At the beginning of Chapter 2, Vangie states that there is a great deal "they never tell you about being a girl." How does this lack of information affect Vangie? Can Vangie gain the knowledge she seeks through means other than hard experience? Do girls today confront a comparable lack of access to information?
When Vangie reflects on June's involvement with two brothers, she states that "none of us did anything for long unless we wanted to." What is Vangie saying here about choice? About self-knowledge? Are there other instances in the novel where Vangie seems to struggle to understand herself or her own role in an event?
What is the significance of Vangie's dream of the owl at the end of chapter 17? How does her experience of this dream contrast with Del's interpretation of the dream in chapter 24? Why does Vangie reject the religious devotion that seems to bring Del such comfort?
Del makes a valiant effort to rehabilitate himself after his overdose and seems to cleave to the principles of a twelve-step program. What undermines his efforts to change?
How would you characterize the relationship between Vangie and June? Why does Vangie turn away from June at the end of the book, at a moment when her friendship would have probably been particularly important to June? What does Vangie mean in chapter 25 when she says, "I could not keep letting [June] touch me"?
After tremendous intimacy and friendship, Del and June are still "strangers" to Vangie, "all the more strange because I loved them," she says. What is Vangie saying here about the nature of love?
Although Vangie makes numerous missteps over the course of the novel, she also takes certain steps to expand her world and to increase the number of choices she has. Identify some of those steps. Is Vangie a character who is bound to be determined by her environment, or are there hints that she will go beyond the limited world of Mahanaqua?
The characters in Swimming Sweet Arrow seem to talk more easily about explicit s.e.xual acts than about virtually anything else. While the physicality of the s.e.x in the novel cannot be denied, how does s.e.x also serve as a metaphor in Swimming Sweet Arrow?
What is the role of the water imagery in the novel? Besides the title, where else does it occur?
Why is it important to Vangie to tell this story? Why does she struggle until she can say, "There. Now it is all written down"?
Maureen Gibbon's suggestions for further reading.
The Professor's House.
by Willa Cather.
The Awakening by Kate Chopin.
The Lover by Marguerite Duras.
The Nick Adams Stories.
by Ernest Hemingway.
The Diviners by Margaret Laurence So Long, See You Tomorrow.
by William Maxwell Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro Train Whistle Guitar.
by Albert Murray The Atlas by William T. Vollman Winter Wheat by Margaret Walker.
Maureen Gibbon's suggestions for viewing.
Each of these films is currently available on video.
Desert Bloom Gas, Food, Lodging.
Ruby in Paradise The Boys of My Youth.
by Jo Ann Beard.
"Utterly compelling ... uncommonly beautiful.... Life in these pages is an astonishment.... The Boys of My Youth speaks volumes about growing up female and struggling to remain true to yourself."
- Dan Cryer, Newsday "Reading Jo Ann Beard's prose feels as comfortable as falling into step beside an old, intimate friend.... She remembers (or imagines) her childhood self with an uncanny lucidity that startles."
- Laura Miller, New York Times Book Review Dale Loves Sophie to Death
by Robb Forman Dew
Winner of the National Book Award "A novel that profoundly satisfies both the mind and the heart."
- Robert Wilson, Washington Post Book World "Like Virginia Woolf, Robb Forman Dew reaches into the flow of daily life to break open a single moment. She captures beautifully the shift and flux of feelings, friendships, perspectives, the child in the adult and adult in the child."
-Jean Strouse, Newsweek This Body
by Laurel Doud
"A frisky, riveting debut.... With Doud's brightly visceral prose and deft sense of tragicomedy, This Body proves equally engrossing for the senses, soul, and mind."
- Megan Harlan, Entertainment Weekly "Lots of fun.... Every woman has had the fantasy of waking up in a younger, skinnier body. But what if you had to die first? And what if the body you came to one year after your death belonged to a freshly OD'd junkie?"
- Cindy Bagwell, Dallas Morning News Snake
by Kate Jennings
"Snake can be read in a single sitting. In fact, this is the ideal way to absorb Ms. Jennings's stunning narrative.... Clearly the work of a powerful imagination."
- Carol shields, New York Times Book Review "The chapters in Snake are short, vivid bursts of imagery, anecdote, insight.... It's hard to believe a full-blown family tragedy can be told so wholly and well in such small, deft s.n.a.t.c.hes, but then rarely has a poet's skill at compaction been put to better use in prose."
- Mich.e.l.le Huneven, Los Angeles Times Book Review.
Sonny Liston Was a Friend of Mine.
by Thom Jones.
"True to form as one of literature's practicing wild men of prose, Thom Jones delivers a collection that is a nutty perfection of the weird and the wasted, done to wondrous effect... Jones is a brilliant risk taker whose stories reward you with their ornery, out-there energy."
"This might be Jones's best work yet, which is saying something, since The Pugilist at Rest was a National Book Award finalist.... The stories in Sonny Liston Was a Friend of Mine snap and crackle like high-tension wires."
- William Porter, Denver Post.
The Power of the Dog.
by Thomas Savage.
with an afterword by Annie Proulx.
"Thomas Savage is a writer of the first order, and he possesses in abundance the novelist's highest art-the ability to illuminate and move."
- The New Yorker.
"The Power of the Dog offers so many pleasures readers will be forgiven if they do not immediately notice that it also engages the grandest themes -among them, the dynamics of family, the varieties of love, and the ethos of the American West. Put simply, The Power of the Dog is a masterpiece."
- Larry Watson, author of Montana 1948 and Justice.
by Joanna Scott.
"Wonderful.... There are things in Make Believe that take the breath away.... One cannot help urging anyone who loves writing to read this book."
- Nick Hornby, New York Times Book Review.
"There's something particularly magical when a full-fledged grown-up author is able to tell a story as if the words were coming directly, innocently, from the mouth or mind of a child."
- Patrick T. Reardon, Chicago Tribune.
by Marly Swick.
"An affecting novel ... utterly palpable and real. ... It possesses both the psychological suspense of Sue Miller's bestselling The Good Mother and the emotional acuity of Alice Munro's short stories."
- Michiko Kakutani, New York Times.
"A novel that might be lifted right out of the headlines-a story of a family shattered by loss when a nine-year-old accidentally shoots his half sister. ... A book that lingers in the mind and heart."
- Colleen Kelly Warren, St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
"Here is what they never tell you about being a girl."
This startlingly s.e.xy novel tells a tale of friendship, passion, and survival that few readers will soon forget. From the opening scene-in which two high-school-age girls are fooling around with their boyfriends in the same car at the same time-Swimming Sweet Arrow speaks to us in a voice at once fresh, explicit, urgent, and confiding.
"Seductive and absorbing.... Gibbon presents the grim grace of working-class life and the erotic discoveries of youth with facile clarity." -Kristianna Bertelsen, Express Books (San Francisco) "A moving first novel-Vangie could be the blunt-spoken daughter of a Raymond Carver character. The graphic s.e.x is neither p.o.r.n nor arty erotica: it's anthropology with a heart." -David Gates, Newsweek "Slangy yet lyrical.... Gibbon's touching, simplistic honesty gives the novel its true strength." -Amber Cowan, The Times (London) "Exhilarating.... It's rare to find an author who can write explicitly about s.e.x without being either sentimental or crude. But from the first startling sentences, it's clear that Maureen Gibbon is one of those writers.... Her language is clean and sharp, and cuts like a knife through the usual." -Independent Weekly (Durham, NC) Maureen Gibbon is a graduate of Barnard College and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, where she was awarded a teaching/writing fellowship. Her poetry ma.n.u.script "Kicking Horse My True Husband" was a finalist in the Yale Series of Younger Poets and the National Poetry Series in 1994 and 1995. She has twice been the recipient of Minnesota's Loft-McKnight Artist Fellowship.