We welcome our newest member Chris Baldauf! Chris we are glad you joined and look forward to getting to know you better.
Just a reminder that our next meeting will be on Wed Oct 28 at 5:30 pm. We will b e meeting at Beverly Martin's home, 5029 Stephanie Dr in Sulphur. The food committee members: Beverly, Boo, Tracey and Chris. Discussion leader will be Erin.
Author of our Oct book selection, Seven Laurels, is Linda Busby Parker and she will be doing an author call-in. The Discussion questions can be found at this link www6.semo.edu/universitypress/books/Study%20Guide%20Seven%20Laurels.rtf Thanks to Erin and Rachel for agreeing to help do the technical setup for the next meeting. I haven't heard from Linda parker yet on whether she wants to do SKYPE or a regular phone call in. I'll let you know when I hear back from her.
ALSO VERY IMPORTANT: CHANGE OF DATE FOR KATHRYN CASEY TO SATURDAY EVENING, NOV 14, AT 5:30 pm AT LINDA BREAUX ORY'S HOME. She is becoming a very in demand author and wants to get back to Houston to meet with another book club on Sun there. She has also just signed the movie contract for one of her true crime novels! We will be looking for it as a TV movie. She hasn't announced which book it is yet, maybe she will announce it with us :)
Have a great weekend...Gene and I, Bev and Jim will be dancing at Allison's wedding...who else will be?
I'll see if the questions can be pasted here:
By Linda Busby Parker
A Study Guide
Seven Laurels opens in 1956. That year is significant because the Supreme Court had recently (in 1954) settled the Brown v. Board of Education case that made segregated school illegal. Other court rulings prior to 1954 had argued that separate but equal schools for blacks and whites were legally acceptable in the United States. Historians argue that Brown v. Board of Education altered the course of American history and was a catalyst in the development of the Civil Rights Movement. The story of Brewster McAtee and his family opens in the very early days of the emerging Civil Rights Movement.
In 1956, when the story of Seven Laurels begins, many Jim Crow laws were in effect. Jim Crow laws (some were actual laws, others were merely customs or traditions in practice, especially in the south) sanctioned discrimination against African Americans. These Jim Crow laws included segregated schools, segregated restaurants, segregated public housing (including hotels), segregated buses and train cars, as well as segregated bathrooms and drinking fountains. In many cases the requirement for segregated facilities meant that African Americans had few, if any, public resources available to them. A local community, particularly in the south, may not have a hotel for African Americans, nor a restaurant, nor a public bathroom. In many cases, segregated facilities meant no facilities.
The effects of segregation become obvious in the opening chapter of Seven Laurels. Note that when Brewster sees the advertisement for the land on Ole Summit Highway, he realizes that the land is not listed in the newspaper under "Colored Property." He knows the owner may not sell the land to him because he is an African American. Even newspaper ads were segregated. This is the world that Brewster McAtee knows and understands in 1956 when the book opens.
Seven Laurels is a historical novel and also a family saga—the story of one man and his family. All of the events in the Civil Rights Movement portrayed in Seven Laurels are historically accurate. In a sense, the book provides an accounting of the Civil Rights Movement and its effects on one man, his family, and his community. It also tells the story of Brewster and Marlenna McAtee, and their son, Laurel.
Questions for Consideration and Discussion:
1. Why does Brewster want to own land? What does the ownership of land represent to him?
2. Brewster's younger brother, TeeBoy, is already dead when the book begins. How did his brother die? How does TeeBoy influence Brewster's decisions from the first chapter in the book all the way through to the last pages of the book?
3. In chapters 1–6 of Seven Laurels, what are some of the indications that Brewster lives in a segregated world? Locate three examples of discrimination that you observe in these opening chapters. How does the discrimination take place? What are the general consequences of each of these particular acts of discrimination? What impact do they have on Brewster? What impact do they have on you as a reader?
4. On more than one occasion, Deak Armbrecht helps Brewster. Do you think Deak's being a foreigner makes him more willing to assist Brewster? If so, why?
5. How is Albert Mixon different from the rest of the African American community in Low Ridge, Alabama? Do your feelings toward him change from the beginning of the book to the end?
6. Brewster's father, Tom, is a complex character. He hurts those around him, but is he also hurting? Do your feelings toward Tom change from the beginning of the book to the end? Ultimately, how do you, as a reader, evaluate Tom?
7. In the African American community of Low Ridge, Alabama, Paulette's Café is a gathering place—a place for good food and for the exchange of community news. Are there places within your own community where people enjoy gathering and exchanging information? How important are these places to the well-being and the enjoyment of people who live in your community?
8. How was Brewster's mother, Bess, affected by the segregated south? What were the various factors that led to her ultimate death?
9. Mama Tee raises Brewster and his brother, TeeBoy. Describe Mama Tee. What traditions does she maintain? How does she influence Brewster? What are her special strengths?
10. Matthew James is one of the dominant characters in Seven Laurels. What are some of his personal characteristics? Why is he important to his community? How is he important in Brewster's life?
11. Marlenna Mixon, Brewster's wife, has been raised in Low Ridge and also in private boarding schools. Why do you think she wants to marry Brewster and live on his sixty acres of rural land on Ole Summit Highway?
12. Anvil Thomas, Brewster's friend, is another complex character. How do your opinions of Anvil change from the opening pages of the novel to the final chapters? Is Brewster jealous of Anvil? How do Brewster's opinions of Anvil change? What events altered Anvil and brought about changes in him?
13. The Civil Rights Movement explodes as part of the background of Seven Laurels. Locate three events of the Civil Rights Movement described in the novel. How do these events affect the characters in the novel?
14. Marlenna and Matthew James are very directly involved in the Civil Rights Movement. Brewster holds back from the Movement. What is his rationale for holding back? Ultimately, how would you assess Brewster's contributions to changes in the south from 1956–1994?
15. Why did Marlenna want her son, Laurel, to study classical music as well as the traditional music of African Americans—jazz and blues. How did Laurel take the white man's European music and the black man's rhythm and blues and turn them into new creations? Do you think Laurel had the potential for a brilliant career in music? If so, what do you imagine would have been Laurel's unique contributions?
16. A sense of place is important in Seven Laurels. Describe each of the following locations: Three Brothers shed and furniture store; Brewster's land and home on Ole Summit Highway; Our Savior's Home where Laurel and baby Tee were born; Limrick Road Baptist Church; Travis Peets home and property on Ole Summit Highway. Can you see these places? Can you smell them? What feelings do each of these places engender in you?
17. Describe Travis Peets. What do you think shaped him as a man? If he afraid? If so, what does he fear? Is he angry? If so, what makes him angry? Is he pitiful? If so, what makes you feel sorry for him? At the close of the book, what are your final feelings toward him?
18. Brewster and Marlenna see Tee differently after the death of Laurel. What are Tee's special gifts? Why had Brewster and Marlenna failed to see them?
19. Describe Professor Rimes. What characteristics make him special? What did he symbolize for Laurel?
20. Describe the relationship between Laurel and his father and between Laurel and his mother.
21. Marlenna's feelings toward Ruby Peets are complex. Was Marlenna, prejudiced toward Ruby Peets? Was she afraid of Ruby? Did she distrust her? Did she dislike her? How would you summarize her feelings about Ruby?
22. How do you feel about Brewster's tribute to his son—destroying Travis Peets old place and planting seven laurels. Was this a fitting tribute? What did this "new place" represent to Brewster and to the entire community of Low Ridge?
23. In your opinion, outside of property and material possessions, what legacy did Brewster leave to his grandson, John Henry Harris (Jay)? What legacy did he leave to us all?
Southeast Missouri State University Press
Justice --- When you get what you deserve
Mercy ----- When you don't get what you deserve
Grace ----- When you get what you don't deserve
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