Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero
Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero is the selection for the LAII’s Vamos a Leer book group meeting held on September 14, 2015. The following information comprises a standards-based educator’s guide that the LAII has produced to support using Serafina’s Promise in the classroom. The standards are not included here, but are included with each section of the lesson plans in the PDF. The complete guide is available for download at no cost: Vamos a Leer Educator’s Guide: Gabi, A Girl in Pieces.
To read our thoughts on the novel, see our Book Review.
Gabi Hernandez chronicles her last year in high school in her diary: college applications, Cindy’s pregnancy, Sebastian’s coming out, the cute boys, her father’s meth habit, and the food she craves. And best of all, the poetry that helps forge her identity.
My mother named me Gabriella, after my grandmother who, coincidentally, didn’t want to meet me when I was born because my mother was unmarried, and therefore living in sin. My mom has told me the story many, many, MANY, times of how, when she confessed to my grandmother that she was pregnant with me, her mother beat her. BEAT HER! She was twenty-five. That story is the basis of my sexual education and has reiterated why it’s important to wait until you’re married to give it up. So now, every time I go out with a guy, my mom says, “Ojos abiertos, piernas cerradas.” Eyes open, legs closed. That’s as far as the birds and the bees talk has gone. And I don’t mind it. I don’t necessarily agree with that whole wait until you’re married crap, though. I mean, this is America and the 21st century; not Mexico one hundred years ago. But, of course, I can’t tell my mom that because she will think I’m bad. Or worse: trying to be White.
AWARDS & RECOGNITIONS
- 2015 William C. Morris Award for YA Debut Novel
- 2015 Capitol Choices: Noteworthy Books for Children and Teens
- 2015 Tomás Rivera Book Award, Works for Older Children
- 2015 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults
- 2015 YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, Top 10 Selection
- 2015 Américas Award Commended Title
- Amelia Bloomer List, part of the American Library Association, Social Responsibilities Round Table’s Feminist Task Force
- Booklist Best Books of 2014
- School Library Journal Best Books of 2014
- Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2014
Isabel Quintero is the author behind the now relatively well-known Gabi, A Girl in Pieces. If you haven’t heard of it yet, just check out some of the award lists from the School Library Journal, the Tomás Rivera Book Award, YALSA, Booklist Best Books, and the Américas Award, among others.
Despite being a new author to the publishing world writ large, Quintero is not new to the field of writing. As she describes on her blog, she has been dedicated to writing poetry and fiction throughout her life. Writing is, in her words, “not a luxury. It is a necessity for my being, for my happiness. It makes me whole.” Not surprisingly, this fascination and dedication to the writing process seems to have permeated Quintero’s professional life. Cinco Puntos Press explains in her biography that she is
“an elementary school library technician and loves sharing her passion for the written word with students. She also teaches community college part time and works as a freelance writer for the Arts Connection of San Bernardino. Quintero works as events coordinator for Orange Monkey Publishing and assistant editor for Tin Cannon, a literary journal.” Certainly a literary theme seems to run throughout her various roles in life.
Quintero has openly stated that Gabi is a culmination of many elements of her childhood – from the bilingual and cross-cultural influences she derived from growing up in a Mexican-American family, to her experiences as a young woman grappling with gender roles, sexuality, and body image.
According to Cinco Puntos Press, Quintero elaborates on how her background contributed to writing the story of Gabi. “I wrote this book because some of it is my story. In a lot of ways Gabi and I share the same issues; we both had (have) body image problems, a bicultural experience, a natural distaste for imposed gender roles, and confusion about sex and its role in our life. As I grew older, I realized I wasn’t alone, and that the women who had had similar experiences, also felt alone throughout their teenage years.” That universality and willingness to speak truthfully about these issues are two of the reasons why Gabi has sparked such a response among its readers.
By the way, here are a few links that help illustrate the stir that she has created in the young adult literature world:
- School Library Journal’s “Constructing a Life | A Conversation with Isabel Quintero”
- YALSA’s 2015 Morris Award: An Interview with Finalist Isabel Quintero
- Stephanie Kuehn’s “Morris Award Finalist Interview: Isabel Quintero, Author of Gabi, A Girl in Pieces”
- Listen to Isabel Quintero reveal the story behind Gabi, a Girl in Pieces, courtesy of TeachingBooks.net.
- See what sort of music Quintero hears when picturing Gabi through a playlist that she created for the music blog largehearted boy.
Quintero has begun her professional writing career with an amazing and, dare we say, groundbreaking protagonist. I speak on behalf of everyone at Vamos a Leer when I say that we can’t wait to see where she takes us from here.
To build on Quintero’s conversation with largehearted boy, we went ahead and used SoundCloud to build the Gabi playlist.
LESSON PLANS AND ACTIVITIES
In addition to the lesson plans and activities included here, check out the Teacher’s Guide for Gabi, A Girl in Pieces created by Cinco Puntos Press.
Guided Reading Questions
July-October | Pages 7-72
- How do you think Gabi’s mother would react if Gabi were to get pregnant without being married? Why do you say this? Think about the messages Gabi is given through what her grandmother did to her mother and what her mother tells her every time she goes out with a guy (p. 7)
- Make an inference: Do you think Gabi is white? Explain (p. 7)
- Based on Gabi’s entries from July 24th and 25th how would you describe her? What kind of personality do you think she has? (p. 7-9)
- What does Cindy tell Gabi? How does Gabi react? (p. 11-13)
- What does it mean when the stripes turn pink on the pregnancy test? (p. 16)
- How does Cindy’s mom react when she finds out Cindy is pregnant? (p. 18)
- Why does Sebastian decide he’s ready to tell his parents that he’s gay? While we don’t know exactly what they said, did it go as Sebastian had hoped? How do we know? (p. 19)
- Who is the homeless looking guy Gabi sees when waiting for the bus? (p. 19)
- Why is Gabi surprised by how her mother responds to the news of Cindy’s pregnancy? Why did she expect something different? (p. 20-21)
- How did Sebastian’s parents respond when he told them he was gay? Imagine you are Sebastian, how do you think that would feel? Have you ever had someone you cared about deeply reject you for who you were? How did you deal with it? (21-22)
- Why does Gabi hate dresses so much? (p. 24-25) What does sharing these kinds of stories do for the readers’ feelings about Gabi?
- How does Gabi find out that Georgina is telling people about Gabi’s pregnancy? Why do you think Georgina would do that? Why do you think people are so invested in gossiping about each other? (p. 27-28)
- How does Gabi treat Martin when he asks about Cindy? Why does she regret it later? (p. 28)
- How does Gabi describe her father? How does her family choose to deal with this? (p. 29-30)
- Re-read Gabi’s letter to her father on pages 30-31. Based on her letter, what is it like to deal with a parent who has an addiction? Have you ever had a similar experience?
- Why does it upset Gabi so much that Joshua Moore is going out with Sandra? What kinds of emotions does Sandra trigger for Gabi? (p. 31-33)
- What kind of double standard does Gabi’s mom reveal when she talks about both Cindy’s and Diana’s pregnancies? (p. 34)
- What happens when Gabi tells people she is Mexican? What does this say about the stereotypes we have around being Mexican? How does this prove or disprove the idea that we live in a colorblind society? (p. 34-36)
- What new low has Gabi’s father hit? Do you think he’s hit rock bottom? Make a prediction: Will Tía Bertha be able to help her brother? Explain your answer. (p. 40-42)
- Why does Gabi have a difficult time believing that Eric likes her? (p. 46)
- What do you think is the answer to Gabi’s question: “Why is every mom’s concern about sex?” (p. 51)
- How does Gabi get her first kiss? What does this demonstrate about Gabi’s personality? (p. 53-54)
- How is Gabi’s childhood different from her mother’s? How do you think this affects their relationship? (p. 55-56)
- What kinds of conflicted feelings does Gabi have about her boyfriend Eric? What do you think it says about their relationship when she’s not comfortable telling him about her father? (p. 63-65)
- Is Tía Agi really supportive of Sebastian? How does she respond when confronted with the reality that he is gay? (p. 65-67)
November –February | Pages 72-164
- What was Cindy’s experience with German like? How is this different from what is usually presented in the media through movies, TV shows and other YA novels? (p. 75-76)
- In what way does Beto’s arrest demonstrate the double standard Gabi’s mother has for her and her brother? (p. 79-80)
- How does Gabi feel about her mother’s pregnancy? (p. 81-82)
- What do Eric’s grandmother’s comments demonstrate about racial stereotypes and expectations? (p. 82-83)
- What do you think of Gabi’s thoughts on writing? Do you think writing can be therapeutic? Have you ever been upset about something, written about it, and then felt better? Think about the writing that you’ve been asked to do for school. Is that writing personal, or is it usually about something or someone else, and not yourself? (p. 83)
- What is your opinion of Gabi’s poem about her grandmother? Do you think it was mean or disrespectful? How was it a poem about being thankful? Have you ever known anyone with Alzheimer’s or dementia? What was that like? (p. 86-88)
- Describe the kind of person Eric is based on what Gabi’s shared in her journal. Do you think he is a good match for Gabi? Why or why not?
- How is Beto affected by his father’s alcoholism? (p. 92-94)
- Who does Gabi see when she takes Beto to the mall? While Beto may have been blackmailing Gabi for the new shoes, he then shows he can also be compassionate. What does he do? (p. 100)
- How does Gabi break up with Eric? Do you think this was a good decision? (p. 102-103)
- How does Beto know that Gabi is having someone important over? (p. 112-113)
- Re-read Gabi’s poem about her father (p. 117-122). How does she convey what it’s like to live with an addict through the poem? What is the most powerful part of the poem to you? What section resonated with you the most?
- What is in the surprise package that arrives for Gabi? Who do you think sent it? Why? (p. 125-126)
- What happens that makes Gabi less than excited about what she thought was a date to the coffee shop with Martin? (p. 130)
- What changes Gabi’s disappointment about the poetry reading with Martin? What does she find out? (p. 136)
- How does the poetry reading go? (p. 136-137)
- Re-read Gabi’s poem about the poetry reading (p. 140). How had poetry changed for Gabi since the beginning of the year? How has writing poetry helped Gabi? Do you have anything that helps you process difficult or important experiences? (p. 139-142)
- How do the gifts that Gabi’s friends and family give her demonstrate how much they care about her and know her? Have you ever received a gift that made you feel like that person really understood you? (p. 144-145)
- When Gabi overhears her mother talking to her Tía Bertha about her ex-husband, what she hears is difficult for her to accept. What does Gabi’s mother believe about a woman’s worth? Why can’t Gabi accept that? While Gabi doesn’t agree with her mother’s beliefs, she still struggles with what she believes about being a woman and society’s expectations. What are some of the things that Gabi struggles with the most? (p. 146-149)
- How does Gabi’s father die? Why is this so traumatic for her in particular? (p. 150-152)
- Why is Gabi so grateful for the mortician? Why do you think this was important to her? (p. 153-154)
- What do you think about the things Gabi said about her father at the funeral? Are these the kinds of things you would have shared? (p. 154-155)
- All of the questions and stares aren’t really what Gabi needs when she returns to school. What would have been a more appropriate response from her classmates if they really wanted to communicate that they cared about her? (p. 157-158)
- How does Ms. Abernand reach out to Gabi after her father’s death? Why do you think this was more effective than anything the other teachers did? (p. 159-160)
March-June | Pages 164-284
- How does Beto seem to be coping with his father’s death? How does his behavior send his mother into early labor? (p. 163-167)
- How does Gabi feel about running? Describe her contradictory feelings? Do you think Martin’s right—will running make Gabi feel better? (p. 170-171)
- Describe Gabi’s reaction to seeing Cindy give birth. (p. 172-174)
- What does Cindy name her baby? Why do you think she chooses this name? (p. 174)
- What does Georgina admit to Gabi? Instead of enjoying the ways the tables have turned on Georgina, Gabi feels sorry for her. Why? How does Gabi treat Georgina when she confides in her? What does this say about Gabi’s character? (p. 175-178)
- What does Georgina decide to do about her pregnancy? How does it affect her? (p. 180-186)
- What realization does Gabi have after her conversation with her mom about moving away for college? (p. 184-185)
- After her acceptance to Berkeley, Gabi’s mom’s thoughts on moving change. Why do you she changes her mind? (p. 187)
- What does Gabi decide to write her zine about? How is her zine different from the book her mom gave her about the female body? (p. 190-202)
- What was Gabi’s purpose in writing her zine about the female body? What was it that she wanted readers to think about and question? (p. 204)
- What does Ian ask Gabi to do? Why does this make her nervous? (p. 209-210)
- Based on what Ian does, what kind of person do you think he is? How does Gabi handle the situation? (p. 213-214)
- What does Ian tell Martin? Why do you think he did this? Did Gabi mention what happened to anyone? (p. 219-220)
- What happens when Gabi does to pick the dress up in Tijuana? (p. 222-224)
- How does Gabi’s mom help fix the prom dress situation? (p. 225-226)
- What does Cindy admit to Gabi and Sebastian about what happened with German? (p8). 22
- How does Gabi critique the saying “Boys will be boys”? Is there anything that you would add to Gabi’s list? (p. 229-231)
- What does Gabi decide to do so that she is prepared in case she and Martin have sex on prom night? While deciding to have sex is a serious decision and thinking through protection is important, Quintero also infuses Gabi’s experience with some humor. How does she do that? (p. 241-246)
- How does prom go? (p. 246-248)
- Quintero uses the character Clementino Noriega to show that despite all the progress that’s been made in terms of advocating for the equality of all people prejudice and bias still exist. Are there students like Noriega in your own school? Does anyone confront them about their prejudice? Do you think Ms. Abernand handled the situation well? Have you seen teachers deal with similar situations? How did they handle it? What was the outcome? (p. 250-252)
- Gabi is mortified after her mother’s conversation with Martin’s dad. Have you ever been embarrassed by something a parent or adult did or said? How did you handle the situation? (p. 253-254)
- How is Marin’s father’s response to sex different from Gabi’s mother’s? Which do you think is more likely to encourage responsibility? (p. 255)
- Why does Gabi feel such a strong hatred for German? How does she deal with it? Do you think Gabi should have handled it differently? (p. 257-261)
- What are the consequences of Gabi’s actions with German? How does Cindy respond when she finds out what Gabi did? Why do you think Cindy is so upset by what Gabi did? (p. 262-271)
- What does Gabi say that Tía Bertha overhears? How does it affect Tía Bertha? (p. 264-265)
- On Senior Ditch Day Gabi has to decide if she’s going to let her weight determine whether or not she enjoys the day. How does Gabi handle this decision? How does she talk herself through her fear of wearing a swimsuit in front of others? Do you think she handled it well? How did her day at the beach go? (p. 272-274)
- How are Gabi’s mother’s expectations for Gabi contradictory? How does this represent the challenges that many young women face when trying to decide how to be a woman in the world today? (p. 274-276)
- How do Gabi and her mother finally reconcile about Gabi moving away? (p. 278-279)
- Sebastian tells Gabi some pretty insightful things about dealing with her father’s death and addiction. What advice does he give her? Are there any situations where you could apply Sebastian’s advice? (p. 278)
- How does Tía Bertha surprise Gabi at the graduation celebration? (p. 282)
Reflective Writing Questions
- Think about the women in the story (Cindy, Tía Bertha, Georgina, Gabi’s mother). In different ways, they are all trying to navigate what it means to be a woman in society. Pick one of the women and describe how they come to terms with their individual struggle and how they decide what it means to be a woman. What does Gabi learn from each of them? What kind of woman does Gabi decide to be?
- Compare Gabi’s poetry from the beginning of the year with her poetry at the end of the year. How is it different? What does this show about Gabi?
- How would you characterize Gabi? How does Quintero communicate this through the writing in the novel? What does she do so that we hear Gabi’s voice and personality in the words?
- Poetry writing becomes an incredibly helpful way for Gabi to process the events and people that have greatly impacted her life. She writes two moving poems about her grandfather and grandmother. These poems are similar to poetry writing activities like “Where I’m From” or “Conjuring Poetry”. Choose one of these two types of poems and write one about a person who has impacted your life.
- What is Gabi’s relationship with food like? In what ways is it healthy? In what ways is it unhealthy?
- Describe how Gabi’s weight influences her relationship with her mother, friends, and boyfriends. How does her body image affect the way she sees herself and interacts with the world? Why does something like being overweight have so much control over the quality of a person’s life?
- While Gabi may struggle with her body image and self-doubt, you could still argue that she’s a strong role model in a lot of ways. In what ways does she stand up for what she believes in, think for herself, and resist pressure to conform to expectations she doesn’t agree with? (Think about her relationship with Eric, especially the scene at the mall; the conflict with her mother over college; Senior Skip day at the beach; her loyalty to Cindy; and any other examples you can identify). What do you think—is Gabi a good female role model? Explain your answer.
- Choose one of the poems listed below that Ms. Abernand assigns the class. Read it and then answer the following questions. Why do you think Ms. Abernand chose this poem for the class? How does it apply to Gabi? Now that you’ve read the poem, what do you think of it? Can you apply it to anything in your life?
- Still I Rise by Maya Angelou
- We Real Cool by Gwendolyn Brooks
- Loose Woman by Sandra Cisneros
- Lady Lazarus by Sylvia Plath
- Anyone lived in a pretty how town by ee cummings
- Howl by Allen Ginsberg
- Dead Pig’s Revenge by Michele Serros
- The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe
ABOUT THIS GUIDE
Written by staff at the UNM Latin American & Iberian Institute (LAII), Vamos a Leer Educators Guides provide an excellent way to teach about Latin America through literacy. Each guide is based upon a book featured in the Vamos a Leer book group. For more materials that support teaching about Latin America in the classroom, visit the LAII website. This guide was prepared September 2015 by Katrina Dillon, LAII Project Assistant.