This reading group guide for It's a Curl Thing includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
Rhyann Hamilton has big plans: to make top grades, get a scholarship to her dream college, and have a great time at her sophomore prom. But after a hair disaster leaves her owing money to a local hair salon, she finds herself in a new role, tending to pampered customers as an assistant at the salon. There she meets a new friend who challenges her to think differently about the world and her own place in it. With the help of her friends Mimi and Divine, Rhyann learns that when she reaches out to others, opens up, and trusts in God, her world expands in ways she’d never imagined.
Questions for Discussion
1. What is your first impression of Rhyann? How does she differ from her friends Mimi and Divine? What do you think are her character strengths and weaknesses? How does she change over the course of the story?
2. Right from the beginning of It’s a Curl Thing, Rhyann is focused on how her hair looks—and horrified when her sister bungles her cut and color. Why do you think hairstyle and appearance are so important, not just to Rhyann and her friends, but also to Mrs. Goldberg? Can you relate?
3. Why do you think Rhyann resists trusting Traven? Do you think she’s heard too much about his past, or does she tend to distrust all men? Is she right to be hesitant about him, or has she let her prejudgments cloud her view of him? Why do you think her true feelings only come out in her poems?
4. How does Rhyann blind herself to her own anti-Semitism? How does she let her aunt’s experience feed into it? How does her anger create a false impression of Mrs. Goldberg? What do you think really wakes up Rhyann to her own prejudice?
5. After her confrontation with Mrs. Goldberg, Rhyann realizes that in order to get respect you have to earn it. Do you agree that respect is something that must be earned? How does Rhyann step up and earn respect at the salon?
6. Rhyann and Divine are both surprised to learn that there were black victims of the Holocaust. Was this new information for you as well? Why do you think certain aspects of history might not be taught in school?
7. Unlike Divine and Mimi, Rhyann doesn’t come from a privileged background. How does this affect her opinions about clothes, parties, money, and even boys? Why do you think she is such close friends with Mimi and Divine, despite their differences?
8. It’s important to Rhyann to wait until marriage before having sex. Do you think her aunt is right in worrying that Rhyann will slip up? Rhyann worries that Mimi is being manipulated by Kyle. Do you foresee trouble for her?
9. Mimi accuses Rhyann of being negative, to which Rhyann replies that she’s only being realistic. In what respect do you think Rhyann is down-to-earth, and in what areas is she just closed off and scared? How do you think Mrs. Goldberg’s final wishes and letter will affect Rhyann’s outlook in the future?
10. From the beginning of It’s a Curl Thing, Rhyann has experienced many difficulties and sorrows. What tragedies and struggles has she had to live through? What is her tone in discussing her mother’s death and the neighborhood in which she lives? Why do you think Mrs. Goldberg’s death affects her so deeply? How does it help her to face her grief over losing her mother and aunt?
Activities to Enhance Your Book Club
1. Rhyann, Divine, and Mimi are all able to learn more about the experiences of victims of the Holocaust by reaching out via the internet and going to museums, such as the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. You can also research to learn more. Read some of the books dealing with the Holocaust mentioned in It’s a Curl Thing, such as Valaida, by Candace Allen, or If You Save One Life, by Eva Brown.
2. Plan a trip to the hair salon with your book club. While you’re there, share your own hair disaster stories.
3. For more about the author, check out her websites at www.jacquelinthomas.com and www.simplydivinebooks.com.