Aug 14, 2013

Bead Bai: Author guided bookclub discussion as per request

1. Relationships/characters in Bead Bai
Talk about the relationship between grandfather and granddaughter. Stepmother/mother and daughter. Have you had experiences of such relationships through singing or storytelling or working with needle and thread?

How do you compare relationships among women and among men in Bead Bai?  How many husband-wife relationships are in Bead Bai? Talk of the different characters in the relationships.

Exclusion and inclusion in cross cultural/religious relationships. What have been your experiences in the country of your origin and in Canada or any other country that you call home now? How would you respond to cross religious or cultural situations today?

How does the author show where ‘the other’ comes from? Does he have a bias?

2. Style and structure
Does the writing style give a sense of tradition? 

How would you define the structure of this historical/ethnographic fiction? Does the structure have anything to do with tradition?

Did you feel the author’s first language is not English? How does the author give a sense of being a non native speaker of English? Read a paragraph or two to illustrate. Does that give a tone to the storyteller’s voice?

Did you sense the rhythm in the background? Where does the storyteller speak about rhythm? Read a paragraph or a line that you found musical. How does the rhythm compliment the voice of the storyteller?

Do vernacular concepts give depth to what is said?  e.g. shukhar  rass  mothaj e’sikar  darshan-deedar – check the glossary. Are these too many or unexplained or unnecessary? Any of these concepts that you felt deeply about in your own mother tongue/culture? e.g. mothaj.

Why do you think the writer included the chapter on ‘Loving Gujarati’?

3. Journeys
Talk about journeys in Bead Bai as transformative processes. Have you had similar experiences of journeys?

4. History/religion/culture
How is history/religion/culture  told? How are the characters' lives shaped by history/religion/culture? Is it important to keep these consciousnesses in families? How can we do that?

Do you think the author speaks unfavourably about any/all religions or cultural communities?

In what ways does Dadabapa illustrate the immigrant experience?  Does this continue to happen today? Compare the experience of immigration narrated in Bead Bai  on women’s lives with stories from Tajikistan today:

Does the book help to appreciate where the immigrants/seniors come from? Help to reflect on the expanding diaspora world today?

Do the characters consciously maintain historical/religious/cultural consciousness?

5. Landscape/Nature
Land has a presence in the story. Why is it important for the writer to give so much space to land?

6. Ethnic art
How does the writer bring dignity to women’s art commonly called 'craft'? What does ethnic art tell you about Sakina? 

Discuss this: Ethnic art gives communal joy. It is shared aesthetics and that is important for community life/wellbeing. 

"Handmade goods surely have more of the maker’s spirit in them and, because gift-exchange is about connecting people to each other, the handmade thing will always be a better vehicle for the spirit of the gift." - Lewis Hyde author of The Gift in an interview by Gloria Robinson,

Consider how the above quote relates to hand designed work (or artefacts or material culture) mentioned in the book as communal gifts reflecting on cultures as settings.

Can you think of other stories or movies where an object is important to the story?

Are there objects in your life that have travelled with you? That tell your story? In what ways?

Did Bead Bai change your idea of ethnic art - embroidery, beadwork? Will you think of patterned art vs high art or machine made art differently?

7. Beauty
Why is Beauty important to the protagonist? In what ways is the connection between aesthetic pleasure, peace and pain described in Bead Bai?

8. Spirits as background characters
How is the presence of the spirits made known? Does Sakina’s society live in two worlds? Can this be true or is it in the writer’s imagination?

9. Talk about the different ways how the family experiences new identities in Africa that’s not totally Indian or Asian.
How are shifting identities explained to reflect on the characters? What would you call the idenity of Asians settled over generations in Africa? Have you consciously thought of how the new land has changed you?

10. Intra-religious/community tensions
How do women cope with men’s politics? Do you know of families or persons or communities  with two or more religious or cultural identities?