Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Discussion Questions: Ten Cents A Dance

In my review of TEN CENTS A DANCE, I mentioned that this book would be a wonderful selection for a mother-daughter book club. I even hinted that it would be nice to have some discussion questions to generate some conversation. Well I am so happy to say that the author of TEN CENTS A DANCE, Christine Fletcher, responded that her publisher is currently working on a discussion guide. In the meantime, she provided me with some questions that she thought would be "useful for her readers to ponder" -- I think they are amazing! I don't know about you, but I am quite impressed that Ms. Fletcher took the time to write these questions and share them with me.

Here's the "unofficial/author written" Reading Guide for TEN CENTS A DANCE:

1. Ruby is attracted to Paulie in part because of his tough guy reputation. At what point does she realize what Paulie is truly capable of? Should she have realized it earlier? Why do you think tough guys can be so appealing?

2. Peggy asserts to Ruby that “every taxi dancer has a story.” What does she mean by this? What do you think it says about the girls who became taxi dancers?

3. Yvonne is in her mid-twenties, older than most of the other dancers, and at the beginning of the book she’s the best earner at the Starlight. Why is she so hostile to Ruby? What do you think the future holds for Yvonne?

4. When Ruby is “fishing” Tom, Peggy accuses her of trying to “have it both ways.” What does Peggy mean? How does Peggy manage to “fish” successfully, without creating the same consequences that Ruby faces?

5. On Ruby’s first foray to a black-and-tan club, she thinks, “I’d certainly never seen Negro and white sitting together. Dancing together. Holding hands.” As Ruby begins to frequent the black-and-tans, how does this influence her opinion of the jazz trumpeter, Ozzie? What impact do her experiences have on her views about ethnicity and race? Do her views shift for noble reasons, or practical ones?

6. Ruby and her mother struggle with each other throughout the book: Ruby for autonomy, her mother for authority. How does money influence this struggle?

7. Why do you think Ruby’s mother marries Chester? Love? Security? Or does she have another motive?

8. In the end, do you think Ruby made the right decision regarding Paulie? Do you think his comeuppance is too harsh, or not harsh enough? If you were in her shoes, would you make the same decision?

9. Do you think Ruby and Ozzie are attracted to each other? If so, why did neither act on it? Do you think they should have?

10. A central theme of Ten Cents a Dance is illusion. “In the taxi-dance business,” Del says, “if you ain’t got illusion, you ain’t got nothing.” What i s he referring to? How does illusion play into Ruby’s relationship with Paulie? With her mother? With her sister, Betty? Does illusion color her view of the Starlight at the beginning of the book? What about by the end?

I would like to thank Ms. Fletcher for providing me with these questions. I hope you will consider selecting TEN CENTS A DANCE for a future book club meeting!

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