1. Both Ava and Joyce are at crisis points in their lives. Compare the two women. How does each cope with her heartaches? What works...and what doesn't.
2. Ava and Joyce aren't the only women facing tough challenges in this novel. Joyce says of the girls in the Sewing Circus, "These girls haven't got a chance. There aren't jobs and there aren't going to be any. They're stuck up here in the middle of the damn woods, watching talk shows, smoking crack, collecting welfare, and having babies. What kind of life is that?" (p. 39) Ava's answer is "City life." Do you agree that the same problems confront urban and rural young women? What do you think are the greatest ones? Whose responsibility is it to help young people overcome them?
3. In the chapter called "August," Joyce makes up a list of "Ten Things Every Free Woman Should Know." First define "free woman" -- then make up your own list.
4. The church in this novel shows both its sides: the good it can do; the harm it can do. How do you feel about the church's handling of the Reverend's sexual abuse? What do you feel should be the response of a church organization-whether a black church or the Roman Catholic Church-to this problem?
5. At the center of this novel, however, is the tragedy of HIV. Discuss the community's reaction to Ava. Then discuss her own response to a new relationship. How would you interpret her dream in Chapter 18...and the very last line of the book?
What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day