This reading group guide for
Shrinking Violet includes
an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your
book club, and a Q&A with author Danielle Joseph. 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.
Questions for Discussion
1. Does being shy mean you lack confidence? How much of a role
do you believe Tere''s self-image plays in her being shy?
2. What is your initial impression of Tere''s mom, Delilah? Does
it remain the same by the end of the book?
3. Tere states, "I''m glad I have Audrey to talk to, but still I
can''t share everything with her. Not the depths of my soul." Does
this change your thoughts on their relationship? Should best
friends be able to share everything? Do you think that Tere and
Audrey''s friendship is one that is lasting?
4. What are your thoughts on the novel''s structure considering
that the narrative is told from only Tere''s perspective? Do you
think you would have the same impression of the characters if it
was told from a different perspective?
5. Why do you think Gavin and Tere are so connected? How do you
think their upbringing and lifestyle affect who they are?
6. Considering how shy Tere seems, is Derek''s decision to make
Tere a prize in a contest inconsiderate? Why do you think Rob went
along with the idea?
7. Was Stacy''s anger at Tere justified?
8. Discuss the theme of wearing a mask in Shrinking Violet. To
which characters does this apply, and why?
9. Did Tere become more self-assured through being a DJ or do
you think it was caused by multiple factors? Explain.
10. Do you believe the book''s title, Shrinking Violet,
to be an apt description of Tere?
11. Is there anything about Tere and her experiences that are
similar to situations you''ve had to deal with? Discuss.
12. What would be the next chapter in Tere''s life as she
graduates and goes on to college?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. Tere has a real love of music. The music she plays also taps
into the emotions she''s feeling. Share your top five favorite
songs with the book group and what you feel when you play them.
2. Before your book club meeting, look up your favorite author,
tell the group why they are your favorite and share something new
and interesting about them.
3. Helen Keller was a real inspiration to Tere. Read The
Story of My Life by Helen Keller.
A Conversation with Danielle Joseph
1. Was your high school experience at all like
Teresa''s? Is that when you got involved with radio
I was shy growing up but not nearly as shy as Tere. I loved
being involved in drama, not necessarily center stage, more on the
side. I also had a good group of friends that I felt secure in and
was able to express myself within that group. Like Tere, I''ve
always loved music and used to spend hours making mixes. Then when
I went to college, I got involved with the radio station and loved
being behind the mike. There was something comforting about the
fact that I was alone in the studio, speaking to thousands of
people that could hear me but not see me.
2. You mention many types of masks throughout the
story. (The mask that radio provides, the heavy makeup that people
wear, the transformations of Teresa''s mom with each new
boyfriend.) Why do you think so many people are compelled to
disguise or hide themselves? Is there a particular mask that you
wear? If so, why?
When people feel insecure about their inner or outer appearance,
they often put up a mask in the form of a wall. Some masks help you
grow as a person, while others hinder you because they don''t allow
you to overcome your fears and insecurities. Sometimes somebody who
appears to be really put together is actually hurting inside. Two
examples from Shrinking Violet are Delilah, Tere''s mom, and Stacy.
You really have to unpeel the layers to get to know them. I have
always tried not to put up a front and be myself. However, instead
of wearing a mask, in certain situations, I hid behind my shyness.
Going off to college really allowed me to open up. When you come
from a small town like me, it''s hard to break free of the mold
that you are in. Being on the radio, behind the mic, allowed me to
"wear" a mask that enabled me to show my true colors in a positive
way. By the end of my time at the radio station, I was much more
comfortable speaking to people and expressing myself.
3. With fashion magazines, music videos, and
countless other media outlets, it''s often difficult for a
shrinking violet to find themselves amid all of that manufactured
beauty. What would you say to the Teresas of the
I would say the most important thing is to be yourself and not
to sell out. You will never find long-term happiness behind a mask.
It may not be today, but eventually you will be rewarded for your
honesty, for staying true to yourself. If you don''t like the way
something is going in your life, fix it. Things will not happen
overnight, but if you set small attainable goals, you should be
able to meet them with success. And don''t forget that manufactured
beauty is air-brushed!
4. Tere really seems to love hip-hop (though her
loves seem to stretch to various genres, from post-punk to "edgy"
tunes). Given your radio involvement, are you a rap fan? Who is
your favorite musician? (Who is your PJ Squid? Your
I am a big fan of rap/hip-hop music from the old stuff like the
Beastie Boys, Run-DMC and A Tribe Called Quest to newer voices like
Outkast, Estelle, and Sean Kingston. It''s hard to pick just one PJ
Squid, or one Maltese, but an artist that I really admire is Wyclef
Jean. One of the main reasons is because he does not wear a mask.
He is proud of his roots and his heritage and has successfully
incorporated his background into his music. He is the total package
and gives back to others.
5. What inspired you to tell this
I was inspired to tell this story because I think sometimes we
box people into certain categories very early on in their lives and
that hinders their self-esteem. I don''t ever think you should tell
someone that if they don''t work hard enough, they can''t be what
they dream of being. Take Tere''s mom for instance: If Tere had
listened to her mom, she would most likely have never found a home
at the radio station, a place where she clearly belongs. If you
believe in yourself, that is all that matters. Set your own
limitations. Don''t let others do that for you.
6. What do you think initially attracts Gavin to
Tere? What about Tere to Gavin?
While some people might be turned off by Tere''s shyness, Gavin
appreciates that when she does speak, she usually has something
important to say. He is attracted to her because she is her own
person. She''s not trying to be the same as everyone else. Tere is
attracted to Gavin because he too is doing his own thing and she is
intrigued by his mysterious nature. Of course there is a chemical
attraction -- she thinks he''s cute. Plus, music is a great bonding
tool and immediately they both are drawn to each other''s taste in
7. Do you think people like Stacy, Tere''s mother,
and Derek are partially responsible for Tere''s self-discovery? Do
you think negativity can have an impact on someone''s life in a
Yes, I do think a lot of the time people are propelled by the
negativity in their lives to prove those pessimistic forces wrong.
It can definitely affect one''s self-esteem, but if you are able to
turn a deaf ear to the disapproving voices and really focus on your
goals, you can push through any barriers that are set before you.
At the end of the day, you only have to look at yourself in the
8. Do you see Teresa as a modern-day Helen Keller?
Do you see parallels between her transformation and Helen''s
triumphant story? Why did you compare Stacy to Danielle
I think Helen Keller was one of a kind. She persevered against
all odds. And for that she serves as a wonderful role model for
Tere. Tere was able to gather strength from Helen''s story and use
that strength to propel her forward. From reading more about
Helen''s life, Tere was able to appreciate the gifts that she does
have and to make use of them. Both Helen and Tere were able to
overcome their own personal obstacles and did not let anyone or
anything stand in their way. I compared Stacy to
Danielle Steele because Stacy is the type of person who would
pick an author to represent, solely based on the author''s
popularity. Stacy wants to be liked and thinks that money and fame
prevail over what''s inside your heart.
9. Where did you get the idea for the songwriting
contest to win Tere as a prom date? Is that something you actually
experienced or witnessed?
The prom contest idea came from the notion that Tere so quickly
dismissed the idea of going to the prom and the only thing that
could get her there was her love for her job. She also loves to
discover new artists and this was the perfect opportunity for her
to do so. I have never been a part of a contest like this but was
inspired by the likes of American Idol -- how contests like that
are responsible for giving people their big breaks. It''s great to
see people succeed based on their own merit and that is what
happened with Gavin. Just like Tere, the idea of being the "contest
prize" would be mortifying to me.
10. Are you working on another novel? Do you have
any more stories of Tere to tell, or do you plan to create
different characters? Will the focus stay mainly in high school, or
would you ever branch out into an older world?
Yes, I am working on another young adult novel, involving a mix
of humor, love, and intrigue. It would be a lot of fun to write the
next chapter in Tere''s life as her relationship deepens with
Gavin, as she prepares to head off to college and deals with life
at the radio station after her mask has been lifted. I love writing
for teens but have been carrying an idea for an adult novel in my
head for a few years so I''m sure one day I will sit down and write