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American Woman


American Woman Cover



Reading Group Guide

On the lam for an act of violence against the American government, 25-year old Jenny Shimada agrees to care for three younger fugitives whom a shadowy figure from her former militant life has spirited out of California. One of them, the kidnapped granddaughter of a wealthy newspaper magnate in San Francisco, has become a national celebrity for embracing her captors' ideology and joining their radical cell.

Set in the early 1970's, this is a thought-provoking meditation on themes of race, identity, and class. American Woman explores the psychology of the young radicals, the intensity of their isolated existence, and the paranoia and fear that undermine their ideals.

American Woman features characters based on real radicals of the 1970's. Juan and Yvonne (names and identities altered) were members of the Symbionese Liberation Army who kidnapped Patty Hearst (Pauline in the novel). Even Jenny has a real life counterpart in a Japanese-American woman radical who befriended Patty Hearst. When Susan Choi began writing the novel in 1998, she felt that there was relevance in the question of what drives certain people to sacrifice themselves — however rashly or even wrongly — in order to be true to their political and moral beliefs, no matter what the time period.

Discussion Questions

1. What do you feel the author was trying to say in the title American Woman?

2. If you grew up at this time, how does the novel compare to your memory of the 60s and 70s? If you were born afterwards, what surprised you most about this time?

3. How might the novel have changed if told from Pauline's point of view?

4. Discuss the many manifestations of love throughout the book. Does Pauline's arrival mark a turn in the novel's eroticism? Why does William continue to evoke such strong emotions in Jenny?

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
New York
Choi, Susan
Rock, Peter
Young women
Psychological fiction
Social isolation
Women radicals
Fugitives from justice
Women revolutionaries
Women terrorists.
Hudson River Valley
Kidnapping victims
General Fiction
Edition Number:
1st ed.
Edition Description:
Series Volume:
Publication Date:
August 19, 2003
1 piece of line art
9 x 6 in 1 lb

Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

American Woman
0 stars - 0 reviews
$ In Stock
Product details 224 pages HarperCollins Publishers - English 9780060542214 Reviews:
"Review" by , "[G]rainy psychological depth and texture....While the unfolding drama...is enthralling, it is Choi's skill at getting inside the heads of her protagonists that gives the novel its particular, unsettling appeal."
"Review" by , "[A]mbitious...intellectually provocative and vividly imagined but weighed down by its intentions. Despite some fine writing, [it] seems as much like a seminar...as it does a novel....Earnest but disappointing."
"Review" by , "[M]esmerizing....[S]ustains its own unwavering, original voice....Choi crafts complex, believable characters....How it all comes together in an engrossing and emotive story is testament to Choi's deft narration. Highly recommended."
"Review" by , "With uncompromising grace and mastery, Susan Choi renders the intimate moments which bring to life a tale of prodigious sweep."
"Review" by , "Few writers since Graham Greene have brought such tender, insightful, poetic, intelligent, darkly comic writing to the political thriller."
"Review" by , "Enthralling, it is Choi's skill at getting inside the heads of her protagonists that gives the novel its particular, unsettling appeal [and]...grainy psychological depth and texture."
"Review" by , "Enthralling."
"Review" by , "A hypnotic, winding route through the scorched emotional landscape of 1974."
"Review" by , "Intellectually provocative and vividly imagined."
"Review" by , "Prepare to be held hostage by Susan Choi's mesmerizing American Woman."
"Review" by , "Riveting...Choi has the rare gift of bringing sycg notorious moments of history back to life and making them altogether new."
"Review" by , "A brilliant read...astonishing in its honesty and confidence American Woman is a haunting book."
"Review" by , "Brilliant...Choi's insightful understanding vivid description, lyrical use of language and deft dialogue make it an overall reading pleasure."
"Synopsis" by , Francine and Colville were childhood friends whose families belonged to an extreme religion, the Church Universal and Triumphant, whose members built elaborate underground shelters to protect themselves from a nuclear apocalypse that never came. Reunited twenty years later by the search for an abducted girl, Francine and Colville must reckon with the powerful memories of their former church's teachings, and the haunting feeling of leading adult lives in a world they once believed would be destroyed.
"Synopsis" by ,
An American original, Peter Rock brings our strangest beliefs to vivid and sympathetic life in this haunting novel inspired by true events.

The Shelter Cycle tells the story of two children, Francine and Colville, who grew up in the Church Universal and Triumphant, a religion that predicted the world could end in the late 1980s. While their parents built underground shelters to withstand the impending Soviet missile strike, Francine and Colville played in the Montana wilderness, where invisible spirits watched over them. When the prophesized apocalypse did not occur, the sectand#8217;s members resurfaced and the children were forced to grow up in a world they believed might no longer exist.

Twenty years later, Francine and Colville are reunited while searching for an abducted girl. Haunted by memories and inculcated beliefs, they must confront the Churchand#8217;s teachings. If all the things they were raised to believe were misguided, why then do they suddenly feel so true?

"Synopsis" by ,
An intimately charged novel of desire and disaster from the author of American Woman and A Person of Interest

Regina Gottlieb had been warned about Professor Nicholas Brodeur long before arriving as a graduate student at his prestigious university high on a pastoral hill.  He’s said to lie in the dark in his office while undergraduate women read couplets to him. He’s condemned on the walls of the women’s restroom, and enjoys films by Roman Polanski. But no one has warned Regina about his exceptional physical beauty—or his charismatic, volatile wife.

My Education is the story of Regina’s mistakes, which only begin in the bedroom, and end—if they do—fifteen years in the future and thousands of miles away. By turns erotic and completely catastrophic, Regina’s misadventures demonstrate what can happen when the chasm between desire and duty is too wide to bridge.

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