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India

(Part of The Divas)
By Victoria Christopher Murray

Reading Group Guide

    Divas: India

    Victoria Christopher Murray

    Summary

    Best friends Diamond, India, Veronique, and Aaliyah are fifteen year old high school sophomores who have been friends since childhood. After forming a singing group—The Divas—in order to enter a gospel talent search and winning a preliminary contest, the girls must prepare for the next round in San Francisco. This second part of the Divas’ story is seen through the eyes of India: daughter of a former model but overweight herself, half black and half white, India doesn’t feel like she fits in anywhere. Her distress and plummeting self-esteem get overshadowed by the girls’ excitement over their competition, and India’s feelings of invisibility grow stronger. She is overjoyed to learn what she thinks is a secret, beginning a cycle of binging and purging that causes her to lose weight rapidly. At first India, and everyone around her, is impressed by her shrinking size. But by the time India’s closest friends and family realize how bad things are, India is in the hospital, and the chance to continue on in the gospel talent search is put in jeopardy.

    Questions and Topics for Discussion

    1. In the opening of the novel, India says, “This world wasn’t made for me.” What exactly makes India feel so different and alone? Have you ever felt this way, and if so, how did you deal with it?

    2. From the very beginning of this novel, India feels neglected by her friends. Do you think this is true? Are India’s feelings based on reality or are they self-imposed? Give examples from the novel to support your opinion.

    3. If you’ve read the first novel in this series, how do you think the Divas have been changed by their experiences? In what ways do you see them responding differently to situations?

    4. India overhears her parents arguing about her weight problem. From the conversation, it is clear that Tova wants to get India some kind of stomach surgery in order to help her lose weight, while India’s father is firmly against this plan. Why do you think he says no? How do you feel about surgery as a “quick fix” to physical problems? When might such surgery be useful and “okay?”

    5. Tova says that she wants to give India self-esteem and confidence by getting her the surgery she thinks she needs to be thin. Does thin equal confident? How does this equation seem supported by the events of this novel as experienced by India? What do you think about this idea?

    6. On page 75, Jill says, “It can’t be bad if it’s on the ‘Net.” Do you think that this is true? How does the availability of information in today’s high-tech world affect how people perceive its value? When you surf the Internet, how do you evaluate what you are seeing?

    7. India is thrilled to discover Jill’s “secret” for losing weight quickly. But while she seems to believe that it’s okay to vomit up her meals, she also instinctively knows that she will get into trouble if anyone finds out. What is it that keeps India from telling anyone about her great new weight loss plan? What does her behavior reveal? What other reasons might there be for keeping such a secret?

    8. The journalist, Nicolette, brings up the issue of models and eating disorders to Tova, who dismisses the topic as being somewhat exaggerated. How big of a problem do you think eating disorders really are in today’s world? Identify examples of unconscious bias, such as Nicolette’s comment to India about losing her “baby fat.”

    9. India struggles with feelings of invisibility and a desperate desire to be praised. What other characters struggle with similar feelings and what do they do about it? Identify some coping mechanisms that work and some that don’t, and explain your opinion.

    10. On page 198, Pastor Ford tells India that she is a star for God. What does her advice tell you about your source of self-worth and how it affects your choices? How does the way in which you determine your own value affect how you perceive yourself versus the reality? How did it affect India?

    11. When Pastor Ford points out to India that she is defining herself by her weight, India wonders, “How else was I supposed to define myself?” (page 195). Later, Dr. Yee asks India, “Tell me about yourself,” a request that India finds difficult to answer. Why is it so hard for her to answer Dr. Yee? How do you define yourself?

    12. When India’s bulimia is exposed, Tova is distraught. She thought she was just helping her daughter by encouraging her to lose weight; India took her mother’s advice as proof that Tova did not really like her because she was fat. Describe some of the things that Tova does that contributes to India’s low self-esteem. What might she have done differently? What other ways are there to be supportive of someone who is trying to change?

    13. Dr. Yee tells Tova that genetic predisposition seems to have some influence on whether girls develop eating disorders or not. Using evidence from the novel, make an argument for how big a role “nature” played in India’s problems, versus the role “nurturing,” or her environment, played.

    14. On page 251, India’s father shares with her a task his mother made him perform in childhood: every day, he had to write down one thing that he did for someone else. He tells India that, at the end of the week, seeing this list made him feel good about himself. How did this simple task affect his self-definition and self-perception? Do you think it would work to help girls like India feel better about their bodies? Why or why not?

    Tips to Enhance Your Bookclub

    1. Once she begins therapy for her eating disorder and general self-esteem issues, India becomes more aware of all the negative things she says to herself throughout the day. What does your inner dialogue sound like? For one day, write down all of the things you say to yourself and, in the evening, make a tally of how many thoughts are positive and how many are negative. Then, for one day, try changing every negative thought into a positive one and see how it makes you feel.

    2. At the end of the novel, the Divas are sad to lose their competition yet still feel positive about their future as a singing group. They “kiss it up to God” and remind themselves that when God closes one door, he opens another. At your next Book Club meeting, share with your fellow members a story about a time when this saying held true for you.

    3. Take some time to visit and browse the official Divas websites at www.thedivinedivas.com and www.myspace.com/divinedivaseries_2008. You can also read the author’s blog at www.myspace.com/victoriachristophermurray. Come to your next Book Club meeting prepared to discuss how the Internet allows authors to bring the world of their novels to life, and how this author’s personal thoughts has or hasn’t affected your experience reading her novels.

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