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The Good Shufu Reader’s Guide

By Tracy Slater

The Good Shufu by Tracy Slater


1. The narrative is framed around the five stages of culture shock: honeymoon, disintegration, reintegration, autonomy, and acceptance.  How did you see these phases brought to life in the book?  Have you ever experienced a similar progression while visiting or living in a different country?
2. Reflecting on her occasional miscommunication with Toru, Tracy says, “I suddenly thought how many relationships would benefit from a lack of shared linguistics, from the absence of expectation that our partners would, or even could, understand us most of the time.”  Why do you think she feels this way?  Do you agree with her? 
3. Consider the differences in gender roles that Tracy observed between America and Japan.  What are the key distinctions?  Which were the hardest for Tracy to confront, and how was she able to accustom herself to them? 
4. Tracy describes experiencing a “reentry phase” when she visits America, a period when her culture shock is reversed and the common practices and behaviors in her home country feel foreign. How did living in Japan change Tracy’s perception of America?  Which aspects does she appreciate more and which less?
5. Though Tracy faces many difficulties in her life in Japan, she also has abundant moments of discovery, insight, and joy.  Which parts of the story seemed the most poignant, romantic, or funny to you?
6. Think about the relationships Tracy forms in the book—not only with Toru, but also with other people, such as her father-in-law and her friend Jodi.  How does each relationship provide Tracy with the support she needs in her life? 
7. While Tracy is struggling to conceive, she also wrestles with the idea of motherhood, wondering if she can be a good parent.  Why did Tracy feel so unsure about this?  What allowed her to come to peace with the idea of being a parent?
8. How does Tracy’s idea of what constitutes “home” change over the course of memoir?  Do we all, in some way, have to revise our sense of what “home” means when we enter adulthood, begin our lives separate from our nuclear family, or form long-term relationships?
9. In many ways this is a story of the life least expected, as Tracy winds up choosing a man, a country, and a life that she never would have anticipated she would want but wound up unable to resist.  How has your own life diverged from the path you thought was set?  Could you live long-term in a country with a culture that was vastly dissimilar from your own, as Tracy has done? 
10. Tracy observes a wealth of intriguing details about life and culture in Japan.  Which aspect surprised you the most?  If you’ve never been to Japan, did The Good Shufu leave you wanting to visit?  If you have visited or lived there, which details resonated with you?
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