Chapter 14: Darker Days

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Swedish Again: Chapter-By-Chapter Guide

Questions for Understanding

  1. At the start of this chapter, what helped relieve Anna’s stress? Why?
  2. How could Anna use her professional English teaching degree in Sweden?
  3. Which of “the older children” came for a visit in December?
  4. Which Swedish Christmas tradition had Anna never heard of?

Questions for Group Reflection and Discussion

  1. What part of this chapter struck you the most? Why?
  2. When Anna’s friend suggests that she teach English to Swedish kids, she flatly refuses. She calls Swedish students “a nightmare.” In which ways might you agree with that, and in which ways could this be seen as a product of Anna’s prejudice?
  3. In this chapter, Anna remembers a story about her mother’s childhood, which makes her uncomfortable. Which feelings do you think she would “stir up” if she visited her hometown right now?
  4. Sometimes, people speak in absolutes due to emotion. In this chapter, Fionn says, “Never happened. I never had that” when asked about being taught the habit of brushing his teeth. Assuming that his father did, in fact, teach him to brush his teeth, what do you think Fionn is really expressing here?
  5. In this chapter, Anna finally gets an apartment! Describe the apartment and why it’s so desirable.

Ideas for Further Consideration

  • Clearly, Anna seeks acceptance in face of her multicultural identity and international family. She says, “the Baha’is let me off the cultural hook.” What does it look like to let someone “off the hook” in terms of their cultural or racial identity, or other forms of their identity? What are some concrete ways people express acceptance of others?
  • At Christmas, Jillian “hung lovingly on her big brother.” It says, “Of all my kids, Jillian had been hit the hardest when something went wrong in the family.” This can be discussed in many ways, such as differences in birth order or levels of sensitivity, but in this context, what are some negative (or positive) consequences a biological child might experience when their parent expands the family through adoption?

Especially for English Language Learners

Key Words and Expressions:

(from page 140)

“My job, while amusing, was a dead end.” = My job was fun, but it wouldn’t develop into anything greater. A “dead end” road is a road which ends.

“My efforts… were touch and go.” = My efforts produced uneven results, sometimes good, sometimes bad.

“…that’s where I drew the line.” = That’s where I said “no.” It was my limit.

“…that it was too big a stretch for me?” = that it required more adjustment than I could make, that it required too much flexibility.

Grammar Focus:

Past Progressive Tense in Storytelling

When you read a story which is written in the past tense, it is common for the writer to “set the scene,” which means to introduce the situation, by using past progressive tense. This means something is happening as you enter the scene.

The form of the past progressive is PAST BE verb + MAIN VERB with -ing

= was carrying

= were sitting

= was happening

Here are examples from the first page of this chapter:

“The days in Stockholm were getting shorter, and people were hanging white stars in their windows, which reminded me of my mother. She never wanted colored lights or tinsel on the Christmas tree — just white lights… My day-to-day routine with Fionn and Sinead was starting to resemble a normal life…”

Answers to Part 1

  1. It was her connection to the Swedish Baha’i community because she felt accepted there.
  2. She could teach English to Swedish kids.
  3. Jillian, the youngest of that group, who was then 20.
  4. She had never heard of or experienced watching a certain Donald Duck cartoon episode on Christmas Eve.

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