About the Book
Why would a leading women’s rights advocate refuse to expose a college rapist running for the U.S. Senate? Feminist activist and award-winning nonfiction writer Ellen Bravo raises difficult and deeply unsettling questions in her debut novel, Again and Again (She Writes Press; August 11, 2015). Tackling major hot-button issues—campus sexual violence, male privilege, and the practice of politics as usual—Again and Again is, at its heart, a novel about an enduring friendship between two women and about growth, forgiveness, and pathways to individual and collective power.
Questions for Discussion
- In Again and Again, we first meet Deborah Borenstein and Liddie Gombach in 1978 as college freshmen. What was your initial impression of each woman? How did their bond deepen and complicate after Liddie’s rape?
- How does alternating the narrative between 1979 and 2010 add to the novel’s drama? What did you learn from chapters about the earlier years that impacted your reaction to Deborah’s current dilemma?
- Think or refer back to the novel’s description of Liddie’s rape. If you had been in Deborah’s situation when you were in college, how would you have reacted?
- Deborah has felt guilty all those years for her role in the mishandling of Liddie’s case. How would you characterize her mistake? What did you think of the response from Claire Rawlings and Professor Davis?
- As news coverage reflects, date rape is an alarmingly prevalent, under-reported, and mishandled crime on college campuses. On an institutional level, why do you think so little has changed to protect and support women over the past three decades?
- Think of any of the many recent cases of young men—high school as well as college students—charged with shocking acts of sexual violence against young women. How does Again and Again offer insights into this disturbing trend? Does the novel offer possible solutions?
- What did you think of, or feel towards, the character of William Quincy? How does our society abet the transformation of young, privileged male sexual predators into powerful men, widely respected as political or corporate leaders?
- Did you agree with Deborah’s decision to refrain from officially denouncing Quincy the candidate as a college rapist? How do you interpret the significance of the way the situation is finally resolved?
- What did you feel about Deborah’s husband, Aaron? In the novel, he accused Deborah of failing to stand up for him, for their marriage, and for principle. Was he completely wrong? Did you agree with Deborah’s critique of his views about the aftermath of rape or did you feel she was being too hard on him?
- Does a rape victim’s right to privacy trump the public’s right to know about a political candidate’s past sexual offences? What helps shift this dilemma?
- How does Again and Again address questions of racial inequality and unintended bias? What are some key lessons Deborah has to learn?
- What did you learn about the inner-workings of American politics from Again and Again? How does the novel illuminate the danger of emphasizing image—and winning elections—over the truth?
- How did you feel about the ending of Again and Again? Can Deborah’s marriage survive and if so, what would it take?