Sara teaching writing at The American School in Japan

RESOURCES FOR TEACHERS, COUNSELORS & BOOK CLUBS: English Teachers, American History Teachers, School Counselors & Book Clubs

Born Under an Assumed Name: Resources for English Teachers and College Counselors

January 7, 2012

for class discussion or writing

Write about a friend like Lucy and about a friend like Candy. Write a scene in which you are interacting with each. Try to bring out the character of those relationships through the dialogue.

Read the passage about Lizzy in the chapter “My Father’s Bath.” Write about a friend you were really comfortable with.

Recall the incident with the eggs, or Sara’s experience at the skating rink in the chapter “Dutchies.” Have you ever felt threatened by other kids? Write about it.

Think about all of Sara’s difficult social encounters. Write about your most socially miserable or embarrassing moment.

Write about one of your happiest moments. Think of Sara’s relief on discovering Charlotte in Bethesda, her exhilaration on the playing field with Will Suzuki or her discovery of Japan.

Write about a place you loved or felt completely at home.

Read the passage about Sara’s friend Gabrielle in the chapter “Nicole.” Write about an unusual friend you’ve had, perhaps a person you were surprised you liked.

Write about a time you felt un-done, when life seemed topsy-turvy, or when you didn’t recognize yourself.

Think about Sara’s craving to be like Candy. Write about a friend you wanted or want to be like. “If I were…I’d…” Write a scene that shows what that friend is like and what you are like. Then reflect upon it.

Think of Sara on the playground in Holland: the day she called Molly a hick. Write about a time you betrayed a friend, and reflect on why you did it.

Consider Sara’s longing for a twin. Describe your twin. What would she be like?

Sara loves wooden shoes, haiku, and adventures like hiking in the Borneo jungle. She is a devoted friend, and dreams of becoming an anthropologist. One of the hardest things for her is speaking up in groups. What are your distinctive qualities? What are your strengths and the things that are harder for you? Thinking of your strengths, what would you like people to say about you?

What is the importance of having someone like you—or not?

What is most important in life? Friends, mastery, family love, steadiness? Take Sara’s life as a jumping-off point.

Have you ever had a teacher like Mr. Oates, or one like Sara’s art teacher at Sidwell Friends School? What do you think about each? Write about them.


Selected Works

A story of growing up in the world of espionage
"A poignant chronicle of the diaspora of the heart--and the heart's quest and longing for that universal place called home." Wall Street Journal
Opinion/Cultural Commentary
In Britain or France my aging mother would have gotten better health care.
An exploration of Argentina’s past tyrannies, and my own
Literary Journalism
"...One of the most compelling, knowledgeable, and graceful books about the French soul that has ever been written by an American." -Richard Goodman, author of French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France
"The stories remain...etched in the reader's mind, etched as if by the harsh wind of Patagonia itself. Extraordinarily fine writing." -St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"An eloquent essay." -New York Times