About the Book
Published in 2000 by HarperCollins, Gloria Whelan's novel Homeless Bird has earned numerous awards, including the prestigious National Book Award. Available in hardcover, paperback, large print, and audiobook, the book is about 200 pages long. It is appropriate for Independent readers.
Thirteen-year-old Koly, a talented embroidery artist in modern-day India, must leave her struggling family, carrying only the precious silver earrings her mother gave her as a dowry, to marry a man she has never met. Soon after the awkward wedding, she learns that her new husband, Hari, is a sick boy and that his parents married him off in order to get her dowry for his medical expenses. Realizing that she may not be welcome in the family after Hari's inevitable death, Koly has to learn how to survive on her own within the limits of Indian society.
About the Author
Gloria Whelan is a critically acclaimed writer of poetry, short stories, and novels for children and young adults. She is the author of The Indian School, Miranda's Last Stand, and the beloved Island Trilogy: Once on This Island, Farewell to the Island, and Return to the Island. Whelan often uses for her settings the woods in northern Michigan where she lives with her husband, Joseph.
Since Homeless Bird is set in India, readers will need some understanding of the culture. You might want to start by asking what your book club participants know about India. Then you can provide background information from the following websites:
Here are some questions the book club discussion leader can use to get participants talking about the novel.
You can find other discussion questions in HarperCollins's official book discussion guide to Homeless Bird.
If your book club wants to spend more time with Homeless Bird after reading and discussing it, consider the following extension activities:
Koly spends a great deal of time preparing food for her sass (mother-in-law) and sassur (father-in-law). Your book club may enjoy some of the traditional Indian foods mentioned in the book.
Entreé: potatoes with cumin
Condiment: mango chutney