Discussion Questions

Finish the book? Here are some questions to think about for book group discussions or just to ponder. I thought about many of them while writing it.

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich famously wrote, “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” Was Ruth a likable or unlikable person, or both? Should historians focus on uncovering the lives of “difficult women”– or are those stories better left buried?

Throughout Ruth’s life, she read many books that were special to her and got her through difficult times in her life, such as Rachel Bluwstein’s poetry and Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front. Have you ever read a book that held that kind of deep meaning for you? What books have changed your life?

What are some of your experiences, good or bad, with libraries? Did this book change your understanding of them or the profession of librarianship?

Ruth wrote about her experiences with sexual harassment in letters to her friends, in her diary, and in complaints to her supervisors. Did it surprise you that a woman at this time, in the 1940s through the 1960s, was so vocal about these assaults?

In the late 1940s, Ruth wrote about the pressure she felt to get married and her refusal to do so, both because she did not want to give up her career and because she wanted a partnership of equals. Do you think this decision ended up being the right one for her, or do you think she regretted it?

After surviving both World War II and Israel’s War for Independence, Ruth voluntarily worked for the military and went to Vietnam, living there during the war for eight years. Why did she choose a career in the military? Why did she stay in Vietnam, even after it became clear that the war was a mistake?