Reading Group Guide
Reading Group Guide
Resurrecting Mingus by Jenoyne Adams
0-684-87352-4; $24.00; The Free Press
Through the voices of three complex characters--a white woman who has devoted her entire adult life to raising a black family; the black man who leaves her, after thirty-five years of marriage, for a younger black woman; and Mingus, their outwardly successful daughter who is caught between them-- Adams tells a story of love, sacrifice, torn loyalties, and gnawing regrets.
A driven lawyer about to turn thirty, Mingus has always been a Daddy's girl, and more comfortable with being black than white. She vows to date black men only, but can't seem to connect with one who wants to settle down. When her father betrays her trust, and her mother confides her greatest fear--that she is being rejected for a black woman--Mingus begins to re-examine her roots. She takes a chance and dates a white man. Then she meets the black man of her dreams--handsome, confident, and eager to start a family. Eric rips through her protective defenses and exposes her need to be loved. But when word gets around that Eric has his secrets as well, Mingus is forced to choose between the man she loves and the truth. After facing a long string of heartaches and betrayals, Mingus finally realizes who she is, what she wants, and how she doesn't need another man to get it.
Dancer, poet, and novelist Jenoyne Adams tells the story of the pain of unraveling and rebirth in an absorbing and compulsively readable manner. Marked by raw images and delving precision, Resurrecting Mingus marks the introduction of a bold new voice in contemporary fiction.
READING GROUP DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
1. Early in the novel, Adams refers to Mingus's "life falling apart" and her "not wanting anyone to know about it." What do you think is causing Mingus's melancholy and confusion? Does her impending thirtieth birthday exacerbate her fragile emotional state? Do you think women more likely than men to have a "crisis" at this stage in their lives?
2. We are told that Mingus "buried herself" behind her legal career "because it held her together." Is it typical for young women to become consumed by work in order to mask or avoid their problems?
3. How do Steven and Eric differ in their approaches to Mingus and what kind of reaction does each man elicit from her? Aside from race, how are the two men different? Do they share any similarities? What aspects of Mingus's personality does each man complement or appeal to? What can Eric offer Mingus that Steven cannot, and vice versa? What does Mingus seem to need most from a relationship?
4. As the novel opens, Mingus laments getting her period because it means that she is not pregnant. To what degree is Mingus's choice between Steven and Eric influenced by her desire to start a family? Do you think her decision to break up with Steven is based in part on her belief that Eric would be a more suitable father?
5. Ellie says to Mingus: "Your father and my husband are two different men, always have been." What does that statement mean to Mingus? How does she reconcile the fact that her beloved father is also an unfaithful spouse?
6. When Mingus learns of Carl's infidelity, she feels "like he did it to her -- cheated on their relationship." How does Mingus's closeness to Carl and her sense of betrayal over his infidelity affect her relationships with men?
7. Ellie refers to Mingus as Carl's "first mistress." Discuss the significance of that statement and what it reflects about Ellie's feelings. What effect, if any, do you think Ellie's feelings have on her relationship with Mingus? On her relationship with Carl?
8. When Ellie first talks to Mingus about Carl's affair, she says about his mistress: "I just don't want her to be black." Why is Glenda's race so important to Ellie? Would Ellie have been less devastated if Carl had been cheating on her with another white woman? If so, why?
9. Carl feels more "normal" and comfortable in his life with Glenda and attributes this to the fact that she is black. Was Carl comfortable with Ellie? Do you think Carl's resentment of Ellie is rooted in their racial difference? How does society view the Brownings as a family? Discuss the societal pressures that Ellie and Carl faced in raising a biracial family.
10. Discuss the differences between having an affair and actually leaving one's spouse and making a new commitment. Why does it upset Carl when Glenda disparages Ellie? Do you think Carl would have been happier "keeping up appearances" with Ellie rather than officially divorcing her? Do you think Carl is willing to commit to Glenda?
11. Discuss the structure and points of view Adams uses throughout the novel. The chapters focusing on Mingus open with diary entries in her voice, but are told in the third-person. These chapters alternate with first-person narratives by Ellie and Carl. Do Mingus's diary entries give you insight into her emotions that is lacking in the narrator's account? Why do you think Adams chooses to let Ellie and Carl speak directly to the reader? Why doesn't Adams include chapters in Eva's voice? What do you think Eva might have revealed had she been given such a forum?
12. "It's like you rode into my life on a white horse, and I stopped believing in white horses a long time ago." Why is Mingus -- a confident, successful, attractive woman -- insecure in her relationship with Eric? When Eric proposes to her, Mingus finds herself "believing that somehow, even after all of this, he could still disappear." Why does she still have misgivings even after this gesture of devotion? Do you think her relationship with Eric alleviates the "emptiness" that Mingus feels inside?
13. Eva finally admits to "hating" Mingus, but she never offers specific reasons. What do you think lies at the heart of Eva's bitterness? To what extent do you think Eva's drinking explains her erratic behavior? Do you think her relationship with Mingus will improve over time, or will Eva's attempt to seduce Eric keep the sisters from reconciling?
14. Do you believe that Eric was innocent in his "encounter" with Eva? Do you think Mingus will ever be able to forgive Eric? Do you think she will eventually marry him? Fast-forward five years and discuss the lives of each of the characters as you predict they will evolve. Who will most regret their decisions? Who will have made the biggest strides in reconciling their differences? Who will be happiest?