Pulitzer Book Club Inclusion Guide

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GET THE BOOK

"The Optimist's Daughter" by Eudora Welty

INCLUSION MILESTONES

1973

• Billie Jean King beats Bobby Riggs in straight sets
• Roe v Wade protects legal right to abortion
• Homosexuality removed from mental disorder list


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AUTHOR INSPIRATIONS

Welty went to dances, musical performances and theatre during the peak of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1930s. She returned to Jackson, Mississippi after her father died.

Featured Reader Wanted!

Featured Reader

– 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.

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Daughter, same-age step-mother tangle after Optimist's primitive surgery

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After weeks of stillness and sandbags to promote recovery from eye surgery, wife gets rough with her much-older husband and tells him to “snap out of it.”

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Examination of the class system and kindness in the context of grief.

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Very short at 180 pages with lots of white space; 4 audio hours

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Be classy. Don’t talk down to adults with limited education or children. Be especially nice to someone who tried and did not get the desired outcome.

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You really feel the power pyramid; the judge/former mayor, is at the top along with his doctor buddy. Judge sentenced at least one Klan murderer. The Black people in town who respect the Judge are dissed by Fay’s trashy mother. Step mother/step daughter don’t like or respect each other. Fay’s Texas family lacks social grace; locals aren’t exactly all well behaved either.

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Everyone brings food. Lots of it. Many pies required as well as bread on a beautiful hand-made board. Flowers are not optional.

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“Laurel could not see her face but only the back of her neck, the most vulnerable part of anybody, and she thought: Is there any sleeping person you can be sure you have not misjudged?”

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Rose garden, Ophthalmologist’s waiting room, or wake.

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What do we see in this novel about the class system, religion, education, and color in Mississippi in the 1930s?
Eye surgery has come a long way since the time of this novel. Anything else change?
The author makes it clear that Black people in the community respected the Judge. Why? What is the role of Missouri?
Why do people treat Fay and Laurel so differently? Is Fay nasty or insecure or some other flavor?
Why do people stick with people they know at events like the wake in this novel? How can you encourage people to mingle and get to know each other?

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New Orleans Marti Gras. Try to stay out of the hospital. Extra credit if you take a side trip to Mount Salus, Mississippi which has been renamed Clinton.

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No series or film adaptation known.

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“The New Yorker” first published in The Optimist’s Daughter in 1969 as a short story; it was revised and published as short novel in 1972. No known film/TV adaptation.