Pulitzer Book Club Inclusion Guide
"American Pastoral" by Philip Roth
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Philip Roth, third-generation Jewish American born in Newark, was the target of violence from bullies from neighboring, non-Jewish schools. Roth publicly responded to anti-Semitism accusations, notably via a panel on “Conflict of Loyalties of Writers of Minority Fiction.”
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Featured Reader Wanted!
– Share your key take-away about inclusion in this book in a sentence or two.
– Write a paragraph or two (up to 250 words) to describe your thoughts on exclusion/inclusion in the book, why you related or did not connect with the book, and why you think reading, inclusion and dialog about inclusion matter.
– Identify the name and website address of a cause you support with an inclusive mission.
Newark jockstar bizman marries Miss NJ, spawn terrorist daughter
All-American rich, handsome, jock, marine dad sees his emaciated terrorist Jain daughter and the filthy hideout hovel where has been living and not stuttering.
An unflinching look at idealized and real ugly America, and the people who uphold the American dream and those who rebel against America’s flaws. The rise and decline of a family, child, marriage, and city as imagined by a writer who idolized the jock hero in high school.
Longish at 423 pages, 15 hours. Human and livestock beauty pageants, sports, marine training, and glove-making temper sad family drama and politics.
Admit flaws and unspeakable reality. In yourself, in people you love, in your country. Differences are not flaws. Blame is not acceptance.
All about contrast: haves and have-nots, workers and management; Jewish and Catholics; Jains and terrorists; Black, Irish, Italian, Puerto Rican and WASPs; jocks and fanboys; beautiful and not; fluent and stutterers; Angela Davis, the Weathermen, martyred Vietnamese monks, and Watergate versus Capitalism, War, Integrity, LBJ, and Nixon.
Serve baked ziti for a cozy talk about tween innocence. Let what feels like five years elapse, and bring on the adult dinner party: steak, beefsteak tomatoes, feed buckets lined with bandannas and brimming with corn, and loaves of French break in wicker baskets and talk about the role of women in the novel, including Linda Lovelace and whether you’d be a cocktail waitress or porn star. Finally, finish with strawberry-rhubarb pie served with spoons for safety.
“The something that’s demented, honky, is American History! It’s the American empire! It’s Chase Manhattan and General Motors and Standard Oil and Newark Maid Leatherware! Welcome aboard, capitalist dog! Welcome to the fucked-over-by-America human race!”
Classy basement/game room set up for vicious ping pong. Hang Audrey Hepburn photos, post index cards with Jain principles, display your lover’s architectural rendering of your dream house. BYOG (gloves) for discussion of fine points of glove making.
What false images of America have you let go and need to let go?
What do high school reunions reveal about how you viewed people in the past and how you/they have changed over time?
Compare Vietnam war and Black Lives Matter protests.
How does the behavior of a president influence the lives of American families?
What is privilege? How do children of privilege and born without privilege rebel and transform? Succeed? How can young people and adults help children who don’t have their advantages?
Compare the negotiation Dawn and her future father-in-law have about religion to the Swede’s interactions with his teen daughter about politics and later about her Jain life. How did Dawn and the Swede function as a Jewish/Catholic couple in a WASP community.
What is the responsibility of management to workers? Of a parent to a child who does the unspeakable?
What is the place of ethnic loyalty in the work of a fiction writer?
Visit fabulous Newark, NJ now proudly called “Resurgence City” and evaluate the change via an architectural tour. Stay for a prostate screening and a factory tour; avoid the post office. Take the train to NYC and visit the Jewish Museum on Museum Mile, the Museum of Jewish Heritage on the Southern tip of Manhattan near the Statue of Liberty, and the Jain Center of America in Elmhurst in Queens. Alternatively, go to the Miss NJ or Miss America pageant and a cattle beauty show via a livestock auction or a state fair livestock competition.
2016 “American Pastoral” film; 2003 “The Human Stain” film
“The Facts” (Roth’s 1988 autobiography)
Roth wrote nine Zuckerman-narrated novels. “Zuckerman Bound: A Trilogy and an Epilogue” (1985) included “The Ghost Writer,” “Zuckerman Unbound,” “The Anatomy,” and “The Prague Orgy.” “The Counterlife” was published in 1986. “American Pastoral” was first of three novels in American Trilogy, followed by “I Married a Communist” (1998) and “The Human Stain” (2000). “Exit Ghost” was published in 2007.