Bismarck's online book discussion community

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Questions to Ponder

For those of you who've finished the book:

Were your perceptions of blue-collar Americans transformed or reinforced by Nickel and Dimed? Have your notions of poverty and prosperity changed since reading the book? What about your own treatment of waiters, maids, and sales-people?

Ehrenreich concluded that had her working life been spent in a Wal-Mart -- like environment, she would have emerged a different person -- meaner, pettier, "Barb" instead of "Barbara." How would your personality change if you were placed in working conditions very different from the ones you are in now?

After reading Nickel and Dimed, do you think that having a job -- any job -- is better than no job at all? Did this book make you feel angry? Better informed? Relieved that someone has finally described your experience? Galvanized to do something?

Book Excerpt

This is an excerpt from Nickel and Dimed. If you've ever had to work in a cleaning position you'll know exactly what Ehrenreich was feeling:

It is hotter inside than out, but I do all right until I encounter the banks of glass doors. Each one has to be Windexed, wiped, and buffed—inside and out, top to bottom, left to right—until it's as streakless and invisible as a material substance can be. Outside, I can see construction guys knocking back Gatorade, but the rule is that no fluid or food item can touch a maid's lips when she's inside a house. I sweat without replacement or pause, not in individual drops but in continuous sheets of fluid, soaking through my polo shirt, pouring down the backs of my legs. Working my way through the living room(s), I wonder if Mrs. W. will ever have occasion to realize that every single doodad and object through which she expresses her unique, individual self is, from the vantage point of a maid, only an obstacle on the road to a glass of water. ...

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

New Book Choice

I think it's time to start a new book. How many of you have read Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich? Once you've read the book start posting and commenting your reactions to the book.

In Nickel and Dimed the author, Ehrenreich, asks herself how anyone working full-time on minimum wage can possibly survive. She questions whether welfare reform has any merit. She decides that the only way to find out is to quit her job, pose as a "woefully inexperienced housemaker" returning to the job force and find out what kinds of jobs she can get. Throughout this experience Ehrenreich finds herself working as a waitress, hotel maid, cleaning woman, nursing home aide and a sales clerk at Walmart. Read this book and get a rare view of what life "on the bottom" is like from Ehrenreich's personal experience.

Questions to ponder as you read:

1. Have you ever been homeless, unemployed, without health insurance, or held down two jobs? What is the lowest-paying job you ever held and what kind of help -- if any -- did you need to improve your situation?

2. Ehrenreich found that she could not survive on $7.00 per hour -- not if she wanted to live indoors. Consider how her experiment would have played out in Bismarck: limiting yourself to $7.00 per hour earnings, create a hypothetical monthly budget for your part of the country.

3. Nickel and Dimed takes place in 1998-2000, a time of unprecedented prosperity in America. Do you think Ehrenreich's experience would be different in today's economy? How so?

Happy Reading! Please help make the book blog a success: Share your comments and ideas!

Author Book Blogs

Readers aren't the only ones with book blogs. Authors create their own book blogs, too.

What are the Blogs Saying About Me? by Pamela Paul. (New York Times Book Review, December 18, 2005)

"Almost every author I know with a new book does it - the embarrassing, nearly irresistible, ritualistic dip into Internet-assisted narcissism. I know I do. Prodded by a combination of curiosity and dread, I'll scour the Web not just to ascertain sales (impossible) or check out the press coverage, but to get a sense of what ordinary readers are saying about my book when they think I'm not listening."

For full text of this article click here.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Discussion Questions

If anyone has questions or comments they'd like to share with the group please feel free to post.

Here are a couple discussion questions for you to ponder. Share your thoughts by commenting on this post.

1. Amir and Hassan have a favorite story. Does the story have the same meaning for both men? Why does Hassan name his son after one of the characters in the story?

2. When Amir and Baba move to the States their relationship changes, and Amir begins to view his father as a more complex man. Discuss the changes in their relationship. Do you see the changes in Baba as tragic or positive?

3. America acts as a place for Amir to bury his memories and a place for Baba to mourn his. In America, there are "homes that made Baba's house in Wazir Akbar Khan look like a servant's hut." What is ironic about this statement? What is the function of irony in this novel?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Excellent Book!!


I have finished reading the book and found it excellent. The author's descriptions of the characters and the war torn country of Afghanistan was amazing. I had wondered if he had went back or just remembered so vividly from his childhood and research--did he go back before or after he wrote the book?? I really liked the characters of BaBa, Amir's wife, and Hassan. It is interesting how one wrong act can actually affect people the rest of their lives. I work with children all the time and often times people feel that the the children should "just get over it" when somethign traumatic happens to him. It was nice to see it from Amir's perspective and how it affected his life. Some of the children I work with have had equally horrifying and traumatic things happen!!


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

In 2003 author Hosseini returned to Afganistan after his book was in print. He arrived in Kabul to literally trace Amir's footsteps. He had left his homeland as an 11-year-old seventh grader and returned as a 38-year-old physician. His two weeks there were spent in locating and seeing his war-torn country, his city and his family home. He came feeling like a tourist in his own country trying to find landmarks remaining only in his memory. KITE RUNNER is a lovely, poignant story that will continue to occupy your thoughts long after you've finished the last page of the book.


Welcome to the first public library book blog in North Dakota! If you are interested in becoming member you may request an invitation. Once you've become a member you'll be able to take part in group discussions on the selected books.

The first book selection is The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. Discussion on the book will start in a couple weeks. Happy Reading!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Let's Get Started!

Here's some information about the author of Kite Runner that you might find useful/interesting as you start reading:

Khaled Hosseini was born in Kabul, Afghanistan in 1965. He is the oldest of five children. and his mother was a teacher of Farsi and History at a large girls high school in Kabul. In 1976, Khaled’s family was relocated to Paris, France, where his father was assigned a diplomatic post in the Afghan embassy. The assignment would return the Hosseini family in 1980, but by then Afghanistan had already witnessed a bloody communist coup and the Soviet invasion. Khaled’s family, instead, asked for and was granted political asylum in the U.S. He moved to San Jose, CA, with his family in 1980. He attended Santa Clara University and graduated from UC San Diego School of Medicine. He has been in practice as an internist since 1996. He is married, has two children (a boy and a girl, Haris and Farah). The Kite Runner is his first novel.

Source of information: