|“Padma Venkatraman’s debut novel works on many levels. Marketed for young adults, it’s a story complex and rich enough to hold an adult’s attention. Its setting in colonial India during the early days of World War II brings to mind our current occupation of Iraq. And the heroine’s struggles for freedom can be taken at face value, as a young girl’s coming of age, or as a deeper exploration of oppression…The story becomes one of emancipation – a young girl’s growing self awareness, her struggle to be treated as an individual with dignity, her yearning for education. This parallels the Indians’ determination to shake off the yoke of colonialism, and the wider struggle to stop Hitler from exterminating the Jews. The thread connecting these themes is the Hindu religion’s commitment to nonviolence, and the inevitable conflicts that result. All of this is woven simply but artfully together. The beauty of Venkatraman’s prose is that it can be read on all these levels. A young adult can understand the story and the issues it raises, while adults will appreciate the subtle intersecting of plot and theme.…This novel is an important story about the human struggle for freedom and dignity that can be enjoyed by readers of
|“In this multi-layered novel, Padma Venkatraman weaves together the themes of colonialism, feminism and pacifism without sacrificing story or character. Young adults will read it and understand it; adults will find the story line entertaining as well as thought-provoking. This would be a great book club selection and is sure to inspire spirited discussion.”
- Iggy from Amazon.com Customer Reviews
|Climbing the Stairs was chosen as a discussion text for a graduate library sciences class led by Dr. Cheryl McCarthy at the University of Rhode Island. Click here for a complete list of discussion questions the class came up with.
The following is a short list of questions I came up with for book clubs reading Climbing the Stairs:
1. Kitta and Vidya have very different ways of reacting to the tragedy that shatters their nuclear family. How are the different reactions revealed by their actions, emotions, dialogue and choices?
2. Appa believes in nonviolence to the point of ultimate sacrifice. What is your understanding of the principles of nonviolent action?
3. How is the Hindu religion practiced and interpreted in the home in Bombay as compared to the home in Madras? Did reading the book help you better understand the distance between the traditions followed by Hindu society and the philosophical perspectives of the faith? In what ways are these similar or different from your own?
4. Kitta’s decision tears apart the family. What are your views on his decision within the framework of the story?
5. How does the novel equally support Kitta’s point of view as well as his father’s? What are your views on the larger questions and complexities of the violence vs. nonviolence choice?
6. In what way does Vidya support her brother? How does Kitta’s choice force Vidya to learn and grow? How does the novel present both points of view?
7. Finally, a question I’d love to hear the answer to as it is one I am frequently at author events: What do you think happens to Kitta, Vidya, and Raman after the book ends?
For Penguin's Climbing the Stairs book club discussion guide,