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A Novel

  • reading group guide
Marjorie Celona’s internationally acclaimed debut, longlisted for the Giller Prize, chronicles a wise-beyond-her-years child abandoned as a newborn on the doorstep of the local YMCA.

Growing up in foster homes, Shannon chooses to define life on her own terms, but she never stops wondering why she was abandoned. Brilliantly interwoven with Shannon’s story is the tale of her mother, Yula, a girl herself who is facing a desperate fate in the hours and days leading up to Shannon’s birth. As past and present converge, Celona’s beautiful novel tells an unforgettable story of identity, inheritance, and, ultimately, forgiveness.
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  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 288 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781451674408 | 
  • September 2013
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Read an Excerpt


my life begins at the Y. I am born and left in front of the glass doors, and even though the sign is flipped “Closed,” a man is waiting in the parking lot and he sees it all: my mother, a woman in navy coveralls, emerges from behind Christ Church Cathedral with a bundle wrapped in gray, her body bent in the cold wet wind of the summer morning. Her mouth is open as if she is screaming, but there is no sound here, just the calls of birds. The wind gusts and her coveralls blow back from her body, so that the man can... see more

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Y: A Novel includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Marjorie Celona. 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.


Abandoned at the local YMCA hours after she was born, sixteen-year-old Shannon knows she should be grateful for her makeshift family. After years of bouncing between foster homes, Shannon finally finds stability with Miranda, her new foster mother, who sacrifices every personal comfort to provide for Shannon and Miranda’s own daughter, Lydia-Rose. But Shannon’s restless spirit and yearning to know more about her origins leads her into the gritty streets of downtown Victoria, where she loses herself among the city’s outcasts. There she meets Vaughn, the sole witness to her abandonment on the doorstep of the Y, and Shannon resolves to track down her birth parents—no matter how painful their stories might be. Shannon’s search is interwoven with the devastating, extraordinary story of the days leading up to her birth. When Yula and Shannon finally meet, they realize the possibilities and limitations of a blood tie and the comfort and stability that chosen families can provide.

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About the Author

Marjorie Celona
Photograph by Jeanne Shoemaker

Marjorie Celona

Marjorie Celona received her MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she was an Iowa Arts Fellow and recipient of the John C. Schupes fellowship. Her stories have appeared in Best American Nonrequired Reading, Glimmer Train, and Harvard Review. Born and raised on Vancouver Island, she lives in Cincinnati.




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