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CANCELED - Shoreline Social Justice Book Discussion
- Date: 02/10/2019 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
- Location: Council Chamber at Shoreline City Hall
17500 Midvale Ave N
Shoreline, Washington 98133
FEB. 10TH SESSION CANCELLED DUE TO INCLEMENT WEATHER FORECAST - APOLOGIES FOR ANY INCONVENIENCE
The Shoreline Social Justice Book (SSJB) group is a rich opportunity to meet neighbors and build community by reading and discussing books written from diverse perspectives. Books selected focus on the experiences of people of color, LGBTQ, people with disabilities, and other marginalized groups, as well as social issues such as immigration and poverty. Provided in partnership by the City of Shoreline and the Shoreline Library.
Contact Suni Tolton, Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-801-2256 with any questions.
February's book selection is The Leavers by Lisa Ko, winner of the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Fiction, awarded by Barbara Kingsolver for a novel that addresses issues of social justice. One morning, Deming Guo’s mother, Polly, an undocumented Chinese immigrant, goes to her job at a nail salon—and never comes home. No one can find any trace of her. With his mother gone, eleven-year-old Deming is left mystified and bereft. Eventually adopted by a pair of well-meaning white professors, Deming is moved from the Bronx to a small town upstate and renamed Daniel Wilkinson. But far from all he’s ever known, Daniel struggles to reconcile his adoptive parents’ desire that he assimilate with his memories of his mother and the community he left behind.
Told from the perspective of both Daniel—as he grows into a directionless young man—and Polly, Ko’s novel gives us one of fiction’s most singular mothers. Loving and selfish, determined and frightened, Polly is forced to make one heartwrenching choice after another. Set in New York and China, The Leavers is a vivid examination of borders and belonging. It’s a moving story of how a boy comes into his own when everything he loves is taken away, and how a mother learns to live with the mistakes of the past.
Book Themes Discussion Questions
The Leavers by Lisa Ko
- From Deming to Daniel and Peilan to Polly, do you think the name changes of the main characters helped them to find a fresh start, or further complicated their search for belonging?
- Think about Polly's turbulent past and how it shapes who she has become. She seems driven by dreams of her own. What are those dreams?
- How would you describe Deming when he arrives back in the U.S. as a six-year-old? What kind of family do Polly and Leon provide for Deming and Michael? What kind of life do they lead in the Bronx?
- What sorts of prejudice do Polly and Daniel experience in America?
- Why do the school systems in both New York and Ridgeborough seem to have low expectations of Daniel?
- How does the author portray portray transracial adoption? What do you think it would be like to be adopted as a child and raised in a culture different from the one you were born into? Have you ever lived in a culture that is different from your culture of origin, and what was it like?
- Do you speak more than one language, or wish you did? How are language and fluency portrayed in the novel? How are Polly and Deming’s lives affected by their knowledge – or lack of knowledge - of Chinese and English?
- Polly is the one who sees the nature of the immigration system firsthand. How is the system portrayed in the novel?
- Lisa Ko says the novel was inspired by a 2009 New York Times article about an undocumented immigrant from China who spent 18 months in detention. She had been arrested at a bus station on the way to Florida for a new job. Does knowing that the novel has its roots in a true story have any impact on how you understand it?
- What relevance, if any, does The Leavers have to the immigration issues dividing much of the world today? What are your opinions regarding immigration. Did this book alter those opinions...or confirm them?