Interested in reading The Calculating Stars with your book club? Here is our downloadable book club kit. The document is in pdf format, and contains a brief summary of the novel alongside suggested discussion questions. This can be freely distributed to all book club members however is easiest for you.
For accessibility, the questions are also located here on the website below.
Suggested Discussion Questions
1. What problems do women face in the book because of sexism and gender stereotypes? Does this seem true to history? How have things changed since the 1950s? Do you think women still face some of the same challenges?
2. After the meteorite strikes, Elma and her brother calculate that the Earth will undergo a runaway greenhouse effect making the Earth all but uninhabitable. Yet some people oppose the space program. Why do you think this is?
3. African-Americans faced many problems and restrictions in 1950s America. How do the various characters act when dealing with the racial attitudes of the time? Have you had to deal with unfair or discriminatory practices? How do you think Elma handled this? How would you have handled it?
4. Stigmas centered around mental illness keep Elma from seeking help with her problems with public speaking and her anxiety in dealing with large groups. Why do you think she felt this way? How would you have dealt with it?
5. This book examines the nature of family ties even when the many family members of the characters perished at the start of the book. How does the protagonist deal, first with the destruction of her family, and then with the realization that one member has survived unexpectedly? What do you think of the choice she makes regarding her aunt’s home?
6. Did you root for Elma in her drive to become an astronaut? In what ways did you identify with her? Have you encountered discrimination in your own ambitions?
7. Elma York says that everyone remembers where they were when the meteorite struck. Can you think of similar events in your own life that were so universally momentous that you remember exactly where you were?
8. What message did you take away from the ending?