that it has a lot of triggers and ends on a cliffhanger. It also has islands and smugglers in boats and a talking aquatic cat, all of which are excellent things. There’s an actual cave hideout. There’s a lot of great sounding food. And even though I realized very early that I would not enjoy reading this book, I could not stop. This book is the first in the “Drowning Empire” series.

War and Peace Challenge

My book clubbers inspired me to participate in a two-fer of challenges. The War and Peace Covid Challenge asks – can you read War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy, from start to finish prior to the end of the quarantine? The War and Peace in a Year Challenge asks: Can you finish War in Peace in a year by reading one chapter a day? I’m doing War and Peace in a year, but occasionally reading multiple chapters in a day so hopefully I’ll finish a bit ahead.

I’m finding the book to be surprisingly easy reading, and very gripping! The biggest challenge is keeping the characters straight and keeping momentum since every time the point of view character changes I have to shift interest to a new plot line and set of characters.

As of this writing (and I write these posts a couple of weeks ahead of time) I’m on chapter 87! If you want to join me, here are some resources:

Brian E. Denton’s meditations on each chapter

There’s No Better Time to Read War and Peace

Tolstoy Together

War and Peace: The Ten Things You Need to Know

The Guardian says that War and Peace has the worst first line of any novel. The line is “Well, Prince, Genoa and Lucca are now no more than private estates of the Bonaparte family.”

What do you think of this line – and are you inspired to tackle the novel?

Between the Lines Book Club: From Protest to Resistance

Dear Book Clubbers, we have been discussing the book From Protest to Resistance by Lilli Segal. Tomorrow (August 22, 2020) at 10:30 AM we will be meeting via zoom to talk about the book and hear from Margo Kaufman, the book’s translator and Lilli Segal’s niece. 

Here is the zoom info for Between the Lines Book Club. Please join us!

Join Zoom Meeting https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86962766383

Meeting ID: 869 6276 6383 One tap mobile

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Dial by your location +1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose)

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Meeting ID: 869 6276 6383

Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kbsawOZKmv

In other news, the Sacramento Public Library is also hosting the Quarantainment Adult Book Club. Here’s the information!

Quarantainment Adult Book Group

Date: Saturday, September 5 

Time:  11am-12pm

Book: Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adeji-Brenyah

The Adult Book Group invites you to escape your home through the pages of a good book. The September selection is Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adeji-Brenyah. At first glance, this powerful debut collection of short stories might register as speculative fiction, but current headlines umasking racism, injustice, consumerism, and senseless violence prove to be clear inspirations. This is invigorating writing in the tradition of Colson Whitehead or Marlon James that will grab you and haunt you long after you close the book.

Join Zoom Meeting

https://zoom.us/j/91503402657?pwd=amxTRTByblBsZVpEZ0NlSjJTbXFSUT09

Meeting ID: 915 0340 2657
Passcode: 776318

One tap mobile
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+13462487799,,91503402657# US (Houston)

Dial by your location
+1 669 900 9128 US (San Jose)

A Quick Tarot Thought for a Busy Month

The Eight of Wands signifies that an abundance of opportunities are coming your way. Here it is – see how exciting!

It’s a sign of my lack of confidence and my lack of energy due to chronic health problems that my response this card is almost never “Hooray!” Instead, I always feel a need to duck. to me, this card looks like too much. I just want to take a nap on the chairs in the audience while this card says, “Get out there and BE A STAR!”

This card suggests that I need to grab my chances while I have them and nap later. On the other hand, the ten of wands says that we can’t really seize the opportunities we most want if our mental and physical lives are full of clutter. Here’s the ten of wands:

This card says that you are holding on to so much that you are about to drop everything. To switch metaphors, this card says that you have “too many balls in the air.” What can you put down?

The end of summer tends to bring a lot of new opportunities at work, with school, with politics, with family…even with Covid throwing everyone off rhythm I think this will continue to be true albeit in some different ways in 2020.

Planning 101 suggests that we start by thinking about priorities. What opportunities matter the most to us? What goals and tasks can we drop? For people with chronic illness, every day has to have a tier. For me, pre-Covid, my top priorities were to get my daughter to and from school safely and to make sure everyone in my house was fed, even if not by me (I’m blessed to have a teen who likes to cook). Now? I’m not sure. So I’ll be trying to put some thought into that and into what wands I can put down during a time period when everyone, especially parents, has a lot of pressure to pick more wands (emotional, physical, and logistical) up. What are you setting down?

From Protest to Resistance: Discussion Questions

Hello Book Clubbers! We will be meeting over zoom at 10:30AM on August 22. Our Book is From Protest to Resistance, by Lilli Segal.

Here are some discussion questions:

  1. How does Lilli’s personality as a child foreshadow her decisions as an adult?
  2. Why is Lilli’s family so slow to realize the danger they are in? Why does her father kill himself?
  3. What is Lilli’s motivation for working for the Resistance? Were you surprised that she kept her Resistance work going even after having a child?
  4. How does Lilli keep her spirits up in Fresnel Prison? What character traits do she and other prisoners display that help them stay resilient?
  5. Lilli is enraged at a guard who says that he only beats her because of orders. Why is that “the worst part of the whole business?” (157)
  6. How are Lilli’s coping skills in Auschwitz similar and different from the ones in Fresnel? How do personal relationships affect morale and survival throughout the story?
  7. The Germans pit different groups against one another in the camp to keep them from allying against their captors. Where has this tactic been used in other books we’ve read? How have you seen it play out during your own lifetime?
  8. Some people meet Anni and Lilli with kindness, some with rejection, some with hostility. Why do they react in the ways they do? What do you think you would do?
  9. Were you surprised that Lilli and Jascha ended up (at the end of the book) happily in East Germany? Why or why not?
  10. What lessons, if any, did you learn from the book?
  11. Why are memoirs like this important?

Here is an interview our book club member and book translator, Margo, gave to Insight on NPR!