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 School Counselors

January 7, 2012


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS for
SCHOOL COUNSELORS and COUNSELING GROUPS

Think about Sara’s friendships with Lucy and with Candy in Holland. What do you think about them? Why was she drawn to each?

Read the passage about Lizzy in the chapter “My Father’s Bath.” Why was Sara so comfortable with Lizzy? What makes a comfortable friend?

When Sara first sees the girls on the playground in Holland, she thinks “belonging in this school seems like it will involve human sacrifice.” Why might she feel that way? Have you ever felt that way? How did she cope with her feeling that she had to sacrifice part of herself in order to belong? How might she have coped better?

Think about all of Sara’s difficult social encounters. Have you ever had similar experiences? What was your most mortifying moment?

Consider Sara’s experience at the Sadie Hawkins dance at Sidwell Friends School. If you had been there, what advice might you have given Sara?

Recall Sara’s relief on discovering Charlotte in Bethesda, her exhilaration on the playing field with Will Suzuki, and her discovery of Japan. What have been your happiest moments?

Sara loved her “mud wallow” of a home in Holland. What is the place you’ve loved most or felt completely at home?

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

Do you have an alternative self, a “Nicole,” like Sara had?

Consider the strange crisis that ended up with Sara’s admission to the hospital. Has life ever turned topsy-turvy for you? Have you ever felt un-done, or like you didn’t recognize yourself?

Think about Sara’s craving to be like Candy. Why did she so want to be like Candy? Have you ever had a person in your life who you wanted to be? What do you think about this? If you were your own best friend, what advice might you give that part of you?

Think of Sara on the playground in Holland: the day she called Molly a hick. Have you ever betrayed a friend in speech, thought, or deed? Think about why.

Consider Sara’s longing for a twin. What would your twin be like? What would having her make you feel better about?

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? How did you cope? How can a student cope with a teacher that who makes an upsetting comment?



Selected Works

Memoir
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.
Travel
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
Essay
"An eloquent essay." -New York Times