AIR Advanced Book Group Guide 


Advanced Book Group Discussion Questions

Click here to download and print the following questions.


1.When Pearl is with Jason in Missouri, she says: 


"Nobody’s asked me anything about Japan since I got back. No one’s asked me a single damn question about my job as an editor of a newspaper! I 

spend my whole life with no one ever asking, like I don’t even exist if I don’t 

live in this podunk backwater.” 


Why do you think no one has asked Pearl much about her life in Tokyo? What do 

you think it does to Pearl that she has these two separate lives How does it relate to do with the lack of storytelling in Missouri? 



2. AIR discusses supplication in several scenes and with varying meanings. Here, Pearl stands at the newsroom doorway and for a moment thinks all of the people in the newsroom are doing their own version of "prayer".


Everyone was bending forward at their desks as if in devotion. It was the nextday. I was at the Kaze, standing in the doorway. I thought I was having 

another vision. The rewriters were curved over their work, the editors bowed over sheets of paper, the Japanese reporters arched toward their computers. I grew dizzy and confused as I stood clinging to the doorframe.


Maybe these people were seeking. Maybe this was a form of invocation, a 
searching for something more than this mundane world. Maybe every one of us in the newsroom was searching for some answer, looking for a way out of the mess the world had become. Maybe this was praying, too.


Where else is the concept of supplication explored in the book? What is the novel saying about "devotion, invocation, prayer"?



3. Pearl meets a National Geographic photographer at college in Missouri. He tells her: 


“When you go abroad, your whole life will blow up like a balloon. When you 

do something big like that, your life will just keep expanding.” He stood with 

his camera on his hip, talking to me like a real person. Dragonflies buzzed 

low over a stagnant pool. I remembered it as if it were yesterday. “You’ll haveto keep broadening your horizons to keep the balloon full. You’ll have to keepit from deflating.”


What do you think are the benefits and the costs to this expansion of one's reality as described by the photographer? 



4. Pearl has relationships with several men in the book -- Jason, Usui, Finn, Shinji. How is she different with each male character? In what ways does her relationship with each one provide the reader with an understanding of a different side of her character? 



5. Pearl has a connection with different women in the book, as well -- Yuriko, Choko, her mother, Bonnie. In what ways do these relationships shine a different light upon Pearl as the protagonist? Which female character do you most like and why? 








Writing Exercises


Simple Storytelling - The Epic Event Exercise


An exercise for writing one story, which then can be used in a memoir or novel, or as a short story or essay. Click here to download the exercise.


Characterization Exercise - Through Another’s Eyes


Use this lesson in conjunction with the Simple Storytelling exercise above, or with one of your own stories. A great immersion in the art of Characterization. Click here to download.


Setting Exercise - Building Place


Describing setting in a story, novel or memoir is as important as building characters. Use this lesson in conjunction with the Simple Storytelling exercise above, or with one of your own stories.

Click here to download.



Recommended Reading


Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan

by Herbert Bix


Japan at War: An Oral History 

by Haruko & Theodore Cook


A Thousand Cranes: Origami Projects for Peace and Happiness

by Florence Temko


The Essential Basho

by Matsuo Basho


The Big Book of Christian Mysticism

by Carl McColman


Expat: Women's True Tales of Life Abroad

by Christina Henry De Tessan