Monday, March 20, 2017

The Glass Kitchen

THE GLASS KITCHEN by Linda Francis Lee – To be Discussed on Wed. April 5, 2017 at Geneseo Public Library


Portia Cuthcart never intended to leave Texas. Her dream was to run the Glass Kitchen restaurant her grandmother built decades ago. But after a string of betrayals and the loss of her legacy, Portia is determined to start a new life with her sisters in Manhattan . . .

When she moves into a dilapidated brownstone on the Upper West Side, she meets twelve-year-old Ariel and her widowed father, Gabriel, a man with his hands full trying to raise two daughters on his own. Soon, a promise made to her sisters forces Portia back into a world of magical food and swirling emotions, where she must confront everything she has been running from. What seems so simple on the surface is anything but when long-held secrets are revealed, rivalries exposed, and the promise of new love stirs to life like chocolate mixing with cream.

"The Glass Kitchen" is a delicious novel, a tempestuous story of a woman washed up on the shores of Manhattan who discovers that a kitchen--like an island--can be a refuge, if only she has the courage to give in to the pull of love, the power of forgiveness, and accept the complications of what it means to be family.

Discussion Questions:
1. There are several instances in which Gram gives Portia cooking guidelines that can be applied more broadly to life in general. What are some examples of this?

2. The feeling Portia gets from discovering her gift is described on page six: “Suddenly her world made sense, as if she had found a hidden switch, the meaning of what she was supposed to do blazing to life like a Christmas tree lighting up in a burst of color.” Have you ever had an “aha!” moment that felt like this?

3. How would you describe the family dynamic in the Kane household? What role does each family member play? How would you describe the dynamic between Portia, Olivia and Cordelia?

4. On page 85, Portia describes a time when, after a fight, she and her sisters filled jars with homemade strawberry preserves. She says that, “the preserves had been the bridge back to each other…” Can you think of times in your own life when the acts of dining or cooking have played a larger role?

5. Did you have any ideas or guesses about what might have happened during the car accident that Ariel was trying so hard to avoid and hide? Were you surprised when Ariel revealed the truth about what happened?

 6. On page 147 Portia contrasts New York and Texas in food terms, comparing New York to “bagels slathered with thick cream cheese” and Texas to “sweet tea over ice on a hot day”. How would you describe the places you have lived in this way? What food comparisons would you use?

7. What role does setting play? What is the importance and meaning of “home” to the development of the story?L

8. On page 285, Cordelia tells Portia that she “can’t keep living a half life.” What does Cordelia mean by this? In what ways has Portia been living a “half life”?

9. When Ariel finds her mother’s memory box, she realizes that, “she couldn’t hide anymore from the stuff she didn’t want to know”. There are several characters that, throughout this story, have trouble facing various truths. Which characters, and what are they hiding from?

10. “Some things are true whether you believe them or not.” Portia tells Ariel this, and it is repeated several times. Where do we see evidence in support of this statement throughout the story?

Notes from March 2017 group

I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai -  Discussed on March 1, 2017 at Geneseo Public Library


"I come from a country that was created at midnight. When I almost died it was just after midday."

When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education.

On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive. Instead, Malala's miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At sixteen, she became a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest nominee ever for the Nobel Peace Prize.

I AM MALALA is the remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls' education, of a father who, himself a school owner, championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons.

This was a very detailed book.  Told of the Pakistani tribes, politics, religious groups, education system, and rural daily life.  We were amazed by Malala’s courage, confidence, intelligence, and her conviction at a young age that girls need to be educated (not just boys).  There was an explanation of why some Pakistanis do not trust / dislike Americans due to Taliban stories.  It was a miracle that Malala survived the gunshot, surgery at local Pakistani hospitals, travel to UK, and treatment there.Through all of that she was alone in a strange country.  After some weeks her family was allowed to travel to UK to be with her.  It was a good story but not an easy read.  Our group had mixed feelings on this book.