Sweetgrass Topics for Discussion
by Jan Hudson

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Topics for Discussion

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

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1. Jan Hudson, a member of a majority cultural group, wrote about members of a minority culture. What are the implications of such a situation? Can someone who is not a member of a cultural group write about that culture? By extension, do you think a person of one gender can write from the perspective of the other gender?

2. After the attack on the Blackfoot camp by the Assiniboin, She Fought Them Woman, Sweetgrass's grandmother, says to Shabby Bull, Sweetgrass's father, "Sweetgrass will be a warrior woman." Was Grandmother correct in her prediction? Explain.

3. Grandmother's statement that "Their [men's] lives without our [women's] lives are worth less than our lives without theirs" seems to be contradicted by the reality around her. For example, despite doing the cooking, the women eat after the men, and, while the men kill the buffalo, it is the women who do the heavier work of butchering the carcasses and preparing the hides. Discuss whether or not Grandmother's words are true.

4. After the death of Sweetgrass's mother, her father took a second wife, Bentover-Woman. Sweetgrass refers to Bentover-Woman as her "almost-mother" and to Otter as her "almost-brother." Today, we would use terms like "stepmother," "stepbrother," or "half brother." Which terms do you prefer and why?

5. Hudson has said that the book that eventually became Sweetgrass originally had a male central character and that the male character was likely Otter, Sweetgrass's younger almost-brother. How do you think the story would have been different if it had been told by Otter?

6. When Jan Hudson was trying to find a publisher for Sweetgrass, one publisher showed interest but wanted the character of Pretty Girl removed from the first third of the book. If Hudson had agreed to the request, how do you think the...

(The entire section is 449 words.)