September 30, 2009
Yesterday I talked about going into detail this week about the benefits of being in a mother-daughter book club. I wasn’t focused on these benefits when I started my own clubs eight and five years ago, but I definitely believe knowing them can convince others to start new mother-daughter book clubs. In my guidebook, Book by Book, I quote many moms in book clubs around the country and each has her own take about what she sees as being the most important reason she loves being in her book club. I found that many of these reasons can be grouped together in broader categories, and I’ve whittled those down to three. Today I’ll talk about the first one.
Reason #1 to be in a mother-daughter book club—It allows you to maintain a close relationship with your daughter. This is a big one, not only in importance, but in ways the benefits come out. When you spend time reading together, or reading separately but talking about the book before you attend book club, you carve out special time just for the two of you in your family. You say to your daughter, “Spending time with you is important to me, and I’m willing to get rid of all the distractions of daily life to focus on this right now.” You know what I mean about the distractions of daily life. Getting home from work, doing laundry, cooking dinner, driving to kids’ activities, keeping up with household paperwork. There is truly no end to the mundane tasks that can dominate a day and pull your attention away from true conversation.
I’m as guilty as anyone of only half listening sometimes as my daughters talk about their school days or homework or other things on their minds. And I know my daughters tune me out sometimes when I’m talking to them too. But I find that when we set aside time for our book, we both focus on each other. And that leads to conversation about issues that come up in the books. Which leads to conversations about issues they are dealing with themselves or that one of their friends has experienced.
I have found out so much about my daughters and their lives while discussing book club books. And it’s not always serious. Sometimes we laugh so hard at the words we’re reading that we have to put the book down until we recover. Sometimes we look things up that we read about so we can learn more about a topic. Sometimes we’re inspired to read more books by the same author. And sometimes we just agree that we don’t much care for what we’re reading.
Does this mean we have a perfect relationship with no arguments and in-depth conversations when we want them? That’s too much of a fairy tale story. But I do believe that the years we have spent in book club has given us so many great shared experiences that we are closer than we may otherwise be.
September 29, 2009
This morning I had the chance to speak about mother-daughter book clubs on a Portland television show, AM Northwest (click here to watch a clip). While prepping for the program, I was very focused on why moms and daughters want to be in book clubs together as well as the logistics of how to make it happen.
While there are probably as many reasons for being in a book club as there are moms and daughters in them (and I talk about quite a few of those reasons in Book by Book), after talking with club members all over the country I have found three overriding benefits:
- Mother-daughter book clubs can help you stay closer to your daughter.
- They provide a way to connect with the broader community around you.
- They help your daughter develop her literacy skills, which can lead to greater success in school.
Each day during the rest of this week, I’ll highlight a single benefit and discuss it in detail. As I talk about each benefit, it would be great if any of you in mother-daughter book clubs add your own comments about your own experiences and list other benefits you see from being in your club.
September 28, 2009
Once again the American Library Association is calling attention to books that are taken off of library shelves with Banned Book Week. One of my favorites on the top ten list from last year is the book series referred to as His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman. This includes The Golden Compass, The Subtle Kinfe and The Amber Spyglass. I’ve read these books to both my daughters and found them to be thought provoking and highly original.
On the Web site for Banned Books Week you can find information about books banned in certain years, or specific decades. You can also check a list of the most banned classics. Check out the ALA’s site to find which of your favorite books are on the lists.
September 25, 2009
Last night my book club moms went to hear Wally Lamb speak in Portland. As I mentioned in my last post, this was our first outing together since our daughters left for college and it fell good to mark their moving out with an event of our own. It also was fitting that while the three of us, Karen, Janelle and I were enjoying the presentation, our daughters Kirstin, Emily and Madeleine were having dinner on campus together.
I have not read any of Lamb’s books, although after hearing him speak they are now on my list. He read from all three of his books, She’s Come Undone, I Know This Much is True, and The Hour I First Believed. The audience loved him, and when he hinted that he may not have enough time to read from his latest book, the thousands in the audience let him know they didn’t mind if he went over.
Afterward, we went out for a late snack and a cocktail to toast this new phase in our book club. We still want to include the girls when we can, but it’s still good to know we’ve got each other.
September 24, 2009
Tonight is the first time the moms in my mother-daughter book club are getting together without our college daughters. We’re going to hear Wally Lamb, the author of I know This Much is True, The Hour I First Believed and She’s Come Undone, speak in downtown Portland. We’re all excited about the event, but a little nervous about it all coming together too. Three of our moms are helping their daughters settle into their college dorm rooms today, and they face a two hour drive back to Portland after they finish. Since Madeleine checked in early on Monday, I don’t have to worry about that. But I do wonder what the mood will be like in the group. Will Lamb be a welcome distraction and give us all something to focus on and talk about? Or will the sadness of leaving our daughters just a few hours earlier make it difficult for some of us to concentrate on anything else? One way or the other, we’ll be there supporting each other.
September 23, 2009
Courtney Condon is a junior who is suddenly facing a lot of issues. The school club she started a year ago for students committed to staying virgins until marriage is being taken over by a new girl who wants to ramp us the club’s profile and be more confrontational. Her mother won’t talk about sex, and she acts as though it’s the cause of all evil. To make things worse, Courtney finds her own resolve weakening as she becomes attracted to the cutest boy in school, who has a reputation as a “player.”
As she navigates the minefields all around her she turns to the “Big V,” her virginity, for advice, and she’s surprised to find it sometimes answers back. Courtney’s observations about the world around her are often laugh-out-loud funny. Reminiscent of Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging (Louise Rennison), Dear Big V by Ellen W. Leroe is for older girls who will appreciate the frank treatment of conflict between hormones and values.
The issues are definitely in your face, but the book provides a great forum for moms to talk with their high school daughters about important issues: premarital sex, appropriate behavior at school dances, sexual abuse, normal sexual feelings, dating, “good girls/bad girls,” seeing issues in black and white, and family rules. Fiction is a great way to address topics that have the potential to embarrass moms and daughters and inhibit frank discussions. Group conversation about these topics is also a great way to take the pulse of your daughter’s peers and other moms.
The author, Ellen W. Leroe, has developed some great discussion questions to go with Dear Big V that should be really helpful when discussing the book. Here they are;
- In the novel, Courtney talks to her Big V and the Big V sometimes answers her. Did this surprise you in a positive way, or prove distracting?
- Have you ever wished that you could speak to your virginity the way Courtney did? If so, what questions would you ask? Or perhaps you would like to communicate with another personality trait or quality about yourself in order to understand your behavior. What would that trait be, and why?
- Were the individual members of the Condon family fleshed out enough, and did their personal stories work to enhance Courtney’s problem with her mother?
- Did Maggie Condon, Court’s mom, seem realistic or was her stress about abstinence over-the-top?
- Was Courtney’s antagonistic relationship with Poe one you could believe? Did you identify with the clashes between the two girls, and if so, how? If not, why not?
- Mollie and Rob (“Roblie”) are depicted humorously throughout the book. Did that detract from the seriousness of their conflict whether to sleep with each other for the first time?
- Courtney strongly resents Lance “love ‘em and leave ‘em” Lindsey until she gets to know him better at Carlos Mesa’s party. Could you relate to her change of heart when she feels an unexpected physical attraction to him?
- Courtney sips beer at the party and dances closely with Lance, then later makes out with him in his car. How do you feel about her choices?
- Maggie Condon flips out when she catches Courtney dressed in provocative clothes, kissing Lance, and smelling of alcohol. Does this reaction ring true after you discover that Maggie Condon had been sexually molested by her uncle?
- Courtney and her mom are open in expressing their negative emotions during mother-daughter arguments. Can you see both sides to each character’s strong stand, and why mother and daughter feel the way they do?
- Many characters in Dear Big V keep secrets, one of the biggest being Maggie Condon’s abusive relationship with her uncle. What would have happened if Courtney’s mom had opened up to her family about her childhood sexual abuse at the beginning of the story, instead of keeping it hidden? Would that have changed Court and Cody’s reactions to their mother’s strict religious views?
- Courtney lies to her mother on certain occasions. Are any of these lies justified? If not, what would you have done in her place?
- Why is Courtney so angry when she learns that Mollie is planning to sleep with Rob on his birthday? And does her reaction change when she feels physically attracted to Lance?
- At the end of the book, Courtney is angered and hurt when Lance shows up with a number of girls for their date to Sadie’s dance. Yet she still is torn about staying with him as one of his dates. Did this indecision seem realistic?
- Do you think Court’s deciding to stay true to her values was a hard one for her to make? What decision would you have made in her place, and do you think she made the right choice in leaving with Mark to be with her mother?
- In the epilogue, Court and Andy resign from Donuts and Coffee when Poe takes it over. Was that a good choice on their parts, or should they have stayed in the club? If so, what actions would you have liked them to take to change Poe’s leadership?
- Discuss the way or ways Courtney changed at the end of the story. Who or what affected these changes the most, and why?
- Did the ending of the novel tie up all the loose ends, or were there still some questions left unanswered? If so, what were they?
- How did you come away feeling about the main characters (Courtney, Maggie Condon, Lance, Mark, Mollie, Poe)? Did all of them experience various degrees of growth or change, or only some? Did Courtney change the most after her experiences with Lance?
- What do you think the odds are that Courtney will start talking to her Big V again once she becomes romantically involved with Mark?
September 22, 2009
Yesterday I settled my daughter into her dorm room and helped her get ready for her first term of college. Theoretically I’ve known this day was coming since the day she was born, but way back then there seemed to be so much time between then and now that it was impossible to believe it would get here. Yet, there I was this morning hugging her in the dorm-room hallway and walking off knowing that I had done as much as I could to give her a good start on life. I know she’s afraid of truly being on her own for the first time, and I also know she’ll be just fine. She’s got so many exciting things to look forward to.
I attended a freshman parent reception last night, and it was interesting to see that many of us were looking for a lifeline in this new phase of life too. We’re a long way from organizing toddler play dates, and now we must learn to navigate this new phase of our lives in which we are not even remotely in control of or aware of what our children are doing most of the time.
So how were we coping last night? We were still doing what we’ve done all along, which is making connections with the parents of kids our kids will spend time with. I met and exchanged emails with the mom and dad of the girl next door to my daughter. I also connected with the parents of a boy in the same dorm, but on a different floor. I reconnected with a mom whose daughter graduated with mine. We expect to be part of each others’ support team in the coming months so we can all help each other through this big transition.
And what happens now to our mother-daughter book club? We’re still taking a wait and see approach. All the moms have purchased tickets to a literary speaker series that takes place over the course of the year. We’ll go to hear authors speak, then head out for dessert and discussion. But none of us knows yet what these times will be like without our daughters around. And we hope to get the whole group together twice a year, if we can swing it, when the girl are home from college.