MPL staff for a book discussion of Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina. Books are
available near the service desk.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Meg Medina won the Pura Belpré Author Award for her novel Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass and the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award for her first picture book, Tía Isa Wants a Car. She writes for young readers of all ages. Her work examines how cultures intersect, as seen through the eyes of young people, and speaks both to the qualities of Latino culture that are unique and those that are universal.
Born and raised in Queens, New York, Ms. Medina was thirteen years old in 1977, the year this novel is set. She now lives with her family in Richmond, Virginia, where she also works on community projects that support girls, Latino youth, and literacy. In 2014 she was recognized as one of CNN’s Ten Visionary Women in America.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Nora Lopez is seventeen during the infamous New York summer of 1977, when the city is besieged by arson, a massive blackout, and a serial killer named Son of Sam, who shoots young people on the streets. Nora’s family life isn’t going so well, either: her bullying brother, Hector, is growing more threatening by the day, her mother is helpless and falling behind on the rent, and her father calls only on holidays. All Nora wants is to turn eighteen and be on her own. And while there is a cute new guy who started working with her at the deli, is dating even worth the risk when the killer likes picking off couples who stay out too late?
Award-winning author Meg Medina transports us to a time when New York seemed balanced on a knife-edge, with tempers and temperatures running high, to share the story of a young woman who discovers that the greatest dangers are often closer than we like to admit.
1. “I tell a thousand little lies about my life every day so I can feel like a normal person,” says Nora (page 205). What do you think is the biggest lie that Nora tells? Why does she tell it?
2. Kathleen MacInerney has been Nora’s best friend since kindergarten, yet Nora decides “there’s just no way she would understand how Mima, Hector, and I Work” (page 155). Why does Nora believe this? Do you? Why or why not?
3. Feminism was on the rise in 1977. What opportunities did the movement offer young women like Nora and Kathleen? What did it mean to older women like Stiller and Mrs. MacInerney? Why were some women, like Mima, appalled by it?
4. Almost forty years have passed since 1977. Try to imagine where the main characters of Burn Baby Burn are now. What do you think has become of Nora, Kathleen, and Pablo? Where is Hector?
5. Papi dotes on his youngest son, but is largely absent from the lives of his two oldest children. Whom do you blame for this behavior? Why? How does Nora finally transform her relationship with her father?
6. “Men are reckless,” Mimi tells her daughter (page 31). “They’re born that way, impulsive, but eventually they find a good woman and outgrow it.” Are boys more reckless than girls? Why does Mimi demand more from her daughter than from her son? Would Hector be better off if she didn’t? Would Nora?
7. How did a paunchy mail clerk terrorize an enormous metropolis like New York City? What were Son of Sam’s most chilling tactics?
8. Serial killers are often the subject of movies and TV shows. Why do you think audiences are so fascinated by them?
9. “Sometimes it’s easier to let people think I’m Greek or Italian,” Nora says (page 115). Why does she sometimes feel the need to hide her ethnicity? What does being a Latina mean to Nora? What does it mean to her mother?
10. “Burn Baby Burn” is what Nora and Kathleen write on the beach at Breezy Point at the end of this novel. What is the significance of that phrase to the two friends? What makes it such a fitting title for this book?