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?

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