No One Belongs Here More Than You
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Reading Group Guide Discussion Questions:
1. Many of the characters in Miranda July's stories are lonely, vulnerable and tentative, yet clearly the intent of the author is not to expose or ridicule them but to make them sympathetic to the reader. Are there characters in these stories who unexpectedly win your heart? Are there some whose behavior you cannot understand?
2. In The Shared Patio
, the narrator explains that telling Vincent Chang "it's not your fault" was "really the only thing I had ever wanted to say to anyone, and be told" (pg. 7). What does she mean by this?
3. In The Swim Team
, "Maria" tells Kelda that resisting putting her face into the bowl of water is "the body telling you it doesn't want to die" (pg. 16). What is it that divides the three elderly people in this story to sign up for swimming lessons?
4. The narrator in Majesty
educates people on earthquake safety, engaging her own fears. And she dreams of Prince William? Yet she says "Life is just this way, broken, and I am crazy to hope for something else" (pg. 31), why does she have this dream? Is there a strange optimism in Miranda July's stories?
5. What does The Man on the Stairs
represent? Why does the narrator think about the friends she dislikes and the boy at the gas station when she first hears him coming towards her room? Instead of waking Kevin or calling for help, why does she get out of bed and face him by herself?
6. "We do terrible things, we make wars, we kill out of greed. So who are we to say how to love" (pg. 43). Does the narrator in The Sister
truly believe his argument for preferring teenage girls, or is this a rationalization that allows him to continue his behavior? When does he first realize Blanca doesn't actually exist? And why does he acquiesce to Victor?
7. What is the "dark shape" in Making Love in 2003
? As an adult, why does the narrator believe this darkness has been transformed into her student, Stephen Krause? After discovering he has another girlfriend, why does she write "Peace" on the chalkboard?
8. In Mon Plaisir
, what is the significance of Carl and the narrator practicing Buddhism, tai chi, macrobiotic diets, and favoring only things that are "MEANINGFUL" (pg. 148)?
9. In Birthmark
, why does the narrator regret her decision to remove her "stain?" What did this mark represent to both her and others? When it reappears, why does her husband believe she'll finally want to have a child with him?
10. When and why does the relationship change between Deb and Lyon in How to Tell Stories to Children
? Do you consider their family relationship in the best interest of the three adults, or the child? If her eyes are "triumphant" (pg. 201) when she brings Ed Borger home, what is Lyon trying to win?
11. In Something That Needs Nothing
, "Gwen" noticed "We were always getting away with something, which implied that someone was always watching us, which meant we were not alone in this world" (pg. 75). Several of the characters in other stories also mention the idea of someone looking over them. Is this a way of assuring loneliness?
12. Are there any overarching themes that link these stories together? Did you find connections between the characters -- do they occupy similar worlds?
13. Discuss the sense of loneliness in this collection. Which characters feel isolated from the rest of society? Is this their choice? Do any of them change? Enhancing Your Book Club Tips:
1. Not only is Miranda July an award-winning author, she's also an accomplished filmmaker and performer. Before discussing No One Belongs Here More Than You
, watch her movie Me and You and Everyone We Know
2. To find out more information about Miranda July's projects, visit her website at: www.mirandajuly.com.
3. Miranda and artists Harold Fletcher created a participatory website: http://learningtoloveyoumore.com/ Visit it and share what you thought with your bookclub!