Reading guide for Anthropology of an American Girl by Hilary Thayer Hamann

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Anthropology of an American Girl

A Novel

by Hilary Thayer Hamann

Anthropology of an American Girl
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  • First Published:
    May 2010, 624 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2011, 640 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
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Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. The novel begins with a description of Eveline Auerbach and Kate Cassirer, teenagers who have been best friends since childhood. Discuss the nature of their friendship.  Discuss the role of female friendship in the novel.
  2. Discuss the dissolving bonds of Eveline's early friendships as she journeys from the relative safety of childhood to the relative dangers, instability, and compromise of adulthood.
  3. Evie goes from being a poor girl living freely to being a wealthy young woman living a compromised life and sacrificing opportunities for fully realized life and love. What does the author seem to be saying about aspirations?
  4. There are three men in Evie's life: Jack Fleming, Mark Ross, and Harrison Rourke. Discuss her relationship with each. Why would the author choose to describe the life of a young woman in terms of the men she loves?
  5. When Eveline meets Harrison Rourke, she experiences a type of epiphany. She feels herself a part of life, and of living in a way she never had previously. How would you describe what it is that she experiences and what it means to her.
  6. The use of voice in this book has been described as Holden-Caulfield like. Talk about the importance of voice, and what the internal isolation does for the main character. Is her voice truthful? Does she reveal everything?
  7. The death of Jack represents a turning point for Eveline, and yet they had been separated for years at the time of his death. Discuss what the loss of Jack means to her character.
  8. Evie has a complicated relationship with her own mother, Irene, an intellectual and emotional free spirited rebel spawned from 1960s counter culture. How does she seem to come to terms with this in the end?
  9. Anthropology has been compared to literary classics. Discuss what makes a book a classic and whether or not you feel this book has the makings of one.
  10. This book is a fictional attempt to "observe" a girl in American culture. If this is an "anthropology of an American girl," what does the novel appear to be saying about being an American, or a girl, and an American girl?

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Spiegel & Grau. 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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