Book reading and signing at Politics and Prose at the Wharf in DC

Book reading and signing at Politics and Prose at the Wharf in DC

Reading Guide Questions

1) In Dodging and Burning, the narrators, Bunny and Ceola, have their love for Jay in common; however, they're very different from each other. How does this difference cause tension between them as girls? Is it fully resolved once they’re older women?

2) Why do you think Ceola addresses her portion of the narrative to her dead brother, Robbie? What does this tell you about her feelings toward him even as an older woman? Who is Bunny writing for? What does that tell you about her?

3) In the 1940s, mainstream society viewed homosexuality as psychologically abnormal and/or the product of morally corrupt urban environments. During the time period of the novel, what challenges did these characters face in coming to terms with their own homosexuality or the marginalized sexuality of others? Do some of these challenges still remain today?

4) How do the settings in the story—Royal Oak, VA; Washington, DC; London; the Ardennes—bring out different aspects of these characters? What’s the correlation between location and self-discovery?

5) In the novel, many of the characters tell stories to other characters—Jay to the girls, Robbie to Ceola, Terry to Jay, etc. What do these stories reveal about their tellers and about their audience?

6) The pulp story “A Date with Death” is interwoven with the other chapters. It concerns a character whose tragic fate is irrevocable. How does this story resonate with themes in the primary narrative?

7) At several points in Dodging and Burning, characters are “read” incorrectly by other characters? Jay is read as a straight man; Bunny is read as a transvestite? How does this misreading come about? What might the cause of it be?

8) Jay loves code making and code deciphering. What other codes—social or cultural—are evident in the book? What do these codes reveal about the time period?

9) “Dodging” and “burning” are photographic terms that play an important role in the plot, but they also have secondary metaphorical meanings. What are those meanings? Are there a variety of interpretations?

10) To different degrees, Jay, Bunny, and Ceola deceive themselves through the course of the novel? By the end of the book, has that self-deception lifted for each of them?