Discussion will take place in the library.

Maddy Maierhofer
Isabelle Pazar
Madeleine Anderson
Olivia Shay (facilitator)
Emma Peterson
Lynn Hynes

FOR EMMA AND MADELEINE: Please add another conflict or two and add whatever else you want to the questions and stuff. Thanks!

1. Student Facilitator(s): This person's role will be to read the agenda from his or her computer to direct the conversation. Someone should volunteer or nominate a peer(s). Communicate with each other! Please list all the group members on your wiki page as well.

2. Protocols: Protocols are helpful to give everyone in the group the time and chance to speak. Use at least two protocols and customize them to fit your discussion
  • Make use of the Discussion Agenda Resources linked here or create your own
    • Whip

      A whip can be done at any point or multiple times in the discussion. Go around the circle and each person talks for less than a minute. Other participants listen and can respond after the whip has made a full circle.
      Whip questions for beginning of the discussion:
      • How did you like the book?
      • How did you respond to a certain character?
      • What did you care most about in the book?
      • Describe your level of understanding.

3. Discussion Questions:

What are the issues and ideas within this novel you’d like to discuss with each other? Be sure to consider various parts of the text (beginning, middle and end). Collaboratively create 15-25 open-ended questions that promote discussion and organize them logically. You can use them within a protocol or on their own.
  • Personal Response Questions -- These questions might address your personal reactions to the style and content of the novel and ask group members to share and compare.
    • In the end, do you think it is better that Noora chose to stay with her husband Jassem for security, or should she have gone with Hamad for love?
    • Do you think Noora feels some remorse for Shamsu as she battles for Jassem's attention, or do you think Noora thinks Shamsu is selfish and deceitful?
    • Would Noora treat the baby any differently if it was Jassem's instead of Hamad?
    • Do you think Lateefa really wants what's best for Noora, or is she looking out for her own/Jassem's interests?
    • How do you envision the mechanics of the household ten years down the line?
      • What is your opinion on the fate of the baby at the end of the story?
      • The writer has a tendency to have the main characters disappear after a while, like Sager? Did you like that style or not? Why?
      • Any significance to Yaqoota's position and how she is portrayed?

  • Open-ended, analytical questions -- These promote multiple perspectives and don’t yield a single answer. They address the WHY and HOW.
    • Why does Noora let her brother decide her future? He was probably her best chance at having some control over her life
    • Noora knows main role of women in society, but why does she fight and dislike her fate? Other women like Lateefa have accepted it, why can't she?
    • Do the English people foreshadow the modernization of Dubai and the new technology that will follow?
    • Do you think it's possible for Jassem's household of three wives to not be competitive, is there any way three wives could get along perfectly?
    • How do you think an American/English reader vs. an Emirati reader would approach this book?
    • What do you think happened to Noora's father? Do you think he would have ended up marrying her off?
    • Was Noora’s relationship with Hamad important to the story?
    • Why do you think the author decided to end the book with a hectic argument between Lateefa, Jassem, and Yaqoota, yet Noora is ignoring them and very calmly talking to her newborn baby as if nothing is wrong?
  • Significant passage questions -- Observe, as you would in close reading, the qualities of the text and how the passage brings meaning to the novel overall.

4. Culture & Context

We recognize that we're reading books that take place in different cultures than ours. What do you need to know about this culture that would give you deeper insight to the story? Use a Historical/Biographical approach and pose questions. The bullets below give you some places to start. Each group member should pose at least one question, and each group member should research a resource and post his or her findings that respond to the question. Post a resource for someone else's question. Label your questions and posts so we can see that everyone contributed to both steps.

    • history and political conflict of the nation depending on the time it takes place: historical articles or current news
    • cultural or religious traditions
    • biographical information about the author
    • articles of literary criticism (using Marvel)
    • author information -- interviews, obituaries, statements
    • book reviews
    • research allusions and cultural references
What are the purposes of the clothing that the women wear that covers everything but their eyes? Is it social and/or practical with the climate?(Madeleine)
The purpose of the burqa and all the other clothing that women wear in the book is to maintain modesty in accordance with their culture. The United Arab Emirates is dominated mainly by Muslims, and it is dictated in the Quran, the sacred writings of Islam, that women should not show bare skin. The clothing is actually not very practical with the weather because Dubai and the areas around it have a rather hot climate. In general, the purpose of the burqa is to follow religion and tradition. Recently, there has been debate about burqas in places such as France which doesn't allow women to wear burqas in public. The New York Times has an interesting article about it:
http://rendezvous.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/02/has-the-burqa-ban-worked-in-france/. There is also more information about the burqa and references to the Quran on this website http://www.quran-islam.org/articles/part_3/the_burqa_(P1357).html. (Olivia)

here are more sites:(Madeleine)
here are some articles on it...

What kind of relationship was there between the English and the people living in and around Dubai because Noora seemed so shocked to see them during the book. Also, Noora had never seen a camera, so what kind of technology did the average person living in Dubai have access to? (Olivia)
• 1950's Dubai, age of atomic power in the modern world
• Noora originally lived in a less populated, rural mountainous area so she didn't have access to modern technology
• Culture is completely different in United Arab Emirates, Islam looks down upon public displays of affection
• Oil was discovered in 1950 in Dubai so lots of English moved to the region to make money off the new industry
• In the book, Noora was shocked by the strangers culture (their clothes and open affection)
http://www.dubai-architecture.info/HIST-DUBAI.htm (Isabelle)

I found another good site for the first part of this question:
Before the discovery of oil, Dubai’s economy relied on its fishing and pearl industries. When the nation began exporting oil, Dubai’s society and economy were changed dramatically. With this new source of profit, Dubai was able to direct oil revenues into healthcare, education, and national infrastructure. The oil industry also attracted many foreign workers, including the English. Since the book takes place around the transition time between the end of the pearl industry and the beginning of the oil industry, the English were just starting to come to Dubai. This would explain Noora’s shock at seeing foreigners, since Dubai was only just becoming a profitable place to move to. (Emma)

• Insightful interview with Maha Gargash about The Sandfish: http://www.timeoutdubai.com/knowledge/features/11759-hot-seat-maha-gargash#.UP8ocCuFwfs (Olivia)

How has the author's background and experiences influenced the book?
Maha Gargash is the author of The Sand Fish, which takes place in the 50's and set in Dubai, India. Gargash was a documentary director for 20 years and was able to create many programs on Arab communities in this area. This allowed her to incorporate what she learned from her shows to her book. One of the programs she did was women's traditional costumes, music, and poetry of the region. However, one of the most important resources she had to her dispense was primary sources. She was able to talk to people who lived during the 50's to give her a better sense of the life and customs during that time period. Some of these people included her family, because they also lived in the traditional way. Gargash grew up in Dubai, however, the city is much different than it was back then. The modernization of the city has drastically changed the atmosphere of Dubai.

5. Pre-Discussion Processing
The purpose of this section is to sort out the basic fiction elements in the novel. We've put it at the bottom of your agenda, but it is the first place you'll start to work. This is a good way to check your understanding of the novel, and the group can use this information as a reference during the discussion. You can use your collective knowledge to answer these questions and build a foundation for your discussion so the conversation can focus on higher level issues.

Post on the wiki prior to discussion and include textual references wherever necessary
  • Characters - List a significant detail for each character
    • Noora - The main character of the story. Her whole life has been a bunch of decisions made for her by other people(men)
    • Sagar - Noora's brother and the person that arranges her match with Jassem
    • Jassem - the much older pearl merchant that Noora is married off to
    • Hamad - Jassem's employee and the real father to Noora's baby; Noora falls in love with him but refuses to run away with him in the end
    • Lateefa- the oldest wife in Jassem's household, she is very controlling and manipulative
    • Shamsa- the middle wife who comes from a rich family, she is very moody and jealous of Noora's position in the household so she ends up asking for a divorce
    • Yaqoota- the family slave who is always very loud and energetic
    • Zobaida- "witch doctor" who Sager and Noora went to see to help their father, ended up making the match between Jassem and Noora
    • Rashid- the man Noora first had a relationship with him, his abandonment affected Noora's view of love and relationship with Hamad, from Maazoolah
  • Setting - Locations and time periods
    • Dubai in the 1950's (a relatively urban area)
    • mountainous region near Dubai
  • Important plot events - Choose at least 3 significant plot elements and explain their importance
    • The disappearance of Noora's father- this event signifies the transfer of the role as head of the house to Sager and leaves no one on Noora's side. It eventually leads to Noora getting married off to Jassem.
    • Noora's relationship Rashid because it set the stage for her leaving home and her approach future relationships
    • When Jassem finally starts speaking to her and they have somewhat of a relationship during the night. It shows that all people have a heart and it breaks the typical tradition
    • When Noora chooses to stay with Jassem and to not run away with Hamad because it shows a change of character in Noora and her decision to pick security over love.
  • Conflicts - Identify and elaborate on the conflicts that drive the plot
    • Women's v. Men's place in society- this is a constant struggle for Noora because she was raised with lots of freedom and support from her father but, with Jassem, she is expected to behave "properly." Jassem only really speaks to her at night when she's alone, and he eventually stops because he believes she is bewitching him. There are constant references to women's inferiority, but other conflicts are created in the book from Noora's disregard for what is expected of her. This is also related to the conflict of passivity vs. empowerment of women, and how Noora struggles with finding the balance between being her strong individual self, and fitting into the constraints of society.
    • Security vs. Love- staying with Jassem for safety or running away with Hamad
    • Multiple wives in a household – It is normal for a man to have multiple wives in this society, however in would not be acceptable in ours. Although the women in the novel talk about it as a good experience for the women because the wives would be like sisters, or like mother and daughter (like how Lateefa is the “mother” to Noora), it doesn’t seem to work well in Noora’s eyes. There is competition between Noora and Shamsa for Jassem’s affection, which ultimately drives Shamsa away. There is also tension between Noora and Lateefa because Noora feels very controlled and bossed around by her. Even though they are one family, conflicts grow between the three wives since they share the same husband.
    • Shamsa v. Noora - who is the most important wife(who will have Jassem's child)
  • Narration (point of view) - Describe how the telling impacts the story
    • The story is told in 1st person from the point of view of Noora. This makes a difference in the novel because you are able to know the inner feelings of Noora and how she is affected by certain events. Also, it is from the point of view of a woman so you can see the effects of Muslim constraints on a woman. Noora is also a very independent woman, so it is clear where she struggles with accepting how her role in society works, where as if the story were told from a more submissive woman, it may not be as clear where women feel degraded and mistreated in their community.
  • Important passages - Have at least 5 important passages on the wiki; a brief comment or question about how and why the passage is important should follow each
•pg. 199- resistance to Muslim culture
•pg. 127- womanhood, being obedient
•pg. 298- Lateefa knowing the truth, looking out for her own interests
•pg. 300 and pg. 14 and pg. 338 - Sandfish title