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A Reading Group Guide toThe Nowhere Girls
By Amy ReedAbout the Book
Grace Salter is the new girl in town, whose family was run out of their former community after her southern Baptist preacher mom turned into a radical liberal after falling off a horse and bumping her head. Rosina Suarez is the queer punk girl in a conservative Mexican immigrant family, who dreams of a life playing music instead of babysitting her gaggle of cousins and waitressing at her uncle’s restaurant. Erin Delillo is obsessed with two things: marine biology and Star Trek: The Next Generation
, but they aren’t enough to distract her from her suspicion that she may in fact be an android. When Grace learns that Lucy Moynihan, the former occupant of her new home, was run out of town for having accused the popular guys at school of gang rape, she’s incensed that Lucy never had justice. For their own personal reasons, Rosina and Erin feel just as deeply about Lucy’s tragedy, so they form an anonymous group of girls at Prescott High to resist the sexist culture at their school, which includes boycotting sex of any kind with the male students. Told in alternating perspectives, this groundbreaking novel is an indictment of rape culture and explores with bold honesty the deepest questions about teen girls and sexuality.Writing Prompts/Discussion Questions
The following questions can be used as writing prompts, or, alternatively, they can be used as targeted questions for discussion and reflection.
1. As the novel opens, Grace discovers the carved words which state, “Kill me now. I’m already dead.” How does the discovery of Lucy Moynihan’s powerful words shape Grace’s approach to being new at her high school? Do you believe she may have behaved differently had this discovery not happened?
2. Given the use of multiple narrators, chapters are labeled as “Grace,” “Erin,” “Rosina,” or “Us.” In what ways are the “Us” chapters unique? What do you think their inclusion offers to this story?
3. What are your earliest impressions of Grace, Erin, and Rosina? What do each of these young women bring to their collective friendship? How would you characterize the relationship between them, and how does it change over the course of the novel?
4. Early in the novel when discussing Lucy with Grace, Rosina states sarcastically, “‘Who gives a crap about some girl getting raped? She wasn’t important. None of us is important.’” What is it about the culture within their school and community that causes Rosina to seem so hopeless in this regard? How does that change throughout the course of the novel?
5. When speaking about what happened to Lucy, Grace overhears other female students accuse Lucy of being “attention seeking” and “causing trouble”. Why do you think attitudes like this are often prevalent when discussing those who bring awareness to being victims of rape and sexual assault?
6. What is it about Star Trek: The Next Generation
that Erin is so drawn to? In what ways does this show fill a void in her life? Like Data, her favorite character in the show, we learn that Erin is confounded by how people behave, but unlike Data she “feels too much.” Why is it so difficult for Erin to understand the world? In what ways is it difficult for others to understand her in return?
7. In considering Grace’s mother’s sermon, readers learn that “Grace has never heard her mother speak with this much passion, with this much joy. They are hearing her, feeling her. She is reaching inside and touching the parts of them where a little piece of God resides.” How is this reaction different from her mother’s experiences with her previous congregation? In what ways does this shift impact Grace?
8. While discussing Lucy’s rape at the first meeting of the Nowhere Girls, Sam confesses, “‘We all ignored her when she came back to school. Nobody helped her. No one stood up for her.’” Though some girls admit to knowing what kind of predators Eric and Spencer are, why did so many girls choose not to believe Lucy after she came forward about being gang raped?
9. Explain the significance of the title, The Nowhere Girls
. In what ways does it accurately describe the events and relationships portrayed in the novel?
10. Discuss The Real Men of Prescott
blog posts. What did you find most disturbing about them? How do you feel knowing that a “manosphere” community and “men’s rights movement” exist? In your opinion, what are the best ways to defend against these types of misogynistic endeavors?
11. At times, fear both incapacitates and motivates Grace, Rosina, and Erin. Consider how they each deal with these emotions. In what ways do they acknowledge these emotions? How are they able to turn to others for help? What are the consequences of their reactions?
12. In reflecting back on her own experiences, Erin thinks, “Silence does not mean yes. No can be thought and felt but never said. It can be screamed silently on the inside. It can be in the wordless stone of a clenched fist, fingernails digging into palm. Her lips sealed. Her eyes closed. Her body just taking, never asking, never taught to question silence.” Though she doesn’t articulate it, her silence and lack of giving consent makes this brutal act against her a rape. Do you believe her experience to be a unique one? Why does Erin refuse to be seen as a powerless victim?
13. Compare the parent and child relationships in the story: Erin and her mother, Grace and her parents, Rosina and her mother. To what extent are the relationships of these characters shaped by the world around them? To what extent do their relationships shape that world? How are Erin, Grace, and Rosina defined by their parents’ choices?
14. During a heated discussion about Rosina’s friends, Rosina’s mother tells her, “‘Oh, you think you’re so much better than me. You’re so much better than your family? If you’re so sick of us, why don’t you just leave?’” In your opinion, why does Rosina choose to remain at home?
15. Examine and discuss the role of Principal Slatterly and the school staff in perpetuating a toxic culture at their school.
16. Discuss the Nowhere Girls. How does this secret group become a catalyst for change within the framework of the school, the community, and the girls themselves? In what ways do you think the group’s participants are better off for having joined forces, now that they’re no longer choosing silence and advocating for themselves as part of this sisterhood?
17. Examine the novel’s cover. In what ways are the images a symbolic representation of the events that transpire throughout the course of the book?
18. Considering Erin’s, Grace’s, and Rosina’s perspectives, in what way is The Nowhere Girls
a story about things that have been lost? What do you think each of them finds along the way? Of the three girls, who did you believe to be the most courageous? Use textual evidence to support your opinion.
19. Thinking about what you learned from the experiences of the characters in The Nowhere Girls
, what advice would you give to young women facing similar situations?
20. Using the phrase “This is a story about . . . ,” supply five words to describe The Nowhere Girls.
Explain your choices.Extension Activities
1. Though The Nowhere Girls
is a fictional story, much of what Reed shares in her novel is inspired by events that have happened in schools and universities across the country. Investigate recent rape court cases where teen or young adult perpetrators have gone to trial for their actions. What are the common outcomes of these cases? After your research, write a reflection of what you’ve learned and your response to this knowledge.
2. Music is used throughout the novel as a way for the characters to connect with one another and the world at large. Select a favorite character from The Nowhere Girls
and create an original playlist representing that character’s experiences throughout the novel. Create original artwork for the album cover, and under each song title offer a short explanation for the selection.
3. Empowering young women who stand up for themselves and each other is a hallmark of The Nowhere Girls
. Using the Internet and databases available from the library, research feminist organizations, clubs, and societies, especially those that are organized by teens. What are the biggest benefits of such organizations? What are the particular challenges faced by organizers? If you were to engage in a similar activity, what information from your research and from reading The Nowhere Girls
would you utilize to guide your work?
4. Create a campaign slogan and logos for a support group similar to that of the Nowhere Girls. Alternatively, using a variety of mediums, create an original piece of artwork which is symbolic of one of the major themes of The Nowhere Girls
5. There are a number of national and local resources that can help rape victims and their families by providing support resources. Select one of the organizations from the resource list below and learn more about the services provided by considering the following:
Who runs this organization?
How long has it been in operation?
How is it funded?
What are the stated goals?
What do they offer those in need of assistance?Resources National Sexual Assault Hotline:
800-656-HOPE and online.rainn.org
En espańol: rain.org/es RAINN: www.rainn.org
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation’s largest anti-sexual-violence organization. RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline in partnership with more than 1,000 local sexual assault service providers across the country. RAINN also carries out programs to prevent sexual violence, help victims, and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice. Planned Parenthood: www.plannedparenthood.org
America’s most trusted provider of reproductive health care and a respected leader in educating Americans about reproductive and sexual health. Our Bodies Ourselves: www.ourbodiesourselves.org
Our Bodies Ourselves (OBOS) is a global feminist organization that distills and disseminates health information from the best scientific research available as well as women’s life experiences so that individuals and communities can make informed decisions about health, reproduction, and sexuality. Advocates for Youth: www.advocatesforyouth.org
Advocates for Youth partners with youth leaders, adult allies, and youth-serving organizations to advocate for policies and champion programs that recognize young people’s rights to honest sexual health information; accessible, confidential, and affordable sexual health services; and the resources and opportunities necessary to create sexual health equity for all youth. Stop Sexual Assault in Schools: www.ssais.org
SSAIS is spearheading the movement of awareness of sexual harassment and sexual assault in
K-12 schools in order to prevent it, support victims, inform students about their rights, and empower them to protect their peers. PAVE
Promoting Awareness | Victim Empowerment (PAVE) is the only national nonprofit that works both to shatter the silence and prevent sexual violence through social advocacy, education and survivor support.This guide was created by Dr. Rose Brock, an assistant professor in Library Science Department in the College of Education at Sam Houston State University. Dr. Brock holds a Ph.D. in Library Science, specializing in children’s and young adult literature. This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.