WORTHY by Carla G. Harper Book Club QuestionsWorthy is a simple story with archetypal characters and situations everyone can relate to.
The story deals with a number of themes:
- The use of arbitrary rules to keep power over people
- Good authority and bad authority
- The power of hope
- The role encouragers play in a person’s success
- Societal/legal justice, street justice, and divine justice
- Leaving home
- Abstinence for young people
- How skin color is a poor predictor of character, intelligence, or anything else about a human
Here are a some questions you can use to generate discussion with a group. Make your own too. Please share them with me as well as takeaways from the discussion in your group.
Some questions Worthy raises:
- How did Worthy overcome the fact that her mother was not good to her? How has your response to life’s hardships shaped your life, for better or worse?
- Why do you think Worthy was able to set aside her passionate feeling about Bud? Was that a good, bad, or irrelevant choice?
- How was it possible that Ellayner and the other people from Goinstown did not see themselves as victims? What did their attitude reveal about them?
- How did Worthy treat authority?
- Who did Worthy blame for her predicaments?
- What enabled Worthy to not just dream of going to college but to actually do it?
- The people Worthy encounters in life are archetypes, the same types of people we all experience. Have you known a Bud, Mrs. Johnson, Alexander Goins, Ellayner Goins, Papa Stokes, or a Ruby? What role did they play in your growth as a person?
- What about the death of Butch, the Stokes’ sweet dog, pushed Worthy to a new level of action? What does the death of innocents represent in stories? Can you think of innocent people who’s death caused action?
- Why does everyone eventually have to leave their parent’s home to fully grow up? How did Mrs. Johnson guide Worthy to leave home and grow up?
- Worthy had a fierce desire for justice to be done. Justice from society requires truth to be exposed and accepted. Why do you think Worthy was willing to stop at nothing, even risk her life to know the truth about things, even when it meant knowing horrible things? How do you feel about the truth, even when it’s not pretty?
- In the world, it often looks like privileged people do not get held accountable for wrong they do. How do you feel when privileged people experience hardship, tragedy or get punished by the justice system? How do you feel when they get away with things and are not punished?
- Do you believe in divine justice, i.e. that God takes care of things and people in his own way both through the justice system of society and outside of formal systems? What must you give up to believe in divine justice?
- Worthy has been called a coming-of-strength story. Do you agree or disagree? How so?
- On page 5, Worthy has an exchange with Frankie that reveals her frustration with what in her view is unfairness. How do you react to unfairness?
- Mrs. Johnson is someone Worthy trusts and seeks out when she has a problem or question. Do you have a Mrs. Johnson in your life? Why do we trust people that have first shown they care before sharing what they know?
- Worthy experienced a lot of discipline. She was disciplined by her mother, grandparents, father, Sheriff Malloy, Ms. Johnson, Ellayner Goins, and even life. What did discipline do for Worthy? How did she react to different forms of discipline? How do you view discipline?
- People want to be special, respected, successful, comfortable, loved. These are not entitlements or conditions of survival. Some will earn what they want, others will stop at nothing to get what they want. How did the various characters in WORTHY get what they wanted?
- If you were Worthy, what would you have done differently? Would her life experiences have made you better or bitter?
- Worthy knew the difference between right and wrong, even though she saw her parents and others not always doing the right thing. How is it possible for people to do the right thing in spite of bad parenting, prejudice, and other set back?
- Worthy didn’t let her past determine her future. Have you?
- The story ends as Worthy’s life is really beginning. What do you think happens to her after college? What path do you think she pursues? (please share your thoughts with Carla at firstname.lastname@example.org)