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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions


1.Fruitful utilizes several different kinds of writing: memoir, novel, meditation, manifesto, and poetry. How does this reflect and enhance Roiphe's attempt to engage the complexities of the many feminist issues she raises?

2. By using herself as the central "character" of Fruitful, whose journey and development the reader follows, does Roiphe clearly depict the clash between ideology and reality? Does "reality," as Roiphe states, always win? If so, why? If not, why not? Discuss a similar experience in the struggle between ideals and daily realities from your own life.

3.Does Fruitful arrive at a definition of feminism? If so, what is it? How do you define feminism for yourself? Do you identify yourself as a "feminist?" If so, why? If not, why not?

4.One of the more controversial aspects of Fruitful is Roiphe's refusal to limit her discussion of feminism to the so-called "male sins" against women. Instead, she argues for equality for men in terms of child care, parenting, divorce, and what she refers to as "momminess." What do you think about her suggestions about treating men as potential lovers and fathers rather than, as some feminists do, as potential criminals? How would this change affect our current understanding of family life? Do you agree or disagree with Roiphe's ideas? What might you suggest to ease the war between the sexes?

5.Roiphe examines, with poetic intensity, her desire for children, what she describes as her "baby hunger," while at the same time admitting the frustration and occasional boredom of being a parent. Have you had similar feelings and experiences? Can you describe them?

6.By exploring the many meanings and metaphorical possibilities of the word Fruitful, Roiphe examines the idea of creativity in women's lives? Is motherhood, by its very nature, creative? How? Roiphe also looks at the tensions of being both an artist and a mother, even going so far as to say that she would "rather have a child than a book." Can a woman be both a good mother and a good artist? Can she be both at the same time? Why, or why not?  

by Anne Roiphe

  • Publication Date: October 1, 1997
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics)
  • ISBN-10: 0140266720
  • ISBN-13: 9780140266726