MLA Platinum Award Press Release

Reading guide for Sounds Like Titanic by Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman

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Sounds Like Titanic

A Memoir

by Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman

Sounds Like Titanic by  Jessica Chiccehitto  Hindman X
Sounds Like Titanic by  Jessica Chiccehitto  Hindman
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2019, 256 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2020, 256 pages

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Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!

  1. What is Jessica's relationship with playing the violin? Does she see playing the violin as something different from being a violinist? What is the traditional trajectory to become a classical violinist? How does the author see her own experience playing with The Composer versus being an "actual" professional violinist?
  2. Endemic to the narrative is the strange relationship between reality and fantasy, of authenticity and make-believe. How do these dichotomies manifest themselves in Jessica's journey? How does she navigate between what's real and what's smoke and mirrors? Does she see parallels between her own experiences—in college, New York, abroad, and on the road—and what her audiences experience?
  3. What are the characteristics of The Composer? How do these characteristics fit our idea of what a composer looks like and allow him to be successful? In what ways are there disconnects between how he appears to his audience and how he appears to the musicians he employs?
  4. Why do you think no one notices that the musicians aren't really playing? In the Epilogue Jessica states, "audiences mostly listen with their eyes." Do you believe this is true?
  5. Aside from not actually playing the violin, what are the differences between a traditional classical music concert and the performances Jessica participates in for The Composer?
  6. Do you see any commonalities between Jessica and the other musicians who work for The Composer? Are any of them there for similar reasons, and if so, what reasons might those be?
  7. The God Bless America Tour takes Jessica across the country. Are there similarities between American audiences from town to town and state to state? If so, what are they?
  8. How does Jessica's Appalachian background shape her relationship with work? How do others interact with her in light of her background?
  9. Jessica's adolescent and teenage years are marked by an acute inner struggle relating to what she describes as "life in the body." How does playing violin act as a foil to this uncomfortable, corporal conflict?
  10. One woman tells Jessica after a performance, "We need music like this in times like these." What does the woman mean by this? How does Jessica's experience in of the context of the September 11th attacks contrast with this woman's statement?
  11. Despite her degree in Middle Eastern studies, her time spent in Egypt, and her work ethic, why is it so difficult for Jessica to find work as a correspondent? What does it say about the state of the US and reporting on the Middle East in the wake of September 11th?
  12. What are the implications of Jessica's realization that "it was harder to make a living as a war correspondent than by fake-playing the violin"?
  13. Jessica states that at the core of any anxiety is fear. When Jessica develops an anxiety disorder, what does she pinpoint as her fear?


Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of W.W. Norton & Company. 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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