Reverse-Gentrification of the Literary World

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Flying Jenny

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A young female pilot brashly defies gender restrictions in the Roaring Twenties.

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Reading Group Guide for Flying Jenny

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1. In Theasa Tuohy’s novel, Flying Jenny, the main characters exhibit contradictory personality traits, each suffering from insecurities while also achieving groundbreaking recognition for their accomplishments. How is this true for Laura? For Jenny?

2. Jenny Flynn’s family life and background is in direct contrast with that of Laura’s. How was her experience growing up different from Laura’s? How did she compensate?

3. As clues about Laura’s mysterious past begin to surface early in the novel, what questions arise about Laura and where she came from? How would you describe her personality as she strives to make a name for herself in journalism? How is she a trailblazer? How has her mother failed her? Consider her strange bohemian upbringing, the contradiction between her sophisticated literary experiences and her insecurity in social circumstances.

4. How do Jenny’s barnstorming stunts become a catalyst for Laura’s career in journalism?

5. How does Laura and Jenny’s relationship evolve throughout the novel? What began their initial conflict? How did they begin to see each other differently?

6. How do Laura and Jenny grow and mature throughout the novel? How do they view one another’s limitations and flaws when they first meet? How does their friendship help each woman grow and overcome those limitations?

7. How does Roy help Laura resolve some of her insecurities? Are these positive experiences? How does his seduction of Laura affect her? Is this a completely negative experience? Why or why not?

8. Barnstorming events become a prelude to a Wild West show at the Miller Brothers 101 Ranch, a National Historic Landmark near Ponac City, Oklahoma (Indian Territory). This location in Oklahoma Indian Territory is where the unraveling of Laura’s mysterious heritage begins. What does Laura learn about Osage culture, headrights, and murder?

9. As Laura follows Jenny, how does she begin to discover clues to her heritage? What events and coincidences occur as she travels in Oklahoma?

10. The discovery of Laura’s heritage appears to offer her benefits beyond just learning her father’s identity. What might these be? How might this impact her relationship with her mother? Her relationship with Clem?

11. Discuss the novel’s allusions to artistic/literary personalities of the times (Isadora Duncan, William Carlos Williams, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Marcel Proust, Friedrich Nietzsche, e e cummings, Marlene Dietrich). What do these allusions add to the novel?

12. Discuss the novel’s allusions to famous aviators who were making names for themselves before regulations and laws curtailed activity. How do these stories impact the novel and its characters?

13. How do references to historical journalists Waldo Frank, John Reed, and Will Rogers affect the novel?

14. How do the styles and mores of the 1920s add to your reading of the novel? Could this story be set in any other time period? Why or why not? Consider:

  • Dress for women: skirts, hats, gloves were required dress when appearing in public
  • Prohibition law of the times led to bootleg liquor
  • Women were granted voting rights only nine years before novel takes place
  • Reporter’s salary at a newspaper was $12 a week, a meal on the train cost $1.50
  • Trains were powered by steam engines
  • Wealthy drove Pierce-Arrow cars


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