Reading Group Guide
Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. In Daughter, Aya Rivers, a vibrant but mischievous teenager, tries to be obedient but has a hard time, particularly “when she [comes] across a rule that [doesn’t] fit into her life” (page 4). Discuss the notion of rules as a theme that resonates throughout the novel. How do rules factor into the lives of Miriam and Aya? In what ways does following the rules backfire?
2. As a child, Miriam “was loved, yes, but hers was a childhood defined by the church, and by her mother’s restrictions and protection” (page 62). Examine the parallels between Miriam’s and Aya’s childhoods and upbringings.
3. How is Miriam, as a parent, the product of her mother and father’s attempts to do things “just so?” Were Maud and Fred successful as Miriam’s parents? Was Miriam successful as a parent to Aya?
4. Up until Miriam meets Bird, she is a silent and respectful girl who never really asserts herself or her point of view. She tells Bird that “if you say how you feel it’s either considered complaining, not being grateful for your blessings, or else not being in control of your emotions” (page 101). Discuss the themes of silence and voice. How does Miriam eventually use the voice that has been locked within her for so long?
5. Aya, seeking to define her identity, is naturally curious about her absent father. Miriam, attempting to shield her daughter from the bitter truth, tells Aya that her father died in Vietnam. Do you think Miriam should have told Aya the truth about Bird? How might have Aya’s understanding of past events potentially affected her future?
6. Devastated by the loss of her first and only love, Bird, and her only child, Aya, Miriam seeks to avenge her daughter’s death by opening fire in a police precinct. Are you surprised by this sudden turn of events? Is Miriam justified?
7. Growing up a lonely child, Miriam forges a strong and binding relationship with God. How does prayer and faith factor into Miriam’s life? Ultimately, does she break her pact with God?
8. An underlying theme of the novel is the impact of police brutality on families and the community at large. How do you reconcile the fact that both father and daughter are victims of haphazard policing? Considering the high levels of police antagonism, is it a startling coincidence or a probable occurrence?
9. The novel Daughter sharply focuses on familial relationships, in particular, the raising of daughters. The narrator states: “Aya would be raised a righteous woman, a clean and pure and proper woman. Miriam would not allow her girl to follow the example of her life” (page 218). Do you think Miriam and her parents would have been as strict and restricting if they were raising boys instead of girls?
10. By the end of the novel, Miriam encourages the women at the Waterkill facility to “say their stories, the things they knew, the puzzles they’d fit together despite the missing pieces” (page 259). Discuss the importance of passing on stories and sharing histories. How does Miriam eventually fit her puzzle together in spite of the missing pieces?