I close my eyes and imagine a group of friends gathered in your living room or in the conference room during lunch. Each of you finished Silent Ties with bookmarks or tabs of your favorite scenes or the story lines that made you think. One person starts to read an excerpt, and the discussion begins!
As I formulated a book club for Silent Ties, I researched other authors. Many had outlines of their book for eight or ten lessons. Each was followed by an answer key or monologue by the author explaining everything. However, I think of Silent Ties as a vehicle to a dialog. I don’t want to stifle where it goes, and I don’t want to lead you by the hand to an understanding of every nuance. Sometimes self-discovery has a greater impact.
To begin this study I ask you to think about and discuss a few questions which will be addressed in future blogs. As you continue through the monthly readings a better understanding of the relationship between Missy and Addie will develop. Most importantly I hope you will gain insight into why I wrote the story as I did.
First, discuss the format of Missy’s story. Is it really about her and Addie? How would Addie see it? First person; Addie versus Abigail; full disclosure from Missy but limited view of Addie were all intentional. Why?
Several early readers commented on how many deaths occurred in the story. I evaluated if they were necessary and decided they were. Can you see why? I invite you to discuss the significance of each death. How would the story change if a death was omitted?
Next, consider not just the little girls, but the two families and the individuals, especially Ada, James, Emily, Momma, Daddy, Mr. Jefferson, and Grandma Em. Hopefully, your understanding of these relationships evolved through the book. How did it change? What meaning did you gain?
Silent Ties must be seen from the differing perspectives of these two girls. Consider the great disparity between their childhoods. Addie was relegated to an existence of extreme poverty, forced to be an observer to the elevated status of her friend’s life: a status that Missy didn’t deserve according to the Jim Crow rules. As you examine the reasons for their respective living conditions I encourage you to discuss the phrase, “We’re nice to them.” Would James or Miss Emily see it that way?
A big issue in the story is fear: not only for Addie and her family but for Missy and her family as well. Fear was the most significant issue in the development of this story. Do you see why? Central to your discussion should be the situations that caused the fear and the characters that perpetuated it. It is one of the most critical topics to discus.
Silent Ties began as a social conscience analysis. Based on research, this story evolved in my mind, but before long Addie and Missy became more than characters. They are two little girls who stole my heart. The trials of their lives became real as I learned more about the Jim Crow South. The books I have selected for the coming months will shed more light on the questions specified above and the lives of these families. I hope you will come to know them better.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Santayana