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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

American Woman: A Novel

1. How would you characterize Robert Frazer?

2. Is Pauline's status within the group secure? Does Jenny ever become accepted?

3. Are commonly held notions regarding the glamour and romance of life on the run -- coded telephone calls, wiping off fingerprints, disguises, rerouted letters, safe houses, etc -- still intact? How does this account differ from most other fiction, or even cinematographic depictions?

4. In what ways does she surprise her captors? Do you think her conversion to the radical cause was genuine or the result of Stockholm syndrome type brainwashing? In the end, is Pauline any less of an enigma?

5. How does Jenny react to Juan's praise and goading about her "non-white-skin privilege?" Why do most people she encounters inquire into her country of origin, and how does she respond?

6. What is the significance of Jenny's relationship with her father? How do his internment and their five-year sojourn in Japan lead to her participation in the radical movement?

7. Does "living in the times," as Jenny did, preclude the ability to discern your own convictions? Is it possible to distinguish one's own beliefs from the rush of the national mood today?

8. In Part 4, a journalist covering Pauline's case thinks of Jenny and Pauline as "the two girls who thought they could make history, while all the while it had made them." What does she mean? Do you agree?

9. Given the attempts by the counterculture movement to reshape society, what conclusions does American Woman draw regarding America's pervading class and ethnic rigidity? Do you think the movement was successful? How does wealth inure Pauline and Dolly from the vagaries of life?

10. Who does the "American Woman" of the title refer to? Given the fact that the female protagonists of American Woman are fugitives from the law, do you find the title ironic? How is each woman estranged from society, and in what ways does this novel reassess what it means to be an American Woman?

American Woman: A Novel
by Susan Choi

  • Publication Date: September 7, 2004
  • Paperback: 369 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial
  • ISBN-10: 0060542225
  • ISBN-13: 9780060542221