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  1. Book ImageNight at the Fiestas: Stories

    Kirstin Valdez Quade

    Winner of the 2015 National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Prize

    "[A] sparkling debut collection…features dreamers and schemers whose lives pulsate with wild hopes, hard luck, stunning secrets, and saving grace." —Elle

Discussion Questions

  1. In “Nemecia,” the narrator says, “For the first time I became aware of a mantle of safety around me that I’d never noticed before, and it was dissolving.” How does her relationship with Nemecia shape Maria’s sense of her place in her family as a child and, later, her adult understanding of herself? Do you have a moment like this that you look back on, too—when you became aware of the protected nature of childhood, and, in the same instant, moved past it?
  2. How do you understand the black silk dress in “Mojave Rats”? What does it represent, in terms of the life Monica has left behind? What do you make of her decision to give the dress to Amanda?
  3. What do you make of Amadeo’s realization, at the end of “The Five Wounds,” that “[i]t is Angel who has been forsaken.” How does playing the role of Christ help him realize this? In the end, how does the role help redeem him, too?
  4. Of the bag of money left behind by a stranger on a bus, Frances says, “It was already a part of her, or not of her, but of the Frances she was becoming.” Would you characterize “Night of the Fiestas” as a coming-of-age story? How does her theft transform Frances and usher in a new phase of her life?
  5. In “The Guesthouse,” the protagonist’s girlfriend says of his relationship with his family, “You love it. . . . Who would you be if they didn’t need you?” How does this line resonate through the story? Do you think it’s true? Does Jeff’s understanding of how it may or may not be true change from beginning to end?
  6. By the end of “Family Reunion,” how much do you think Claire understands Patsy’s instability? Is this a story of disillusionment? How does what Claire is seeking change over the course of the story? Can you pick out a moment or a person from early on in your life who opened your eyes in the way that Patsy opens Claire’s?
  7. Andrea, the narrator of “Jubilee,” admits at the end, “God, how much she’d wanted to get together with Parker for that lunch last summer. How she’d wanted to sit in that kitchen, eating vanilla ice cream topped with blueberries from those fragile green bowls.” At what point in the story was it clear to you that Andrea’s anger towards the Lowells stems partly from her desire to be part of their world? How would you characterize that desire, and how does it inform Andrea’s behavior throughout the story? How does it get in her way?
  8. Crystal, the narrator of “Ordinary Sins,” does not follow all the teachings of the Catholic Church, despite having grown up in the traditions (and working in the parish office). How would you characterize her relationship to the Church and its teachings? Do you think she holds on to some belief? Or is she entirely disillusioned—if not at the beginning of the story, then at the end?
  9. In “Canute Commands the Tides,” to what do you attribute Margaret’s preoccupation with Carmen and her family? Is there any connection between this preoccupation and her art?
  10. How would you characterize the child narrator’s relationship to the landscape in “The Manzanos”? How does this last, lyrical story affect your reading of place and family in the more traditionally structured pieces that came before it?
  11. Longing for transformation is a recurring theme in Night at the Fiestas. How does this longing reinforce the relationships between characters or get in the way of those relationships? How do you see the characters in these stories shaping one another’s journeys and changing one another? What are some of the varied ways in which the stories’ protagonists long to transform their lives? Did any of these particularly resonate with you?

About Kirstin Valdez Quade

Kirstin Valdez Quade has received a "5 Under 35" award from the National Book Foundation as well as the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers' Award and the 2013 Narrative Prize. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Narrative, The Best American Short Stories, The O. Henry Prize Stories, and elsewhere. She was a Wallace Stegner Fellow and Jones Lecturer at Stanford University and is currently the Nicholas Delbanco Visiting Professor at the University of Michigan.

Books by Kirstin Valdez Quade

  1. Book CoverNight at the Fiestas: Stories

    Winner of the 2015 National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Prize

    "[A] sparkling debut collection…features dreamers and schemers whose lives pulsate with wild hopes, hard luck, stunning secrets, and saving grace." —ElleMore