Wednesday, June 23, 2010

SG ~ third set of DQs

1.  This is how Pearl sees emotional abuse.  Do you agree with her?
"People say you need to be strong, smart, and lucky to survive hard times, war, a natural disaster, or physical torture.  But I say emotional abuse — anxiety, fear, guilt, and degradation — is far worse and much harder to survive.  This is the first time that May and I have ever experienced anything like this, and it saps our energy" (p. 43)
2.  Pearl is a Dragon, and May is a Sheep.  Do you thik the two sisters are true to their birth signs in their actions in the novel?

3.  Which sister is smarter?  Which is more beautiful?

4.  Each sister believes that her parents loved the other sister more.  Who is right about this?  Why?

5.  How would you describe the relationship between Pearl and May?  How does the fact that both are, in a sense, Joy's mother affect their relationship toward each other?  Who loves Joy more and how does she show it?

6.  There are times when it seems like outside forces conspire against Pearl -- leaving China, working in the restaurant, not finding a job after the war, and taking care of Vern.  How much of what happens to Pearl is a product of her own choices?

NOTE:  Has everybuddy finished reading the book?  If so, go ahead and talk about the whole novel.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

SG ~ second set of questions

1.  What was it like for immigrant Chinese people at Angel Island (see actual photo above of women waiting for their hearings)?

2.  What were some of the hardships Pearl and May went through -- before, during, and after their stay on Angel Island?

3.  What were paper sons?  How did paper sons drive the storyline?

4.  What did you think of China City, the tourist attraction that was intended to look and feel like an "authentic" Chinese city?

5.  Why do you think nobody insisted that May take care of her own husband?

This is the Garnier Building, seen from the Los Angeles Street side, where Pearl and May lived when they first moved to Los Angeles.  The cars indicate the photo was probably taken in the late 1930s or early 1940s.  Today the Garnier Building is home to the Chinese American Museum.

Monday, June 14, 2010

House Rules - 4nd set of questions/answers

  1. Jacob cannot stand sudden loud noises, bright lights, etc. The prosecutor knows this and purposefully crumples paper at the end of her opening statement which has the expected effect of freaking Jacob out.
  2. Theo runs away to visit his father, hoping to have someone to talk to about all that is going on and his involvement in it. Before he can even say anything, his father offers him a quick fix by handing him money. This is so absurd even for a teenager that Theo bursts out laughing, probably thinking how wrong he was to come and how wrong he was to leave his mother, the only parent who ever cared about him. On the trip back Emma and Theo spend some much-needed alone time together.
  3. Even in families that are not broken by divorce, the father often is not involved in the day-to-day activities of raising children, so the line, "You’re either a father twenty-four/seven or not at all" is not true in my opinion, though it would be great if it were like that.
  4. After all is said and done - the fact that Jacob says he would do it all over again speaks volumes. He would endure all the emotions and trauma of court to have it come out favorably. But also by saying that, Jacob admits to not learning anything from the experience, that if only he had made it clear from the beginning what his involvement was, or if only he had called the police at the moment he found the body. But the "if onlys" would mean no trial, no story, no book, so just glad that all is well that ends well.

~posted by Susan of patchwork reflections

House Rules - 3nd set of questions/answers

  1. Jacob cannot stand hair hanging down loose, so in order to avoid a reaction, people who know this about Jacob will wear their hair up with a ponytail holder.
  2. The story is written from the perspective of several different characters - at first I liked this because I get see what everyone is thinking, like you said - from different perspectives - but then I found myself just reading through without looking at the title (person's name) of the chapter or section, and have to turn back to see who is talking now, so it is kind of distracting.
  3. Both Theo and Jacob do things to try to have a "real home" (mostly Theo, with his breaking into other people's homes to pretend he is part of their family). I think he wishes he had a normal brother, but most of all a father which would complete the family and make things more normal.
  4. Jacob says being on the other side of dead isn’t that different from having Asperger’s. He is at the time sitting beside (shoulder to shoulder) with the dear departed Jess. He is thinking that she has gone to another place, like he goes to another place when he is having a meltdown or just needs to space out to get away from all external stimuli.
  5. Mark is a suspect in the death of Jess, his girlfriend until Jacob is presented as a more likely suspect. That happens because Emma sees on the news where Jess is found, her body covered by Jacob's quilt. Maybe this is just hindsight, but I believe Emma should have questioned Jacob more before calling the police, should have asked him specific questions - she knows more than anyone else how to get information out of her son.
  6. Jacob obviously needs the accommodations provided to him by the school and court in order to be able to function in those settings, to put him on a more even playing field with everyone else. I think it is fair to request these special accommodations to allow the one with Asperger's to interact with his peers instead of just labeling them 'special ed' and isolating them.
  7. Jacob is taken to the police station and questioned, he has already been tricked into this Rich who told Jacob he needed some help solving old cases. Rich offers Jacob some old Halloween candy, but Jacob says it is not gluten-free, "Do you have any Skittles?" Luckily for Rich there are Skittles handy, so the questioning can proceed.

~posted by Susan of patchwork reflections

House Rules - 2nd set of questions/answers

  1. Tea bags are mentioned a few times in the story. Theo likes tea and he makes his mother, Emma, a cup of tea when she arrives home after leaving Jacob locked up in jail. This reminds Theo of the cup of tea he had at Jess's house the last time he saw her.

  2. I don't think Theo has it worse than Jacob, he will grow up and move out of the house and which will end the constant daily interaction with Jacob.

  3. Of course Emma loves both of her sons equally, but cannot give Theo as much attention as Jacob, obviously. I empathize with Emma, it would be great if she could spend more time with Theo, but she can only do so much…

  4. Krazy Glue is used to get fingerprints off of objects.

~posted by Susan of patchwork reflections

Friday, June 11, 2010

House Rules - 1st set of questions/answers

Hi all, Susan here - a newcomer to Book Buddies - thanks for welcoming me into your club! I am a follower of Bonnie's Books and when she posted about this online book club it sounded like fun and House Rules sounded very interesting. I got the book and read the first 1/4 per Bonnie's instructions. Then on to the questions - wow, just like in school, it's been a long time! The questions highlighted my lack of retention. (Note to self - look at questions before reading next time.) Okay, so this is still fun, I like the teacher - I mean Bonnie! - and here is my first set of answers:

  1. Jacob really hates the color orange, it stands for hazard or danger.

  2. In the opening scene, Jacob has been murdered because he stole the sneakers of his brother, Theo.

  3. Why would anyone want to be friends with kids who are nasty to anyone, especially people like Jacob (or me).

  4. Jacob's list of 12 things he can't stand are logical to a point, they are things that upset order, invade his space, over stimulate him, or are hurtful, but I am puzzled about even numbers - what is wrong with them? Let's see, things I can't stand - arguing, clutter, waiting.

  5. I like the five rules of the house, especially #1! Rules don't always work in every situation - there are always exceptions, which is something that has to be learned and probably hard for Jacob to rationalize.

  6. Emma works at home writing an advice column now, she used to be a textbook editor.

  7. Before becoming a lawyer, Oliver traveled around working as a farrier's apprentice.

  8. In the book, all Monday food is green, all Tuesday food is red, all Wednesday food is yellow. I don't know what Thursday is yet, but Friday is blue - I remember Theo saying (or thinking) that the only good thing about Friday food being blue is the blueberry pie. For the life of me I cannot think of another blue food! Eating by color sounds like fun at first, but after thinking about it, it might be hard to come up with some foods. Green is easy - beans, peas, lettuce, broccoli. Red - tomatoes, spaghetti sauce. Yellow - lemon pie, squash, corn. I am getting hungry now!

  9. Movie quotes: What we got here is a failure to communicate (Cool Hand Luke); You talkin' to me? (Taxi Driver); Snap out of it!(Moonstruck); Heeeeer's Johnny (The Shining); Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain (Wizard of Oz).

~posted by Susan of patchwork reflections

Saturday, June 5, 2010

SG ~ first set of questions

The Old Chinese City in Shanghai. by writersee.
The Old Chinese City in Shanghai

1.  We have a saying that "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me."  Yet Pearl felt very hurt by her father's words, near the beginning of the book.  When have you experienced something similar?
"This is another of my father's standard criticisms and one he picked up from Confucius, who wrote, 'An educated woman is a worthless woman.'  People calle me bookish, which even in 1937 is not considered a good thing.  But as smart as I am, I don't know how to protect myself from my father's words" (pp. 3-4).
2.  The novel begins with Pearl saying, “I am not a person of importance” (p. 3).  After Yen-yen dies, Pearl comments:  “Her funeral is small.  After all, she was not a person of importance, rather just a wife and mother” (p. 246).  How do you react to comments like these?

3.  These quotes from the first chapter show us a major cultural difference for most westerners today.  Try to imagine how you would feel if your father said this to you, and then the man you had a crush on (Z. G.) backs up what your father said.
Their father:  "I've arranged marriages for the two of you ... The ceremony will take place day after tomorrow" (p. 19).

Pearl:  "I'm to be sold -- traded like so many girls before me -- to help my family.  I feel so trapped and so helpless that I can hardly breathe" (p. 26).

Pearl:  "In the end, Z. G. says the one thing I didn't expect.  'You should marry the man.  He sounds like a good match, and you have a duty to your father.  When a girl, obey your father; when a wife, obey your husband; when a widow, obey your son.  We all know this is true" (p. 30).
Shanghai's Nanjing Road in the 1930s. by writersee.
Shanghai's Nanjing Road in the 1930s

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Bonnie's thoughts ~ Shanghai Girls

I have started reading Shanghai Girls by Lisa See, our book for June.  Already I have discovered, after 59 pages, that "beautiful girls" means something different from what I first thought.  Beautiful girls were models who posed for artists making posters and calendars to advertise something like the cigarettes in the retro poster above.  The two girls on the cover of the book were advertising bug spray, according to an NPR story, and that's the poster than inspired Lisa See to write a story about the characters Pearl and May Chin.  The original shows dead insects falling around them, which gives me a very different "feel" for the picture!