Pulitzer Book Club Inclusion Guide
"Demon Copperhead" by Barbara Kingsolver
• Tina Turner, first black artist and first woman on a Rolling Stone cover, remembered as inspiration to domestic abuse survivors.
Barbara Kingsolver grew up in rural east-central Kentucky and now lives on a farm in southern Appalachia. While growing up, she spent time in other countries while her doctor father donated his services treating people in extreme need.
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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.
Young man recalls childhood/young adulthood of epic systemic fails, occasional kindness.
Teenager’s foster care bedroom is the laundry room floor/dog room.
“David Copperfield” by Charles Dickens brilliantly reimagined in modern day Appalachia.
A long, 560-page book of sadness that reads fast and is engaging because of the storytelling style of the narrator and his deadpan sarcasm; 21 listening hours.
One person can change the direction of someone’s life and how another human feels on any given day.
First-hand account of poverty, life in foster care, homelessness, opioid addiction, physical and psychological abuse of children, abandonment, food insecurity, violence, holes in the education system, jobs unsuitable for minors, incarceration, and bigotry. Young man’s worldview assumes all of that is normal and how people are expected to live.
Rotate between specialties of the Southern neighbor you wish would adopt you (ham biscuits, venison, beans, etc.), filched cookies, convenience store hot dogs, bad frozen food (and not enough of it), and nothing.
“You don’t know what it’s like to be me.”
Have a meal in a truckstop and make sure you are not ripped off. But first, chat with your friends by the dumpster as you sort through some trash.
Contrast contemporary Appalachia to London in the 1800s in terms of how society responds to marginalized people. What real progress has been made by society? Why do poverty, bigotry and abuse continue? Which new problems are epic?
How did the book influence your view of the opioid crisis and people addicted to drugs?
What is the nature of support provided government and family to Demon?
What forms does bigotry take when directed at people below the poverty line? People from the South?
Compare survival behaviors in the country versus city.
How would you reshape our society to address foster care? The education system? Youth sports? Opioids? Prisons? The legal system? Child labor? How would you address food insecurity? Poverty? Parental abuse? Youth violence? Sex workers? What bottom line problem unites these challenges?
Why can living in terrible conditions feel normal?
Describe the moments of kindness in Demon’s life and Demon’s guardian angels. How do individuals help in ways the system cannot?
Compare your reaction to Demon Copperhead and Trust. How did the two 2023 Pulitzer winning novels affect your perceptions of wealth and poverty? Where is the overlap between the two orphaned main characters who live in very different circumstances?
Your obvious destination is the Devil’s Bathtub (and waterfall) which really does exist in Lee County, Virginia.
You may be able to join a Melungeon bus tour through the Southwest Virginia museum or attend the Melungeon Heritage Association’s annual Union/Conference.
Imagine your most idealized trip, then go to Knoxville -- about a two-hour drive away from Lee County – where you’ll spend most of your time playing video games, drawing and re-reading comic books. Your best day ever is when you go to Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is in Gatlinburg, about an hour from Knoxville.
If you’ve never seen an ocean, go to Virginia Beach.
There are 20+ Copperfield adaptations, including an animated musical film and a 1913 silent film.
Consider watching the 1999 BBC David Copperfield mini-series.
“David Copperfield” (1850) by Charles Dickens.
Kingsolver novels include “The Poisonwood Bible” (1998), “Flight Behavior” (2012), and “Prodigal Summer” (2000).