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'What's Mine and Yours' by Naima Coster: Jenna Bush Hager's discussion questions

Get talking about the Read with Jenna book club pick for March 2021.
Illustration of Jenna Bush Hager holding her March 2021 book club pick,  What's Mine and Yours by Naima Coster
TODAY Illustration / Nathan Congleton / TODAY / Amazon
/ Source: TODAY

For her March 2021 Read With Jenna book club pick, Jenna Bush Hager has selected Naima Coster's "What's Mine and Yours," a novel Jenna calls "sweeping and fresh."

The story is about two American families, specifically two mothers, each fighting for a better future for their kids.

"As a mother myself, I related to the mothers' fierce love for their children even when they made mistakes," Jenna said. "Nobody understands us like our families, even when imperfect."

Set in the Piedmont region of North Carolina, the book introduces readers to Lacey May and Jade. The mothers find themselves on opposite ends of a debate when their community begins to bring students from the largely Black neighborhoods on the east side of town into high schools on the west side, which are predominantly white.

Lacey May’s daughter, Noelle, and Jade’s son, Gee, cross paths while participating in a school play meant to bring students together. As their lives become intertwined, their mothers make choices that will haunt each of them, even into their adult lives.

After reading, use the following discussion questions to spark conversation about the book with friends and family.

  1. At the beginning of "What’s Mine and Yours," Robbie Ventura tells Ray Gilbert to obtain property that no one will ever take away from his children in order to build a legacy. What other legacies do the parents in this novel leave their children? What would you want to leave your loved ones?
  2. The parents and children of "What’s Mine and Yours" exist with a significant chasm between them. Discuss the ways that the Ventura daughters and Gee don’t often see the motivations behind their parents' choices, nor the sacrifice, and how did it resonate with you and your own life?
  3. When Inéz visits Noelle in Golden Brook, she’s afraid that her friend is losing her sense of self while out in the suburbs, especially while hearing the story of a Black woman and her son being threatened with the police by a neighbor. How did you feel about the party’s reaction to that story, and Inéz’s criticism of Noelle’s silence?
  4. There are many versions of caregiving in this novel that go beyond just parent and child. Discuss the ways that these characters are playing the role of mother for one another.
  5. The two mothers in the novel, Lacey May and Jade, both wanted what was best for their children, regardless of how it’s received by them and the broader implications of their actions. Do you believe Noelle and Gee ultimately reach an understanding as to why their mothers behaved how they did?
  6. The town hall in which the school integration is discussed is set in 2002 yet this issue is still present today. How did this storyline relate to your understanding of the current school integration debate?
  7. When Noelle, Margarita and Diane come together in their search for Robby, Noelle attempts to heal the rift between them, despite their fraught relationship. She tells Margarita, “I’ve been thinking. Our parents are always going to have their problems, but that doesn’t mean we have to stay away from each other. We can be family on our own terms.” Noelle is attempting to heal a longstanding wound. How do other characters in the book attempt to do the same with the people in their lives?
  8. Noelle is labelled as white multiple times, and most notably by Inéz and Ruth, which results in two different reactions in the moment. Why did Noelle’s response vary in each instance? Have there been moments where you have not been seen in the way that you identify?
  9. Identity politics is an important thread throughout this novel. Discuss the ways in which Diane has internalized some of Lacey May’s prejudices. How does that affect her relationship with Alma?
  10. Jade fights for her son’s place in the world, wanting him to have more opportunities than she or Ray had. Discuss how this influences Gee and shapes what he expects from the world and other people.
  11. This novel is filled with mostly fraught relationships that ultimately show the depth and complexities of love. Was there a particular relationship in the novel that spoke to you the most? Did it remind you of a relationship in your own life?
  12. When Noelle and Ruth speak about Lacey May’s acceptance of Alma, Noelle comments, “It’s not the same as being Black.” Discuss what Noelle means by this.
  13. By the final scenes at the wedding, it appears that Noelle has reconciled with her family. Yet she grapples with their limitations and the way they can progress in certain ways, accept some things but not others. Discuss what is meant by the line, “They’d never admit how willingly they’d played their parts.”

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