A Tale For The Time Being

Suggested Discussion Questions for Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being

A Tale for the Time Being—with its emphasis on diary entries, letters, conversations, text messages and videos in Japanese, English and French—is essentially a book about global communication in its many forms. It is about what it really means to understand, or not understand, what another person is trying to express.

How do different methods of communication connect characters in the book, and how do they act as a barrier?

How do shifts in the form of communication and the language in which it is shared impact understanding?

Although Nao’s feelings of isolation are central to the novel, the reader senses isolation in Ruth as well. Is there a way in which Nao and Ruth form two halves of the same character? Why do you think Ruth feels that Nao’s diary was written specifically for her?

Ruth struggles with leaving New York City for the island on the Pacific, but Nao is comforted when she leaves Tokyo for the countryside. How does the geography of place impact an individual’s experience? How does it impact the book’s theme of global connectedness?

The presence of the jungle crow on the island is an unexpected surprise. Is this a symbol? If so, of what? What does the jungle crow represent to Ruth? To you?

The book touches on environmental issues: global warming, nuclear power, and garbage in the Pacific Ocean. Given what you’ve read or heard about the March 2011 Japan tsunami, is it likely that the disaster was responsible for the diary washing ashore? The island residents discuss their concerns about the environment on pages 144-146. Do you share their fears?

Setting for Nao: Tokyo

Setting for Ruth: Island of British Columbia

Japanese Tsunami

Classroom Resources:

Comment Stream

2 years ago
0

Today in our book discussion we talked about several key points. Feel free to add your input about your view points as well.

2 years ago
1

We discussed the characters: Ruth vs. Nao
Cultural differences: between American vs Japanese culture. War, "The War" vs. All the wars US is involved, suicide viewpoints from each culture,

Bullying: physical vs. Emotional WHICH IS WORSE in your opinion?
Viewpoints for teachers: some students do not have high self esteem or confidence. We need to build this in our students so they have strong character. Some students may make split decisions like Nao did because of a sense of power or desperation. How do we help these students?

Communication: This book did a great job of showing online bullying and how easy it is to hide from parents. Nao knew more about clearing computer history than her dad. Are we doing a good job of educating students and parents about online bullying?

2 years ago
1

One other interesting point from this weeks discussion was confusion of location of the setting of the book. It may be a good idea to visually show students on a map the location of the setting. We could even show pictures so they get better visualizations of the locations.

2 years ago
1

I have really enjoyed this book. It seems like the story could be so real and I have become so caught up in the characters lives so much! I like how Ruth has really started to devote her life to helping Nao. I hate that it is causing problems in her own marriage but it is amazing that she is so invested in Nao just by reading her diary. I kind of find myself relating to Ruth. I have become so invested in Nao's life as well because of her fathers suicidal attempts and her own suicidal thoughts. I just want to bring her home with me to live and help her live a better life.

2 years ago
1

I found this book slow in the beginning. I was not sure where this book and its characters were headed. I slow began to get caught up in this book and the characters' lives. Nao difficulties in her life spoke to issues that are commonly experienced by some young adults. Her lack of self esteem and being bullied made you feel such empathy for the character. It was also interesting that how someone from an older generation, Ruth, worked to help Nao, someone of a much younger generation. We can learn so much from our wise elders.

2 years ago
0

The book had an amazing hook in that I felt as if Nao was talking directly at me, like I was destined to be reading it. While it was a good read, it was not an easy read. Because the chapters switched back and forth between characters, Ruth and Nao, the different points of view and communication, the deep subject matter of bullying and suicide, I found myself having to slow down and think things through to wrap my mind around the story. The book made you feel for the characters and you can easily get caught up in the story. Many times it made me think about my grandmothers and all the things that I learned from them while they were living as well as feelings I had growing up as a teen.