MLA Platinum Award Press Release

Reading guide for Sweeping Up Glass by Carolyn Wall

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Sweeping Up Glass

by Carolyn Wall

Sweeping Up Glass by Carolyn Wall X
Sweeping Up Glass by Carolyn Wall
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2008, 278 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2009, 336 pages

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Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!

  1. The wolves provide a connection to the mountain, and therefore to Olivia’s past. What in nature connects you to where you live?

  2. How do you think you would react if you discovered a massive, life-changing secret?

  3. Olivia discovers that her hometown is a hotbed of racist hatred. Have you ever discovered something awful about the place that you grew up? How did you react?

  4. Are the people who kept Olivia’s secret from her truly her friends? Do you believe they genuinely had her best interests at heart?

  5. The last paragraph of the book finds Olivia contemplating that “in Aurora, there’s still division between coloreds and whites. I’m equally to blame.” Do you think that Olivia is partly to blame for this division? How or why not? Do you agree with Olivia’s assessment that “It’s not that I pretended– I just didn’t see”?

  6. How much do you think Wing knew about the Cott’ners? If you believe that he knew about the lynchings, do you think that makes him as culpable as those who carried them out?

  7. Was Olivia right to prevent Pauline from taking Will’m with her back to California? Was Will’m safer going back to the uncertainty of Hollywood with his mother, or staying on the mountain with Olivia?

  8. Sweeping Up Glass examines segregation enforced by society, but also voluntary segregation from society. Can you see parallels to today in how people can segregate themselves either as individuals or as a community? What goals can hope to be achieved through such self-segregation?

  9. Do you believe that there is redemption for Tate? Does keeping the books and leading Olivia to them redeem him for his actions?

  10. For letting Olivia grow up believing what she did, is Tate as much an antagonist to Olivia as Alton Phelps?

  11. Do you think Ida knows what she does? Do you see her as being in control of her actions? Can you see a parallel in your own life of someone who appears to be out of control, but may know exactly what she is doing?

  12. The characters of Will’m and Tate are viewed as being universally “good,” whereas the Phelps brothers are viewed as being universally “evil.” Do you think it is that clear-cut in the story? In real life, are people ever one or the other?


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