Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Questions for Book Tour Fifteen: Harriet the Spy

1. Would Harriet have been a blog writer or just a blog reader? Do you think she would have ever commented on other people’s blogs? If she did write her own blog, do you think she would have written about her own life or do you think she would have replicated her spy notebooks and only written about other people?

2. If you read Harriet the Spy as a child, what aspects of the book did you still remember? What did you totally forget?

3. Harriet's parents almost entirely delegate all parenting tasks to Ole Golly or Cook. Did you have any particular reaction to their uninvolved parenting style? Was your reaction influenced by your own infertility/journey toward parenthood?

4. Reading this book reminded me about my teenage years. Those muddled years of when you know "everything" but don't really know "everything". Those years when you "hate" everyone and everything and then "love" everyone and everything. When you really become introspective to the point of often not knowing what is "really" going on around you. Harriet chose to write a lot of those feelings and observations down in her journal. Did you write a journal when you were a teenager? Have you looked back at those years (journal or not) and wondered what was going on in your brain? (I know I do!)

5. I was also struck with how Harriet's parents (and other adults) treated her. This book is set in the 1960s, so some of the distance between her parents and Harriet is because of the social situations of the time. But, as Ole Golly leaves, Harriet's parents do make efforts to get to know Harriet. Does Harriet try to get to know them? Are their efforts to reach her successful and what could they do differently? Do you have a plan to help the teenager in your life relate to you?

6. Obviously, this book brings up many questions on privacy and journaling. At one point, Harriet journals all day at school instead of doing her work. Has anyone worked on their journal/blog at work? And been caught? When do you blog/journal? Do you do it when you should be doing something else?

7. In the beginning of the book, Harriet is explaining the game Town to Sport. She goes thru a list of typical town places from the 1960's. What places/professions do you think a savvy Harriet in 2008 would have in her town?

8. When Harriet questions Ole Golly about solitude she responds with quotes and cliches but doesn't really tell her anything. When was a time that someone responded to a situation or question in your life in a similar fashion but it impacted you? Have you ever responded in a similar fashion to someone else and felt that it impacted them? What was it and how did you know what you said mattered?

9. When Ole Golly leaves after her engagement, Harriet notes that things feel the same but she seems to have a little hole in her heart. When was the first time you remember feeling a similar loss and does it still remain with you today?

10. How much of Harriet's behavior in the latter half of the book do you think was a direct result of Ole Golly's leaving? Would she have gotten so out of control if Ole Golly was there for her to talk to about the lost notebook?

11. When you read it, do you read it as an adult reading a child's book or do you forget that you're grown-up and think of it in the part of your mind that is still 12?

12. How do you think Harriet would have upgraded for the new tech? Would she be blackberrying instead of the notebook?

13. This book was written in 1964, when gender roles & stereotypes were much more rigid than they are today. In Chapter 4, Harriet & Janie feel the pressure to conform, to go to dancing school and be steered away from "unfeminine pursuits" -- while later in the book, Marion, Rachel, Laura & Carrie imitate their mothers by playing bridge & drinking tea in the clubhouse. I was reminded of Carol Gilligan's work on how girls' "voices" change as they become adolescents. What do you think happened to Harriet & Janie as they became teenagers? Do you think young girls today still feel similar pressures to conform?

14. After her visit to Dr. Wagner, Harriet's mother takes away her new notebook immediately, and Harriet is described as feeling empty on the ride back home. Many people, especially bloggers, seem to use writing as an outlet. What would you do if someone took this outlet away from you during a time of difficulty? How would you cope if you had no notebook?

15. What would you have done in Harriet's position after her friends discovered her notebook?

16. For some reason, although I've read Harriet the Spy literally dozens of times over the years, this is the first time that I realized why I love it so much. It's because, to me, this is a story of the pain of growing up. The pain of being in between childhood, with the deep, intimate connectedness that entails, and adulthood, with the separation and independence and freedom and responsibility that come with it. Re-reading this book now reminds me that although I had thought as a child that someday I would be done the work of growing up, I don't feel like I am done, and I wonder if I ever will be. So the question is this: what is the experience of growing up like for you? And is it something that you think is ever complete?

17. Ole Golly tells Harriet, "Sometimes you have to lie. But to yourself you must always tell the truth." Are we always truthful with ourselves? Should we be? Is it ok to sometimes lie to others and why shouldn't we lie to ourselves? These two sentences have a tremendous impact on Harriet. How do you feel about them as an adult? If you can remember, how would you have felt hearing them as a child Harriet's age?

18. Why do you think the author painted the home lives of Harriet and Sport the way that she did?

19. Do you think Harriet kept her notebook for the same reasons we blog?

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