Book Clubs or Reading Groups Questions for Discussion
- What was your response to Alligator Lake? What did you like best about it?
- Willadean, Marion, Avery and Celi are four generations of mothers and daughters who often don’t understand each other. Discuss how they succeed and fail to meet each others’ needs. Is it inevitable that a mother will fail her daughter at some point?
- Henry Johnson and his grand-nephew Aaron Monroe live very different lives. Discuss those differences and the factors that make Henry’s so tragic and Aaron’s so hopeful.
- When even one drop of so-called black blood meant that the society considered you black, there were those of mixed race who “passed” as white. Discuss what would tempt someone to choose that path, and the dangers and sacrifices involved. Can you think of other stories (novels, poems, plays, movies) that explore that experience? Or maybe you know of someone who passed…
- Sickle cell disease has haunted the Johnson/Monroe family. Has your family, or a family you know, been marked by a recurring ailment? How has that affected the entire family? Has modern medicine changed the situation?
- When Avery and Aaron fall in love in 1990, mixed-race relationships are still taboo in Mississippi. What about where you lived then? What about now?
- Willadean has defied social convention all her life. Do you know anyone like her? Do such people end up changing the rules?
- Marion doesn’t intend to hurt blacks, she just wants to fit in. Do you sympathize with her? Have you ever behaved in ways that left you feeling uneasy, but you did it because you were told to, the rules said you should, or you wanted to “fit it”?
- Avery thinks she does the right thing when she leaves Mississippi, becomes financially independent, and raises her mixed-race daughter in a more welcoming environment. But what mistakes does she make? What would you do in her shoes?
- Compare Lynne Bryant’s depiction of the Deep South with other depictions in literature. You might consider Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, William Faulkner’s novels, and Eudora Welty’s short stories. How about To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee or Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston? Can you think of others?
- What do you want to happen to the characters after the book ends? Should Avery and Celi move to Greendale?
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