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Book Club Wed Sep 05 2007

Peel My Love Like an Onion Discussion Questions

Below are the questions we'll use to help us discuss Ana Castillo's Peel My Love Like an Onion at next week's Book Club meeting. Feel free to start forming your answers now or to come up with questions of your own - both questions and answers can be posted in the comments and everyone is welcome to start a discussion there. Spoilers are allowed, so keep that in mind if you haven't finished the book. I look forward to hearing what you all thought of the book on Monday!

  • Do you trust Carmen as a narrator? Do we get to have any objective views of Manolo and Agustin or are they all clouded by her love for them?
  • Are Manolo and Agustin simple or complex characters? How do you think they would be different if the story were told in the third person?
  • Do you sympathize with Carmen or just pity her? What do you think the author intended for you to feel? How does it differ from how you actually felt?
  • Is Carmen’s sharing of Agustin believable? Does it give any strength to her claim of love for him or does it take away from it?
  • How does Carmen’s parents’ marriage affect her relationships with Agustin and Manolo?
  • Does Carmen’s pregnancy fit into the story? How does it affect your feelings about Carmen and Agustin?
  • Much of the story is concerned with how Carmen identifies herself, whether she’s hiding her disability or revealing it. How do her two loves help her delineate those identities? Do they help at all? How much does the return of Carmen’s polio affect the identity she’s created?
  • Would Carmen’s story be any different if she were not a legal US citizen? Think about the scene in the factory where her friend Vicky calls the INS (p. 125). How would Carmen feel about making a living if she could have been deported? How would that have affected her passion for flamenco?
  • “Dignity is the sexiest thing a woman can learn,” Carmen says (p. 51). How does she incorporate this belief into her life? Do you think she managed to maintain her dignity throughout her trials with Manolo, Agustin and her polio?
  • Why do you think the author chose to write the novel as a series of short stories? How does it affect your reading of it? Would the story be any different if it were told more linearly?
  • Does the ending of Carmen’s new life as a famous singer fit? How important is her fame to the way she deals with her lost loves?
  • Is there any sense of satisfaction or closure with Carmen’s relationships by the end of the novel? Has anything really changed? Has Carmen learned anything in her time apart from her loves?

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