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The Shiksa Syndromeby Laurie Graff
Reading Group Guide
1. What were your expectations of this novel, based on the title and cover? Now that youve read it, were your expectations fulfilled?
2. Which character did you identify with more closely, Aimee or Krista? In your opinion, which one stayed more true to herself? Who was the better friend? Why?
3. Discuss the metaphor of driving. In what ways was Aimees reluctance to learn to drive a reflection of her life in general? And what did it signify when she did get her license?
4. Dating outside your faith is a highly personal decision-have you ever done it? Why do you think Aimee was willing to date Peter in the first place, considering her beliefs?
5. What role did Peter play in Aimees predicament? Did they break up because of her assumptions, or because of his behavior? Discuss his Christmas gift to her, and especially its packaging. How would you have responded?
6. Have you ever pretended to be something or someone youre not in the name of love? How did your results resemble Aimees?
7. What role did Aimees parents play in her decisions? Was she correct in her assumptions about what they really wanted for her? Why was Aimee so set on marrying a Jewish man, when her parents didnt seem to mind either way?
8. Discuss the concept of shiksa as brand, especially Aimees assertion that “Your brand stands for something to your customers. They can relate to who you are because somehow youve created a connection with their soul. And you can control that perception.”(page 48) In her relationship with Josh, how did this work in Aimees favor, and how did it work against her?
9. Throughout the book, characters buy into stereotypes: Josh thinks Aimee will order a cocktail because shes a shiksa; Krista thinks a Jewish man wont ever cheat; and so on. How does it harm them to make these assumptions, and how does it help them navigate life? Does it matter if theyre right or wrong?
10. On page 59, Aimee tells Krista “I dont feel Im doing anything to Josh he doesnt want done.” Does she really believe this? In what ways was she right, and how was she wrong?
11. Re-read the section on page 153 in which Aimee compares herself to Esther. Is her comparison apt? Why?
12. At the Shabbat service, the rabbi says (page 262): “To lie is a fragmentation of the soul. It is fraud. And if you are successful, if you are able to-pull it off-you cheat not only the people you lie to, but yourself. For you are not whole. You are broken.” At what point does Aimee realize she is broken? Why does it take her so long? What does she do about it?
13. What about Josh? How did his treatment of eMay differ from the way he wouldve treated Aimee? Re-read the conversation they have in the Japanese restaurant, starting on page 280. Whose behavior was worse, ultimately?
14. Of all the many lies and betrayals Aimee commits during her shiksa period, in your opinion, which is the worst, and why? How did you feel about Aimee when she did that? Would you have forgiven her, if it were your life?
15. How does pretending to be a shiksa expand Aimees worldview? Her personality? Her life experience? In the end, was it good for her? Would you ever want to try such an experiment?
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