Reading guide for Granny D by Doris Haddock

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Granny D

Walking Across America in My Ninetieth Year

By Doris Haddock

Granny D
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  • Hardcover: Apr 2001,
    304 pages.
    Paperback: Apr 2003,
    304 pages.

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Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

About This Book

"There's a cancer, and it's killing our democracy. A poor man has to sell his soul to get elected. I cry for this country."

On February 29, 2000, ninety-year-old Doris "Granny D" Haddock completed her 3,200-mile, fourteen-month walk from Los Angeles to Washington D.C. She walked through 105-degree deserts and blinding blizzards, despite arthritis and emphysema. Along her way, her remarkable speeches -- rich with wisdom, love, and political insight -- transformed individuals and communities and jump-started a full-blown movement. She became a national heroine.

On her journey, Haddock kept a diary -- tracking the progress of her walk and recalling events in her life and the insights that have given her. Granny D celebrates an exuberant life of love, activism, and adventure -- from writing one-woman feminist plays in the 1930s to stopping nuclear testing near an Eskimo fishing village in 1960 to Haddock’s current crusade. Threaded throughout is the spirit of her beloved hometown of Dublin/Peterborough, New Hampshire -- Thornton Wilder’s inspirations for Grovers Croner in Out Town -- a quintessentially American center of New England pluck, Yankee ingenuity and can-do attitude.

Told in Doris Haddock’s distinct and unforgettable voice, Granny D will move, amuse, and inspire readers of all ages with its clarion message that one person can indeed make a difference.


For Discussion
  1. At one point Doris mentions the difficulty of being a "soft news story in a hard news world." How does publicity function as a vehicle for change? How does the media enable one person to have an effect and mobilize people? Are there other examples of people like Doris?

  2. How can we use Doris’s model of taking advantage of own strengths–whatever they may be–to achieve a goal?

  3. Before she begins her trip, Doris declares, "I like to compete, even if it is against people’s expectations, and I do not favor losing." How does her competitive nature present itself in the book?

  4. How does Doris Haddock fit into the American Progressive Era and populist tradition? Who else in the American spotlight of past or present do you feel evokes the ideals behind this movement?

  5. Discuss Doris’s feelings about the importance of family, friends, and community. How do these things play into her ideal regarding the American political structure?

  6. How do Doris’s memories function in the text? Would you categorize GRANNY D as a memoir or a political tract or both?

  7. Consider the changes in women’s lives that have taken place during Doris’s time (Doris was kicked out of Emerson College for getting married, but her daughter went on to graduate from Smith. Doris comments later in the book that it’s "wonderful to see so many women highly placed in news organizations…Women reporters…have been around since before my time. But now they are running newspapers."). Do you consider Doris to be a strong female role model? Why or why not? Doris states that being "young and attractive [is] the essence of being female in this culture." Is this a positive or negative statement?

  8. Doris often relied on strangers during her walk, and in many ways, GRANNY D is a catalogue of the names of people whom she met along her way; how does this inclusion of regular people in the storyline contribute to her point regarding campaign finance reform?

  9. How does Doris’s method of directly addressing the reader in the second person affect the book’s tone? Does this also contribute to her message about democracy and politics?

  10. Doris contends that the reason behind the dissolution of family strength is that "In today’s world, millions of laboring parents no longer have the ability to meet their responsibilities to their families, and everything falls down without that centerpost." Do you agree or disagree with this argument?

  11. Discuss Doris’s insight into relations between people of different origins and backgrounds when she walks with Golam Mohammed and remembers her mother’s feelings towards the German family in town during World War I.

  12. How does Doris’s experience working with Ida Thomas and later for Mrs. P inform her perspective?

  13. Revisit Doris’s speech at the Lorriane Motel on September 7, 1999 and discuss her connection to Martin Luther King and her comparison of campaign finance reform to the civil rights struggle.

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Villard. 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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