Book club questions for What’s Mine and Yours by Naima Coster takes a deeper look at this novel about motherhood and race. There will be spoilers so for more context about the book, check out my spoiler-free review first.
This is one of those novels where I recognize the writing is good and the story is interesting. But yet, there’s something missing for me. I felt like there were several threads that didn’t go anywhere. And some story choices were perplexing. I wonder if it could have used another edit before it went to print.
That said, the beginning and ending are so strong. I keep thinking about that ending.
A community in the Piedmont of North Carolina rises in outrage as a county initiative draws students from the largely Black east side of town into predominantly white high schools on the west. For two students, Gee and Noelle, the integration sets off a chain of events that will tie their two families together in unexpected ways over the next twenty years.
On one side of the integration debate is Jade, Gee’s steely, ambitious mother. In the aftermath of a harrowing loss, she is determined to give her son the tools he’ll need to survive in America as a sensitive, anxious, young Black man. On the other side is Noelle’s headstrong mother, Lacey May, a white woman who refuses to see her half-Latina daughters as anything but white. She strives to protect them as she couldn’t protect herself from the influence of their charming but unreliable father, Robbie.
When Gee and Noelle join the school play meant to bridge the divide between new and old students, their paths collide, and their two seemingly disconnected families begin to form deeply knotted, messy ties that will shape the trajectory of their adult lives. And their mothers—each determined to see her child inherit a better life—will make choices that will haunt them for decades to come.
As love is built and lost, and the past never too far behind, What’s Mine and Yours is an expansive, vibrant tapestry that moves between the years, from the foothills of North Carolina, to Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Paris. It explores the unique organism that is every family: what breaks them apart and how they come back together.
Book Club Questions for What’s Mine and Yours
- When you read the synopsis and how much it covers the school integration, did you expect more scenes dedicated to that area? Or do you think there were enough?
- The story features all kinds of perspectives and timelines but we mainly follow the journey of Gee and Noelle. First, why do you think the author decided to refer to Gee as Nelson when they’re adults? Did you connect that Nelson was Gee or were your surprised at the reveal?
- Why were Gee and Noelle initially drawn to each other?
- What happened to them as adults? Why did Nelson cheat on her so much?
- Let’s talk about the impact of Ray’s murder on Jade and Gee. How would have things been different if he would have survived?
- One of the big themes of the novel is motherhood. First, let’s examine Jade as a mother. She’s somewhat absent but yet she’s very opinionated on what kind of man she wants Gee to be. What are some of her blindspots as a mother?
- Now let’s compare it to Lacey May. How did she fail to see what her daughters really wanted?
- Lacey May is a racist and starts this crusade against the school integration. What was her motivation here (especially when Noelle was so upset by it)?
- Why do you think Noelle, Margarita and Diane aren’t close as sisters?
- How did Robbie’s constant disappearance and unreliable nature impact the daughters?
- Did you find the characters likable? Why or why not?
- What did you think about the ending? What happens next for Nelson and Noelle?
Hope you enjoyed book club questions for What’s Mine and Yours! Here are some more recommendations along with links to book club questions.
The Kindest Lie by Nancy Johnson
It’s 2008, and the inauguration of President Barack Obama ushers in a new kind of hope. In Chicago, Ruth Tuttle, an Ivy-League educated Black engineer, is married to a kind and successful man. He’s eager to start a family, but Ruth is uncertain. She has never gotten over the baby she gave birth to—and was forced to leave behind—when she was a teenager. She had promised her family she’d never look back, but Ruth knows that to move forward, she must make peace with the past.
Returning home, Ruth discovers the Indiana factory town of her youth is plagued by unemployment, racism, and despair. As she begins digging into the past, she unexpectedly befriends Midnight, a young white boy who is also adrift and looking for connection. Just as Ruth is about to uncover a burning secret her family desperately wants to keep hidden, a traumatic incident strains the town’s already searing racial tensions, sending Ruth and Midnight on a collision course that could upend both their lives.
Powerful and revealing, The Kindest Lie captures the heartbreaking divide between Black and white communities and offers both an unflinching view of motherhood in contemporary America and the never-ending quest to achieve the American Dream.
Infinite Country by Patricia Engel
Talia is being held at a correctional facility for adolescent girls in the forested mountains of Colombia after committing an impulsive act of violence that may or may not have been warranted. She urgently needs to get out and get back home to Bogotá, where her father and a plane ticket to the United States are waiting for her. If she misses her flight, she might also miss her chance to finally be reunited with her family in the north.
How this family came to occupy two different countries, two different worlds, comes into focus like twists of a kaleidoscope. We see Talia’s parents, Mauro and Elena, fall in love in a market stall as teenagers against a backdrop of civil war and social unrest. We see them leave Bogotá with their firstborn, Karina, in pursuit of safety and opportunity in the United States on a temporary visa, and we see the births of two more children, Nando and Talia, on American soil. We witness the decisions and indecisions that lead to Mauro’s deportation and the family’s splintering—the costs they’ve all been living with ever since.
Award-winning, internationally acclaimed author Patricia Engel, herself a dual citizen and the daughter of Colombian immigrants, gives voice to all five family members as they navigate the particulars of their respective circumstances. And all the while, the metronome ticks: Will Talia make it to Bogotá in time? And if she does, can she bring herself to trade the solid facts of her father and life in Colombia for the distant vision of her mother and siblings in America?
Rich with Bogotá urban life, steeped in Andean myth, and tense with the daily reality of the undocumented in America, Infinite Country is the story of two countries and one mixed-status family—for whom every triumph is stitched with regret, and every dream pursued bears the weight of a dream deferred.