I’ve received emails from several people who told me their book clubs would be reading one or both of my novels. Some asked for a reading guide.
When I give talks, my favorite part is opening the floor to questions. I find people’s perspectives fascinating. Your ideas and questions always kick-start new ways of thinking within me – and I’m grateful. If any of you want to respond to this reading guide, feel free to contact me through my website. I love hearing from readers, and I try to respond to every message.
For those who are including my novel in your book club, for your own reading, on your list of books to read – thank you so much.
Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable
- As the book opens, Caroline has just transferred from a private school to her local public high school and she is terrified. But from the start, she shows signs of being much more than scared and intimidated. What are the first signs that Caroline has hidden strengths? Have you ever felt strong inside in ways nobody could see?
- This novel has lesbian and gay characters, as well as straight characters. Each character adds a vital piece to the story. Yet, unlike many books in the “Gay And Lesbian Literary Fiction” category, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable does not offer explicit details of sex. In writing the story, this was a careful choice I made. What do you think of this decision?
- A theme of my novel is defying stereotypes. Some of the stereotypes in the story are racial, sexual and gender-based. Some are about other kinds of assumptions – for instance, what does it say about a person if he/she is a prostitute, or the leader of a gang, or extremely academic? Have you ever felt that others stereotyped you?
- I wrote my book in reaction to the bullying of the gay boys that I witnessed in high school. Have you ever been bullied? Have you ever acted as a bully? Have you ever seen another bullied? How did you handle it? Would you handle it differently next time?
- A subplot in the book is based on growing up in the film industry. Have you ever been in an environment that was a mismatch for your true self? How did you navigate the situation?
- From the first chapter, Caroline begins to find friends in her new high school. She builds a friendship group that is racially, sexually and economically diverse. Why is this diversity important to Caroline? Is that sort of diversity important to you?
- Several high school characters have secrets – Caroline, The Duke, Valerie. Have you ever held a secret inside, one that you were afraid to speak out loud? How does it feel to have a secret?
- Sexual assault should happen to nobody, but it can happen to anybody. This is a subplot in Hollywood High: The Honorable. Have you ever been assaulted? Have you known someone who has been assaulted? Do you have the support you need to heal? (If not, please contact a rape crisis center near you, or talk to a therapist.)
- When I speak to gay/straight alliances, I often hear stories of adolescents coming out to their families, and getting unsupportive, hurtful responses. I decided to include in my novel one family’s journey to acceptance. Have you ever felt unsupported by your family when you most needed support? (I wrote two blog posts to offer support: “They Came Out And Gay Fills The Room” https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2014/03/28/they-came-out-and-gay-fills-the-room/ -- “When Your Daughter Or Son Comes Out” https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2014/02/14/when-your-daughter-or-son-comes-out/ )
- Homophobia can show itself in many forms. It can be subtle, damaging, hurtful, deadly. In my novel, through different characters, I decided to demonstrate different kinds of homophobia, and model different paths to acceptance. Have you ever seen someone move from homophobia to acceptance? Have you taken that journey yourself?
- Readers often tell me they have picked out a favorite character in Hollywood High, someone they identify with. Do you have a favorite character from the book? What draws you to that character?
Do you have an idea to add to this study guide? I’d love to hear from you!
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