Resources

Teaching Resources for Beauty Queens

Pre-reading:

Have you ever read Lord of the Flies by William Golding? What is the premise of that novel? After reading the cover, what is the premise of Beauty Queens? Predict everything that could happen on a deserted island with teen beauty queens. Defend your answers.

Discussion guide:

  1. After reading the Prologue (AKA: A Word from Your Sponsor) make a list of everything you know about the characters, setting and conflict of the novel. What tone is established by the author in this part?  Who, do you think, is the The Corporation and what do they want?
  2. How do the girls organize themselves? Who establishes herself clearly as a leader? What must they accomplish to prepare for the pageant and their survival (and without fresh lipstick!)?
  3. What do The Lost Girls discover while exploring the wreckage? The girls seem to size each other up as if the competition were more important than survival. Do women do this to each other even without a beauty competition hovering in the wings? Why? Do you think men or women are more competitive?
  4. “In times of stress, she relied on her skills at accessorizing to calm her.” (p.18 Chapter Three) What calms you in times of high anxiety? Are there things that are truly universal for all young women or not? Why?
  5. We get to know the girls through their individual “Fun Facts Page.” Which one is your favorite? Why? How does it give an additional window into a character? Who is your favorite character? Do all of them have the same motives for the competition or not? With whom do you most identify? How do they identify a great deal of themselves while they practice the question and answer format for the pageant?
  6. Barry Rex says that “a system rewards girls for being pretty and it values compliance and conformity rather than the boldness and rule-breaking that we pride in our boys and which often help them feel entitled to success, to getting ahead in life.” (p. 57 Live on Barry Rex Live) How does high school expect conformity of girls? Are boys allowed to break the rules? Which rules?
  7. Explain how Jennifer Huberman and Sosie meet? What do they accomplish in the most {bleep} way?  What is unique about both of these characters? What do the footnotes add to the story? Which one, so far, has been your favorite?
  8. Describe what happens when the girls eat the red, star-shaped fruit?  How does it provide something each of them needed? How else do they end up getting enough to eat and drink? What would you most miss about civilization?
  9. What is the evil plot of The Corporation and who exactly is MoMo B. ChaCha, aka The Peacock? How does this complicate the world on the island? Why do you think the author added this nemesis to the story?
  10. When the surprising truth is revealed about Petra she claims, Everybody lies about who they are. Name one person here who isn’t doing that and I will drop out right now!” Do you agree with her or not? How do we lie in both subtle and obvious ways to get through our days and to get what we want? Does Petra’s storyline make you questions your assumptions about gender? How?
  11. “…when it came to love, the message for girls seemed to be this: Don’t. Don’t go after what you want. Wait. Wait to be chosen, as if only in the eye of another could one truly find value.” (p.125, Chapter Eleven) Do you agree? Why do you think society still allows boys so much more freedom in romance and sexuality?
  12. Taylor rewards the girls with goodies from her bag after they prepare for battle. What would you want to nab? Why?
  13. How does Sosie realized that she has “…rolled over and showed her belly, Like me and I won’t be any trouble at all?” Have you done this in your life too? What did she learn from the truly angry girl with cerebral palsy? How is she finally changed on the island?
  14. Why do the girls outlaw the word “sorry” on the island? Shouldit be outlawed in your own vocabulary? Why do women have a penchant for this word but boys seem unable to utter the two-syllable curse?
  15. At Girl Con which workshops would you be most excited to attend? What other panels and workshops would you like to add to the offerings? Could you sit on one of the panels? What for?
  16. What is Mary Lou’s backstory? How is she from a long line of cursed women? Does it sometimes feel like all women hold a curse? How do we curse ourselves and each other? How does Mary Lou move beyond her curse with Tane? Are there men that can accept women for exactly who they are? Have you ever found one in a high school?
  17. “Maybe girls need an island to find themselves. Maybe they need a place where no one’s watching them so they can be who they really are… They were no longer performing. Waiting. Hoping.” (p. 177, Chapter Fifteen) Do you agree? Why do girls act differently for the audience of boys and adults? Have you ever spent a significant amount of time alone?
  18. Which one of the “commercial breaks” or “word from your sponsors” is your favorite? Why? What do they add to the story?
  19. Why does Shanti make up interesting stories that people want to believe or hear? What is her motive for winning the competition? How is “…sometimes the truth did not set you free. Sometimes, it was a hard, lonely prison of a place to be” for Shanti? Have you ever been there?
  20. Describe what happens to Taylor Rene Krystal Hawkins over the course of the novel. Would you say she is the character who changes the most or not? Why? What is her story? How does she ultimately save the girls and herself?
  21. “All you had to do was introduce the scent of testosterone and perfectly capable, together girls were reduced to giggling, lash-batting, hair-playing idiots.” (p. 231, Chapter Twenty-One) How does this happen on the island or in your school? How do they lose ground, especially Adina? Who is surprisingly accepted for who she is?
  22. What happens between Jennifer and Sosie? Why is it ironic that Jennifer has difficulty accepting Sosie’s explanation of how she feels?
  23. How does The Corporation plan to discredit MoMo and gain power over his country’s natural resources? How is Ladybird Hope a part of this conspiracy? How do they find and “rescue” the girls? How do the girls foil their plan?
  24. “Mary Lou felt something she didn’t let herself feel often: She was well and truly pised off. Why do girls have to be all pure and innocent and good? Why don’t guys have to be?”  (p.299, ChapterTwenty-Nine) Do you allow yourself to be justifiably pissed? When? What really honks  you off? What set Mary Lou off? Why do we teach girls to suppress so much?
  25. In the end, how do the girls survive and rescue themselves? Who stays on the island? Do you think the changes they experienced on the island will be permanent or not? What about your own insights into beauty and being a girl?

Projects

Girl Con

Plan your own Girl Con for young women in your community.  Brainstorm topics and workshops that you’d like to attend. See if you can find women leaders (and teens) in your community who care share what they know.

Writing:

Write a short advertisement inspired by the ones from the novel that show an ironic portrait of an aspect of being a teen woman today.

Art:

Create a piece of art (or perhaps a banner, inspired by Petra) that best represents what you will take away from reading the novel.  The medium is your choice, of course!

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