Discussion Questions for NOLA Gals
The following questions have been suggested by students from The Academy of the Sacred Heart and the Beverly Hills Academy. Oh, and a few by the author, too! Thanks!
- Grace and Essence are influenced for the better and helped through tough situations by the lessons they learn from reading To Kill a Mockingbird. What books have you read that have had a powerful influence on you? How? Be specific. Make a list of five books you would recommend to readers and why.
- The author says at first Mockingbird was only a mention as required summer reading for Grace, but eventually the classic novel became a vehicle for one of the major themes in NOLA Gals. Who are the “ghosts” in both books? Does the same racial prejudice exist today in our country? Give specific examples.
- Trace the references to Mockingbird in the novel. What do they add to the novel and its theme?
- Write a letter to Harper Lee about NOLA Gals. Should she read the book? Why?
- Readers have suggested a sequel. What do you think a sequel should deal with? Themes? Characters?
- Readers have also suggested the book be adapted into a play. What problems do you see in trying to get the book to the stage? What changes would have to be made in the structure? Would any characters need to be left out or added? Choose one section of the book and rewrite it as a play.
- The extended metaphor on page 21 which describes Katrina as an angry teenager was controversial, some critics saying it should be dropped as kids wouldn’t appreciate reading it and be bored. What do you think? Do adults know what kids like to read? Do the adults in NOLA Gals always know what the kids think or do? Give examples from the book and real life. Why is Katrina angry?
- The author uses the technique of juxtaposition to relate powerful themes to the reader. She also wants readers to work and think as they read to fit the pieces of the puzzle together for themselves. Give examples of juxtaposition in the overall structure of the book and in particular the cocktail party/school dance passage.
- How does the author use specific detail to introduce the characters in the first few chapters? How does the detail add to the juxtaposition? How does the research process add to the detail? Look at the long source list at the end of the book and choose one listing you’d like to follow up on.
- How is music important to the girls? How do their tastes reflect the themes and add detail? One reader said the book has a soundtrack. Again check the source list and find some tunes listed and take a listen. If this book were about you, what music would be your soundtrack?
- Why did the publisher decide to use different fonts for the characters? Do you think it is an effective technique? Why?
- George and Idol are important characters. Why? Do you think it was fair for officials to issue the “no pets allowed” rule for the hurricane evacuation? What would you have done? Would you have liked to volunteer to work at the pet rescue mission in Mississippi?
- The author writes from multiple points of view in the book, from adults to teens, to little children. What adaptations did she make for each different voice in style, vocabulary, grammar, etc.?
- Is the ending of the book too easy? Some readers think it should end with a twist, a new disaster. How does this ending open the way for a sequel?
- How could a Catholic school girl get pregnant? Isn’t that against the code and rules they live by at the school?
- What made Grace change her behavior so much after meeting Essence? She had resisted cleaning up her act before even after being forced to change schools. Who were the major influences or role models for both girls? What forces drove the change? Did divorce affect Lindsey? Did Harold help or harm Essence? How did the loss of Mimmi change Essence? Will Mama and Harold stay together?
- Why was Mimmi so stubborn? Why did she think she knew everything? Would you have stayed in the old house with her as the hurricane approached? What options did you have?
- Who is your favorite character? Who would you like to hang out with? Where would you go if they came to your town? What movie would they like to see?
- What character is most like you? Why?
- How does the author use flashbacks to tell the story? For instance, the reader doesn’t learn how the girls were rescued from the house until they are in the Dome. Is this an effective technique? Give other examples in the book.
Please feel free to add any other questions you think are worth discussing in the blog on this website.