About the Author
Lauren F. Winner, the former book editor for Beliefnet, has appeared on PBSs Religion & Ethics Newsweekly and has written for The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post Book World, Publishers Weekly, and Christianity Today. Her essays have been included in The Best Christian Writing 2000 and The Best Christian Writing 2002. Winner has degrees from Columbia and Cambridge universities and is currently at work on her doctorate in the history of American religion. She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Reading Group Guide
1. A major theme in Girl Meets God
is friendship.Who are some of Laurens friends, and what role do they play in her spiritual journey? Do friends play a similarly important role in your own life?
2. Fidelity is a motif in Girl Meets God. How does Lauren respond to her friend Hannahs infidelity? Why is infidelity such a poignant and pointed topic for her?
3. Two different chapters in this book have the title “Conversion Stories.” Why do they have the same title? Do they tell similar or different stories about religious conversion?
4. Laurens book is structured according to the Jewish and Christian calendars-it is organized around liturgical seasons and holidays like Sukkot and Advent.Why is the book structured this way? What effect does it have on you, the reader?
5. Lauren suggests that “ruptures are the most interesting part of any text, that in the ruptures we learn something new.” (p. 8) How is Laurens story marked by ruptures, and what do we learn from them?
6. Upon converting to Christianity, Lauren gives up all things Jewish- she even says that “trading my Hebrew prayer book for an Episcopal Book of Common Prayer felt exactly like filing for divorce.” (p. 9) Is divorce an apt metaphor for Laurens relationship with Judaism? Does she eventually recover some of her Jewish practice?
7. What is the plot of Girl Meets God? Is it a coming-of-age story? A story of a quest? Does it present clear questions at the outset, and, if so, does it offer tidy answers to those questions at the end? When Lauren is a teenager, a woman from her synagogue gives her a poem that instructs “Return with us, return to us, / be always coming home.” (p. 34) Is Girl Meets God a story of homecoming?
8. Lauren says that the “very first thing I liked about Christianity, long before it ever occurred to me to go to church or say the creed or call myself a Christian, was the Incarnation.” (p. 51) What is appealing to Lauren about the Christian story of the Incarnation?
9. Laurens story is one of spiritual change and conversion, or making and remaking her spiritual self. In what ways is the story of reinvention a distinctively American story? Have you experienced an analogous remaking or reinvention of self?
10. Geography and place play a central role in Laurens narrative. To what extent do the landscapes of the American South and New York City shape her experiences?
11. Lauren readily admits to being a bookworm.What role do books and reading play in her spiritual development? How have books been important in your own life?
12. Memoir, as a genre, involves the author presenting a particular self to her audience.To what extent does Lauren suggest she has “arrived” as a Christian? Does she readily admit to spiritual failings, or is she eager to present herself as someone with all the answers?