The Yokota Officers Club Teacher’s Guide

By Sarah Bird

The Yokota Officers Club by Sarah Bird

READERS GUIDE

Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. Smells play a major role in The Yokota Officers Club. They are
even used as titles for each chapter. What effect did they have on
you as a reader?

2. The central image/metaphor of the book is the perfume factory.
At the end of the book, Bernie says: "That honeysuckle is but
one link in an endless limbic chain that contains all the smells
of my family and of our life together." Then she goes on to
name all the smells in the book, concluding that "each smell
is a blossom that combines with all the other smells the same
way real flowers would in a real perfume factory where the days
of sunshine and growing, the days of storm and drought, the
times of plenty, times of want, what the flowers got, what they
didn’t get, they’re all squeezed together under preposterous
pressure or boiled or tinctured or distilled into a few drops of a
smell so beautiful it can make you remember everything." Do
you agree with this metaphor of how family unity/memories are
created?

3. Understanding what you do about Moe, Macon, Fumiko, and
Bernie, is there anything any of them could have done to change
their fate?

4. Are the pressures a military life puts on soldiers–particularly the
kind of military life Macon Root had, involving highly classified,
highly dangerous missions–compatible with being a warm and
loving spouse? Parent?

5. Have you known any military families? How much did you know
about their lives? Did the novel give you a greater appreciation of
those lives?

6. It seems that military brats enjoyed their peripatetic childhoods
in direct relation to how extroverted they were. The more outgoing
they naturally were, the more they thrived on the constant
moving. How do you think you would have fared as a military
child? As a military wife?

7. Have you ever had an experience similar to the one Bernie had
when you return to the scene of a childhood memory and find it
strangely shrunken or diminished in some way? How is this idea
of a diminution, of a degradation, of, in some cases, a fall from
grace, carried out in other ways in the book? In Bernie’s experience
of Okinawa as contrasted with her memories of Japan? In
Mace’s career? In the military in general from World War II to
the Vietnam War? In Moe’s experience both with the military and
with her marriage?

8. Did you ever reveal a secret as a child? What were the consequences?
Can Bernie or any child of that age be held responsible
for unkept secrets?

9. Moe and Mace seem to have come to a stalemate in their marriage.
Who is responsible? What do you predict will happen to
them? What do you think should happen?

10. Contrast the two mothers in the book, Moe and Fumiko’s mother.
How does each one react to the stresses placed upon her and her
family by their respective countries?

11. One of the themes of the novel is silence, the silence of men flying
reconnaissance missions, but more especially the silence of
the women around them. How does each of these characters find
her voice: Bernie? Moe? Fumiko?

12. This novel straddles the line between fiction and memoir. Does it
take the best from each approach or the worst? What do you like
and dislike about the two different approaches?

13. Did you believe that Mace and Fumiko had had an affair? Were
you relieved that they hadn’t?

14. Since Bernie could not have ever seen her father acting as
Wingo’s co-pilot, how is the crucial relationship they had in flight
demonstrated?

15. Humor and tragedy collide throughout the novel. Do you prefer
fiction that blends these parts of life or keeps them separate?

 
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