- Lily is the narrator, but is she the heroine or the villain? What are her flaws and her strengths?
- Do you think the concept of “old sames” exist today? Do you have an “old same” or are you part of a sworn sisterhood?
- In what ways are those relationships the same or different from the ones in nineteenth-century China?
- Some men in nineteenth-century China apparently knew about nu shu, the secret writing described in
Snow Flower. Why do you think they tolerated such private communication?
- Lily’s writing her story so that Snow Flower can read it in the afterworld. Do you think she’s told her story in a convincing way so that Snow Flower can forgive and understand? Do you think Snow Flower would have told the story differently?
- When Lily and Snow Flower are girls, they have one intimate - almost erotic - moment together. Do you think their relationship was sexual or, given the times, were they simply girls who saw this as only an innocent extension of their friendship?
- Footbinding was a status symbol for men and increased a woman’s chances of marriage into a wealthier household. Women took great pride in their feet, which were considered not only beautiful but were also her best and most important feature. As a child, would you have fought against having your feet bound, as Third Sister did, knowing you would be consigned to the life of a servant or a “little daughter-in-law”? As a mother, would you have chosen to bind your daughter’s feet?
- The Chinese character for “mother love” consists of two parts: one meaning “pain”, the other meaning “love.” In your own experience, from the perspective of a mother or a daughter, is there an element of truth to this description of mother love?
- In the story, we are told again and again that women are weak and worthless. But were they really? In what ways did Lily and Snow Flower show their strength and value?
- Although the story takes place in the 19th century, and seems very far removed from our lives - we don’t have our feet bound, we’re free and mobile -do you think we’re still bound up in other ways by career, family obligations, conventions of feminine beauty, and events beyond our control like war, the economy, and natural disasters?
- Because of its phonetic nature, nu shu could easily be taken out of context and be misunderstood. Today many of us communicate though e-mail or instant messaging. Have you ever had an experience where one of your messages has been misunderstood because of lack of context, facial gestures, and tone of voice? Or have you ever
been on the receiving end of a message that you read the wrong way and your feelings were hurt?
- Madame Wang, the matchmaker, is a bound-footed woman and yet she does business with men. How is she different from the other women in the story? Do you think she is considered a woman of status or is she merely a necessary evil?