Burn Baby Burn | Discussion Questions

Questions from the Read Brave Saint Paul Team

  1. How is your neighborhood/community like Nora’s? How is it different?
  2. Stiller knows her rights as a tenant in 1970s New York. Do you know what rights you have as a renter in 2018 Saint Paul? If not, how could you find out?
  3. On page 153, Nora thinks, “I know I should say something to make Mima feel better, but I can’t manage it. In fact, I’m angry at her. Shouldn’t she be able to take better care of us? Isn’t that what adults are supposed to do?” How does Mima see her role as a caregiver? What does Nora think she should do differently?
  4. With Hector in the apartment, Nora doesn’t always feel safe at home. What other reasons can you think of for why someone may not feel safe at home or why they may need to leave their home?
  5. Stiller says “Nothing ends...There is only transformation, as ugly as it may be” (page 242). What are some of the transformations that are happening in the book? What transformations have you noticed in Saint Paul?
  6. Part of Nora’s paycheck goes toward her family’s rent every month. Do you or or anyone you know have to work to help your family with housing or other needs? How does/would that make you feel?
  7. The people and places in Nora’s neighborhood are an important part of Burn, Baby, Burn. Where do you see strong or weak community relationships in the story? Where do you see them in your own neighborhood? What effects do community relationships have, either in the story or in your own life?
  8. Nora says “I am counting down the days to be done with high school so I can move out (page 45)”. Would you want to do the same? Why or why not?
  9. Nora and her family live their lives with a near-constant threat of eviction from their apartment. How does this worry imapct their daily lives and the choies they make? What experiences have you had where you were worried about something?

Discussion Questions from the Publisher

  1.  Kathleen MacInerney has been Nora's best friend since kindergarten, yet Nora decides "there's just no way she would understand how Mima, Hector, and I work" (page 155). Why does Nora believe this? Do you? Why or why not?
  2. Feminisim was on the rise in 1977. What opportunities did the movement offer young women like Nora and Kathleen? What did it mean to older women like Stiller and Mrs. MacInerney? Why were some women, like Mima, appalled by it?
  3. In what ways is 1977 very different from our own time? In what ways is it similar?
  4. (deleting first portion) How does Nora finally transform her relationship with her father?
  5. "Men are reckless," Mimi tells her daughter (page 31). "They're born that way, impulsive, but eventually they find a good woman and outgrow it." Are boys more reckless than girls? Why does Mimi demand more from her daughter than from her son? Would Hector be better off if she didn't? Would Nora?
  6. "Sometimes it's easier to let people think I'm Greek or Italian," Nora says (page 115). Why does she sometimes feel the need to hide her ethnicity? What does being a Latina mean to Nora? What does it mean to her mother?

Burn Baby Burn

Read Brave Saint Paul is a citywide, intergenerational reading program set around a common theme relevant to the city. The 2019 Read Brave theme is housing, a critical topic in Saint Paul where thousands of people struggle to afford housing. Learn more at ReadBrave.org.