Leanne Lieberman
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS FOR GRAVITY

Who was the most interesting character in Gravity? Why?

Would this book be different if it was set in a different religion?

Were you disappointed the relationship between Ellie and Lindsay didn't work out?

How realistic was the rabbi's visit to the house? (My father claims no rabbi would ever un-invite anyone from their congregation. I told him that I specifically made it vague, that it's Abba that suggests Ima pray somewhere else.)

Did you think the Bubbie was disrespectful to her daughter and her religion and actively subversive, or do you think she was just trying to support her granddaughters? (I know one woman who has two sons, one a very orthodox Jew and the other gay who is not religious. She tries to be supportive of both her sons and their families and she was outraged by the Bubbie. She thought she was really disrespectful.)

Do you think Neshama will ever return to the family fold?

Do you think the Gold family is hopelessly dysfunctional or is there possibility for harmony? 

What do you think will happen when Ellie eventually comes out to her family? (Let me tell you, I know, and it's not pretty.)

Although I am Jewish I am not from an orthodox background and I'm not gay. Do you think its right for a straight woman to represent gay people, or am I "appropriating the voice" of a group of people who have faced discrimination for centuries? (One gay woman's response to this question was, "Um, men have been writing about women for generations.")

I've read some female orthodox Jewish theorists that claim Orthodox Judaism is "post feminist." By this they mean that orthodoxy celebrates women for their roles as mothers and wives, by celebrating their monthly, yearly and life cycles, and doesn't view them as sexual objects. This isn't to say that orthodox women don't work outside the home or have interesting careers, but by dressing modestly and not engaging in the dating "meat market" it protects women and values them. These theorists call Orthodox Judaism "post feminist" because they believe feminism allows for male irresponsibility.  What do you think? Can you see any value in this? (Personally, I consider myself a feminist and I feel valued as a mother, wife, teacher and writer. However, I can totally see how easily it would not to have this balance in your life- (marital infidelity, lack of maternity leave, inability to work and mother part-time) and how attractive the orthodox world with its spiritual dimensions could be.
BOOK CLUBS

I love to do book clubs. If you’re not in the Kingston area, I’d be happy to do a book club visit on Skype.  Please email me to set up a time.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS FOR 
“LAUREN YANOFSKY HATES THE HOLOCAUST”

Was Lauren right to turn in the boys’ armbands? Should she have done so right away, or do you think she was over-reacting? Also, what do you think of the school’s decision to suspend the boys? Did they over-react? What if the boys were just playing a war game and really didn’t think anything of the Nazis? If the boys were playing cowboys and Indians or hunting terrorists would that make it more or less offensive to you? What if they were playing a game that involved hunting down your particular race/religion/gender or ethnic group? Would you feel differently?

How should Lauren have helped Brooke? Was there anything she could have done differently to reach out to her? The book doesn’t offer a conclusion to Lauren and Brooke’s friendship. What do you think happens to the two girls?

Lauren does not believe that everyone needs to know about the Holocaust, or learn about tolerance from this particular example. What do you think, does everyone need to learn about the Holocaust? Can we teach tolerance through other examples of genocide, or can we do away with genocide as an educational tool, and teach through more peaceful examples? Also, how important should the Holocaust be in Jewish education? 

Was the Armenian genocide new to you? Do you feel different about the killing of Jews (and others) during World War Two being called “the Holocaust” now that you know it’s not the only or original tragedy of fire? 

Lauren feels that Jews have cornered the market on suffering and that the insistence on a victim mentality is detrimental to Jewish identity, or to anyone’s identity. What do you think about this? What about Lauren’s belief that the Jewish insistence on being seen as victims allows them to do as they please in Israel? Many people are critical of this version of politics and history and call for Jews and Israel to rise above this way of thinking, and to end the cycle of violence in Palestine. Other people believe the Jewish history of oppression is crucial to being a Jew. What do you think?

Lauren comes for an affluent family – she goes to summer camp, lives in a large and beautiful house and gets taken on trips to distant locations. Do you think this reinforces uncomfortable stereotypes about Jews being wealthy, or is just a portrait of one type of Jewish family among many others? 

Brooke doesn’t want to attend a session about Holocaust education because some of her grandparents were German and it makes her feel uncomfortable. What role do you think second or third generation Germans have in Holocaust education? Can you relate to how Brooke feels? Have you ever been in a position where your culture/religion or other group has embarrassed you? What role do you think people have in a situation where their predecessors have committed crimes, or misbehaved?

Do you think Lauren’s mom had unrealistic expectations for her Zach’s bar mitzvah, or did you empathize with her desire for her son to have the same rite of passage of other children?

Recently Canada has announced plans for a new memorial in the capital, Ottawa. Lauren Yanofsky can’t understand why there needs to be a memorial. She thinks there’s already lots of memorials world-wide and that tax money could be spent on much better things, like soccer fields or climate change research. When she’s feeling chipper she feels concerned that other groups that were killed by the Holocaust be represented in the memorial.  When she’s not feeling chipper, she wonders why the Rawandans and the Armenians aren’t also getting memorials. And, what about the decimation of our Native peoples?  Lauren obviously has some very strong feelings about the Holocaust, yet there are certainly Holocaust survivors and children of Holocaust survivors, as well as others, who strongly disagree and think Lauren is really insensitive. What do you think?
Here are some sample book club questions to get you going...