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Core Novel Book Club

Book Clubs
In addition to the literature units that we will be studying together as a
class, you will be required to select and read one of the following novels
with a book club group: The God of Small Things, Things Fall Apart,
Wuthering Heights, or The Poisonwood Bible.
Book clubs will meet on a regular basis to discuss the chapters and pages
that have been read; participate in mini-lessons on the novel; select and
complete a creative project and write an short (500 word) analysis paper.
Group members will switch roles each week so that each group member
will get the opportunity to perform each role. While each group member
will be an expert based on the role he or she is assigned, the book club
discussion should be a forum where all group members openly share
ideas, observations, and interpretations based on the material read. You
should not merely go around the circle and read the information off your
role sheets. Your role sheets need to be typed and brought to class on the
specified book club dates.
Book Summaries (from
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
The story of the tragic decline of an Indian family whose members suffer
the terrible consequences of forbidden love, The God of Small Things is
set in the state of Kerala, on the southernmost tip of India. Armed only
with the invincible innocence of children, the twins Rahel and Esthappen
fashion a childhood for themselves in the shade of the wreck that is their
family -- their lonely, lovely mother, Ammu (who loves by night the man
her children love by day), their blind grandmother, Mammachi (who plays
Handel on her violin), their beloved uncle Chacko (Rhodes scholar, pickle
baron, radical Marxist, bottom-pincher), their enemy, Baby Kochamma
(ex-nun and incumbent grandaunt), and the ghost of an imperial
entomologist's moth (with unusually dense dorsal tufts).
When their English cousin and her mother arrive on a Christmas visit, the
twins learn that Things Can Change in a Day. That lives can twist into new,
ugly shapes, even cease forever. The brilliantly plotted story uncoils with
an agonizing sense of foreboding and inevitability. Yet nothing prepares
you for what lies at the heart of it.

K. Ristok
Core Novel Book Club

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Things Fall Apart tells two intertwining stories, both centering on
Okonkwo, a “strong man” of an Ibo village in Nigeria. The first, a powerful
fable of the immemorial conflict between the individual and society,
traces Okonkwo’s fall from grace with the tribal world. The second, as
modern as the first is ancient, concerns the clash of cultures and the
destruction of Okonkwo's world with the arrival of aggressive European
missionaries. These perfectly harmonized twin dramas are informed by an
awareness capable of encompassing at once the life of nature, human
history, and the mysterious compulsions of the soul.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Many people, generally those who have never read the book, consider
Wuthering Heights to be a straightforward, if intense, love story — Romeo
and Juliet on the Yorkshire Moors. But this is a mistake. Really the story is
one of revenge. It follows the life of Heathcliff, a mysterious gypsy-like
person, from childhood (about seven years old) to his death in his late
thirties. Heathcliff rises in his adopted family and then is reduced to the
status of a servant, running away when the young woman he loves
decides to marry another. He returns later, rich and educated, and sets
about gaining his revenge on the two families that he believed ruined his
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of
Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and
mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything
they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it—from
garden seeds to Scripture—is calamitously transformed on African soil.
What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family's tragic undoing and
remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in
postcolonial Africa.

K. Ristok
Core Novel Book Club

A short literary essay (500 words) on a topic of your choice related to one
of the following critical lenses:

A creative project, chosen from a list of possible approaches.
Discussion: contribution to discussion and preparation for discussion.

K. Ristok
Core Novel Book Club

Role Descriptions
1. Moderator: Your job for this role is to keep the group focused and
engaged in the discussion. If the discussion stalls, your job is to
jump start it by asking open-ended questions. To get the discussion
going, you should have a list of at least 5 open-ended
questions based on the chapters/pages that you have read (to be
submitted to the teacher at the end of the meeting).
2. Historian: In order to better understand a literary work, it is quite
often helpful to think about the historical and cultural background of
the literary work’s author and setting. Your job for this role is to
make at least 5 observations and inferences bout the
historical and/or cultural background of the novel. What
historical allusions are made? What is the significance of these
allusions? What cultural beliefs are expressed? How do cultural
beliefs affect the point of view, characters etc.? What cultural
conflicts exist? Type those up and submit to the teacher at the end
of the meeting.
3. Psychologist: Your job for this role is to pay close attention to what
the characters say and do and make inferences regarding how their
minds work, what motivates them, and what shapes their points of
view. Write a “psychological profile” for one significant
character from the chapters/pages that you have read, providing
direct references from the text to support your inferences (to be
submitted to the teacher at the end of the meeting).
4. Philosopher: Your job for this role is to pay close attention to the
themes hinted at in the chapters/pages that you have read. Focus
on 2-3 themes, providing at least 3 direct references from
the text for each theme. Write a paragraph-long commentary
explaining how the direct references illustrate the theme.
5. Connector: Your job for this role is to make at least 5 connections
to the chapters/pages that you have read. These connections must
be a combination of text-to-text and text-to-world. For each
connection, cite the passage to which you are making the
connection, and explain the connection (to be submitted to the
teacher at the end of the meeting).

K. Ristok
Core Novel Book Club
6. Literary critic: Your job is to bring a critical lens (Feminist,
Archetypal, Freudian, Marxist or Post-colonial) into the discussion of
the section of the text. It is up to you which criticism you want to
focus on based on the content of the section of the novel or the
novel’s issues overall. In order to prepare for your role in the book
club, be sure to formulate a mini-thesis and provide 2-3 points
with 2 proofs for each of your points. Think of this as an oral
7. Illustrator: Your job for this role is to metaphorically illustrate a
significant event, a significant quote etc. with a visual object.
This may be an originally created drawing, sketch, sculpture etc. or
a collection of everyday items that metaphorically illustrate those
above (e.g. if a character had a backpack, what would it contain and
why?). The visual illustration must have a page-long explanation of
the significance of the event/quote and how/why you chose to
illustrate it the way you did.