Wrap up the summer with our August #ReadWithJenna book pick! This month, Jenna Bush Hager selected "Patsy," an emotional story about a mother, a daughter, and a dream.
Patsy longs for a life in America — and after years of trying, the door finally opens. Immigrating to New York City from Jamaica will have its barriers, including leaving behind her 4-year-old daughter, Tru, but Patsy does whatever she has to do to pursue what she thinks is her dream.
Upon landing in New York, she realizes that things are far harder than she expected them to be, but pride and heartbreak keep her from returning to her impoverished home town.
Throughout the month, we've been posting questions on our Read With Jenna Instagram page and Facebook group, and have loved seeing readers react to this month's pick. To keep the discussion going, the publisher behind "Patsy" sent over some more questions to think about when you've finished reading.
"Patsy" by Nicole Dennis-Benn
"Patsy" Discussion Questions
- Did you agree with Patsy's decision to leave Tru with her father at the beginning of the novel? Do you agree with it by the end?
- How do Patsy's experiences in America differ from her expectations? Why do you think she continues to stay in America, even when it turns out so differently than she hoped?
- What would you do if you were in Patsy's shoes in the U.S., and how?
- Why do you think Patsy struggles to embrace motherhood? What early experiences seem to have colored her perception of what motherhood requires?
- Why do you think Cecily is so reluctant to return Patsy’s affection? What is she most afraid of?
- How does Patsy's encounter with Barrington, and his suicide after telling her to "forgive herself," impact the story?
- Nicole Dennis-Benn writes: “Jamaican girls begin to perform womanhood at 11, at the latest 12 years old, their childlike wit suspended in the frozen glance of female elders, their youthfulness covered in starched uniforms and slips underneath, their animated curiosities discouraged with the weight of responsibilities like learning how to cook meat so that it’s browned properly, learning to clean, scrub stains out of white clothes, raise younger siblings, dodge the invasive lusts of older men. By 25, any hint of animation is drained out of them, the muscles of their faces tightening, downturned mouths fixed in a meanness that mocks any form of gaiety as weary eyes hold in them contempt for those who fail to conform.” What are the expectations of women in Jamaica versus America, as portrayed in "Patsy"? Can you relate to either? Why or why not?
- Which character do you most identify with, if any? Why?
- Do you think there’s room for a sequel? What would you hope to happen?
- Though faltering at first, Roy eventually develops a close relationship with Tru. How might you describe this relationship? Is it different than you expected at the outset of the novel?
- In many ways, the characters in "Patsy" try to subvert the roles expected of them — who do you think is most successful, and why?
- What price has Patsy paid for freedom? Do you think she feels free?
- Why do you think Patsy didn’t call or write Tru?
- This book is dedicated to the “memory of the unsung stories of undocumented immigrants in search of trees with branches.” Did this story alter or shift your understanding of immigration? How so?
For past #ReadWithJenna book club picks, you can read the announcements for her March pick, April pick, May pick, June pick and July pick and check out our Read With Jenna page.
To stay involved all month long, be sure to follow us on Instagram (don't forget to tag your photos with the hashtag, #ReadWithJenna), join our Read With Jenna Facebook group and follow along on Goodreads to continue the conversation about "Patsy."