Reading Group Guide
1. What ideas did you have about homelessness/homeless people before you read The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness? Have your ideas changed after reading about Brianna’s experiences? How so?
2. Brianna had an enormous number of odds stacked against her throughout her life. To say that her childhood was difficult would be an understatement. How do you think she was able to overcome her past and survive? What qualities in Brianna have allowed her to be particularly resilient?
3. How did religion play a role in shaping Brianna’s relationship with her family? She says that Jehovah’s Witnesses is a cult. Do you think her life would be different if she had stayed on and tried to be a member of the community as her sister did? Would it be better or worse?
4. Regarding her religious education, Brianna writes: “Even as a child, I recognized hypocrisy and prejudice at play, but I was at my most impressionable and, inevitably, whether I liked it or not, I retained bits of it.” How has Brianna attempted to deprogram herself from religious indoctrination? If she was raised to embrace certain prejudices, do you think she can ever be truly free of them?
5. Brianna says that she has tried to forgive her family, including her mother, for the wrongs they have done her. If you were in her position, would you be able to forgive? Why or why not?
6. Brianna has a vehicle, a trailer, a mobile phone, a laptop and a dog. Does she still “count” as being homeless? Are there different levels of homelessness? Do you think she’s made good use of the “comforts” available to her?
7. Throughout her experience being homeless, Brianna is adamant that she will not accept charity --- that there are people worse off who need help more than she does. If you were in her shoes, would you feel the same? Is Brianna wrong to forego such assistance?
8. Having fun is still a priority for Brianna, even though she’s homeless. Should homeless people be singly focused on altering their circumstances? Is there anything else she could or should do? Is having fun a luxury, or a basic need?
9. When daily survival was Brianna’s number one goal, she met and got involved with Matt. What do you think initially attracted her to Matt? Do you think her relationship with him shifted her priorities in a negative way?
10. At first, Brianna presents Matt as a kind of savior, a true kindred spirit who gives her support and guidance. Did you detect any warning signs that Matt might not be the upstanding, selfless person that Brianna wanted him to be?
11. The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness was written while Brianna was going through the events she describes in the book. How might her memoir have been different if it had been written at a later date, looking back on past experiences?
12. The title The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness brings a sense of humor and a bit of irony to a serious subject. How does its tongue-in-cheek title affect your impression of Brianna and of the book?
13. On one of the final pages of the book, Brianna says, “People in general are not so bad after all.” Were you surprised that she would say this, after all the hardships and betrayals she faced? Do you agree with her?
14. Now that you’ve read about Brianna’s struggles, what do you think we can do about the homelessness epidemic? How can the average reader help?