Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
discussion topics, and the suggestions for further reading that follow are
designed to enhance your reading group's discussion of Not a Day Goes By,
a sassy, seductive novel by E. Lynn Harris, one of today's most popular
commercial fiction writers. After making unforgettable appearances in Harris's
bestselling Invisible Life trilogy, ex-football star John Basil Henderson and
ambitious actress Yancey Harrington Braxton take center stage and really strut
their stuff in Not a Day Goes By.
Why does Harris reveal the climax of the romance between Basil and
Yancey in the very first chapter? How do his descriptions of Basil's and
Yancey's behavior set the stage for the story that follows?
Is Basil's explanation of why he loves Yancey [p. 8] a convincing
expression of what constitutes real love? Does his need to conceal parts of his
past undermine the sincerity of his feelings for Yancey? How do his secrets
compare to the secrets many lovers choose to keep from one another?
"Yancey loved Basil in her own way" [p. 16], Harris
writes. How does Yancey's approach to love differ from Basil's? Is the
compromise she makes ("It's okay to love, but never too hard, or too
much" [pg. 16]) an inevitable outcome of her own upbringing? In what ways
are the other things Yancey does "in her own way"--for example,
sending autographed pictures rather than attending her high school reunion and
refusing to work ordinary jobs to earn money [p. 13]--also a legacy of her
Why does Harris include "Basil's Rules to Keep the Knuckleheads
Away from the Family Jewels" [pp. 21-22]? Does Basil take these rules
seriously, or is he indulging in a bit of self-parody?
Windsor's personality and the life she leads contrast sharply with
Yancey's. Are Yancey's reasons for giving Windsor a room only financial, or does
Windsor offer other things Yancey wants, either consciously or subconsciously?
What incidents show that Yancey needs Windsor more than she admits?
Basil describes the evenings he spends with his sister, Campbell,
and her family as "a time when I could let my guard down" [p. 62]. Why
is he more comfortable in his role as loving brother and uncle than he is as
Yancey's lover or as a partner in the agency? Does his behavior with Campbell
and Cade represent the man he really is?
What are the implications of Yancey's demand for a part on Sex and
the City [p. 67]? Is the media guilty of perpetuating outdated ideas about race?
Yancey believes that lighter-skinned African American women have an advantage in
society in general and in the theater in particular. Does the way she looks and
defines herself [p. 12] play into a prejudice she herself finds offensive?
The debate within XJI about hiring an openly gay partner also
focuses on a current controversy. Is the upcoming magazine article the only
reason Zurich finds it necessary to reveal his sexual orientation? What does
Basil hope to accomplish by seeing Zurich alone after the meeting at XJI?
Confused about their sexuality, both Milo and Zurich sought help
from their ministers, and in both cases, they were advised to get married [pp.
129-30]. Given the teachings of most churches about homosexuality, could their
ministers have behaved differently?
Beyond the initial shock, how would you characterize Yancey's
reaction to Derrick's revelation about their child? After his refusal to marry
her, does Derrick's decision about their child represent a further betrayal of
Yancey, or was he simply "doing the right thing"? What were his
motives in keeping Madison's existence a secret from Yancey for so many years?
What are his motives in asking her to become involved now if he doesn't love
At the beginning of the book, Basil says, "For me, Raymond
stood on that thin line between love and hate" [p. 7], yet he asks Raymond
to participate in his wedding. What light does his conversation with Raymond [p.
176] shed on Basil's state of mind on the eve of his marriage?
Ava's negative influence on Yancey is one of the major threads in
the book. Does Ava have any real maternal affection for her daughter? Has she
helped Yancey develop any admirable characteristics?
Basil and Yancey eventually discover each other's secrets through
methods most people would consider highly unethical. Is the end result justified
by the method of discovery? Both of them express anger, a sense of hurt and
betrayal, and a desire for revenge in response to the information they uncover.
Whose reaction do you find more sympathetic and why?
Basil's side of the story is told in his own voice, while Yancey's
is presented through a third person narrative. How does this affect your
impressions of each of them? Does it, perhaps unfairly, make you more
sympathetic to Basil? Do you think Yancey's point of view is adequately
captured? How might her own narrative differ from the third person account? From
If you have read Abide with Me, discuss the ways in which
Basil differs from the person he was in that book. Both Basil and Yancey are
complicated figures, sometimes arousing the reader's anger and outrage,
sometimes eliciting strong feelings of sympathy. To what extent do they create
trouble for themselves, and to what extent are they victims of other people,
their backgrounds, or society in general? At the end of the book, have your
feelings about Basil and Yancey changed from your first impressions? What
purpose does the epilogue serve?
Harris uses a familiar phrase as his title. What words would
complete the phrase to sum up Basil's and Yancey's individual views of the
Reading guide provided by the publisher. Page numbers refer
to the USA trade paperback edition, and may vary in other editions.
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Anchor Books.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.
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