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Dedham Public Library Groups and Clubs: Endicott Women's Book Group

October 2,2021


"It's 1913, and on the surface, Laura Lyons couldn't ask for more out of life-her husband is the superintendent of the New York Public Library, allowing their family to live in an apartment within the grand building, and they are blessed with two children. But headstrong, passionate Laura wants more, and when she takes a leap of faith and applies to the Columbia Journalism School, her world is cracked wide open. As her studies take her all over the city, she finds herself drawn to Greenwich Village's new bohemia, where she discovers the Heterodoxy Club-a radical, all-female group in which women are encouraged to loudly share their opinions on suffrage, birth control, and women's rights. Soon, Laura finds herself questioning her traditional role as wife and mother. But when valuable books are stolen back at the library, threatening the home and institution she loves, she's forced to confront her shifting priorities head on . . . and may just lose everything in the process. Eighty years later, in 1993, Sadie Donovan struggles with the legacy of her grandmother, the famous essayist Laura Lyons, especially after she's wrangled her dream job as a curator at the New York Public Library. But the job quickly becomes a nightmare when rare manuscripts, notes, and books for the exhibit Sadie's running begin disappearing from the library's famous Berg Collection. Determined to save both the exhibit and her career, the typically risk-adverse Sadie teams up with a private security expert to uncover the culprit. However, things unexpectedly become personal when the investigation leads Sadie to some unwelcome truths about her own family heritage-truths that shed new light on the biggest tragedy in the library's history"--Provided by publisher.

Discussion questions;


1. Laura Lyons, despite her husband’s protests, wants to be a wife, a mother and a dedicated journalism student. Do you think women still face societal pressure today to only fill traditional roles? Do you think it’s possible to “have it all”?

2. The NYPL is very important to both Laura and Sadie. Is the library important to you? What role do you think your local library plays in your community?

3. How does Sadie’s character challenge stereotypes about librarians? Before reading this book, did you know the different roles they play in serving the public?

4. How did going to the Heterodoxy club change Laura? Do you see similar organizations at work today? What is the importance of having spaces where women can voice their opinions, stories and plans for the future?

5. What do you think of how Laura handles the situation after she finds out the identity of the book thief?

6. Losing the only copy of his manuscript is a devastating blow to Jack. Do you think the act of burning the manuscript was justified? Why or why not? How do you think technology has changed the value we put on the written word?

7. In her note, Laura writes that “it was all ultimately her fault, that her own actions initiated a cascade of tragedies.” Why do you think Laura believes she is responsible? Do you agree? Would things have been different if so much responsibility in the home didn’t fall only to Laura?

8. At the trial, Sadie argues for a harsher sentence for the book thief because what was stolen was more than a number of pages worth a certain amount, but “pieces of Western history and culture that have a dramatic impact...the loss of these items is a detriment to all of humanity.” Do you agree that the thief should receive a longer sentence? Given these items are priceless, do you think that locking them away is a viable solution? If not, why do you think it’s important for the public to have access to these items?

9. Why do you think Sadie was so closed off from people? In part, she used her grandmother’s life as a justification for her own. What do you think finding out about Laura’s real life did for Sadie?

10. Laura struggles with her conflicting commitments to school and the Heterodoxy club. Do you think she did the right thing? Would you have done the same? Why do you think it was important to the women of the Heterodoxy club to keep their discussions private? Why wouldn't they want their ideas disseminated?

From  Discussion Questions for The Lions of Fifth Avenue are Listed (

November 2,2021


"From the beet fields of North Dakota to the National Forest campgrounds of California to Amazon's CamperForce program in Texas, employers have discovered a new, low-cost labor pool, made up largely of transient older Americans. Finding that social security comes up short, often underwater on mortgages, these invisible casualties of the Great Recession have taken to the road by the tens of thousands in late-model RVs, travel trailers, and vans, forming a growing community of nomads: migrant laborers who call themselves "workampers." In a secondhand vehicle she christens "Van Halen," Jessica Bruder hits the road to get to know her subjects more intimately. Accompanying her irrepressible protagonist, Linda May, and others, from campground toilet cleaning to warehouse product scanning to desert reunions, then moving on to the dangerous work of beet harvesting, Bruder tells a compelling, eye-opening tale of the dark underbelly of the American economy--one that foreshadows the precarious future that may await many more of us. At the same time, she celebrates the exceptional resilience and creativity of these quintessential Americans who have given up ordinary rootedness to survive. Like Linda May, who dreams of finding land on which to build her own sustainable "Earthship" home, they have not given up hope."--Jacket flap.

Employers have discovered a new, low-cost labor pool, made up largely of transient older Americans. Finding that social security comes up short, often underwater on mortgages, these invisible casualties of the Great Recession have taken to the road by the tens of thousands in late-model RVs, travel trailers, and vans, forming a growing community of nomads: migrant laborers who call themselves "workampers." Bruder hits the road to get to know her subjects, accompanying them from job to job in the dark underbelly of the American economy, while celebrating their resilience and creativity.

From: Minuteman Library Network – Find -- Nomadland : surviving America in the twenty-first century / Jessica Bruder. (

Discussion Questions:

1.   The people portrayed in Nomadland take to life on the road for various reasons, from economic necessity to wanderlust, and there are a lot of them—around 300,000. What do you think drives these people, many of them nearing or beyond traditional retirement age, to go off the grid?

2.   Do you think Nomadland fairly characterizes the United States in the wake of the Great Recession of 2008? Are the modern nomads really an “indicator species,” as Jessica Bruder writes, signaling bigger changes ahead? In other words, is the shift to a nomadic lifestyle a temporary adjustment, or is it likely to grow in the coming years?

3.   How do you feel about the corporate response to these modern nomads of creating low-paying seasonal jobs specifically designed for RVers and vandwellers? Do you think these corporations are exploiting a source of cheap labor, or providing valuable opportunities for employment?

4.   A common theme of Bruder’s reporting is the fact that communities spring up everywhere among the new nomads: mutual support groups, online forums, newsletters, and clubs. What does this say about the traveling life? And about human needs in general?

5.   How would you feel if your own community became a waypoint for nomads like the people described in this book? Would you be able to accept them staying at the margins of your town, setting up in the parking lots of big box retailers? Why or why not?

6.   Many of the nomads are older, nearing or past the age that used to signify retirement. Is their lifestyle—living “houseless”; working low-paying, seasonal jobs—an indictment of the United States’s social safety net, and if so, how? Or is it an adaptive lifestyle that eschews the formal restrictions of society? Discuss your reasoning.

7.   Bruder wonders at one point why the modern RV nomads are “so white,” noting a “micro-minority” of people of color among the traveling population (pp. 179–80). Do you believe, as she proposes, that this is due to possible racism within the community, or racism outside the community that could lead to police harassment and profiling on the road? Or is it due to something else entirely?

8.   As part of her reporting, Bruder does short-term work at a beet-processing plant and in a warehouse with Amazon’s CamperForce program, experiencing for herself the labor conditions nomads and other short-term workers face every day. What do you make of her experience? Do you think she captured the reality of this world?

9.   “What parts of this life are you willing to give up, so you can keep on living?” and “When do impossible choices start to tear people—a society—apart?” (p. 247) asks Bruder in her final chapter, arguing that the growth of the nomad population reflects some Americans choosing a new answer to these questions when faced with difficult financial challenges. Do you think the sacrifices they make by taking to the road are worth it? Why or why not?


From: Discussion Questions for Nomadland are Listed (

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