Gravity Journal: Questions to Discuss

  1. Throughout the novel, Anise finds solace in words. Why do words have such an impact on her? What words does she find especially powerful? Find examples of when Anise, herself, uses words well, either in her writing or her sarcastic comebacks.
  1. Discuss the relationship between Marcel and Anise. How does it change through the novel?

  2. Images of skeletal models bombard us thousands of times a day in magazines, billboards, on tv and computer screens. 92% of young women claim they want to change something about their bodies. 1 52% of girls begin dieting before the age of 14 2; 81% of 10-year-olds and 46% of 9-year-olds diet. 3 One British therapist claims that looking at fashion magazines for just three minutes negatively affects 80% of women. 4 The American Psychiatric Association Work Group on Eating Disorders estimates that some 8% of women suffer from either anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. 5 It is estimated that there is one male with anorexia for every 4 females, and one male with bulimia for every 8 to 11 females. Bulimia and other eating disorders are increasingly common in males, particularly among athletes and body builders concerned with body image and perfection. 6

    How does writing in her journal, in essence, save Anise’s life? Can writing a journal realistically help one to negotiate these issues?

  3. How does Sobat use humour in this novel? Is humour appropriate for such a serious subject?

  4. Several healthy people play a pivotal role in Anise’s movement towards healing. Discuss how each of the following touch her life:
    a. Maureen the psychologist (and what is the significance of the images of the women on her office wall?)
    b. Mr. Rowe, teacher
    c. Ms. Dobbin, teacher
    d. Fran, a nurse
    e. Camilla de Branscoville, artist and art teacher

  5. Anise is an avid reader. How do the kinds of works she reads contribute to her journal writing and/or her recovery?

  6. At a crucial point in the novel, Anise’s brother, Marcel, slips into a self-destructive cycle. How does this affect Anise? Why, in the end, can she do nothing to help her brother?

  7. Several times in the novel Anise reacts vehemently to being labelled. Are labels necessarily negative or damaging? Why or why not?

  8. Is Anise’s relationship with Boyd a positive or a negative thing, given that he is bipolar? Does he help or hinder her recovery?

  9. Much is made in the novel of the dysfunctional relationships in Anise’s family. Is her family to blame for her illness? What is Anise’s responsibility in relation to her eating disorder? Why is the redecoration of her room a triggering incident?

  10. What do the two acts of a) burning the Barbie dolls and fashion magazines, and b) burying the family of dolls in the flowerbed symbolize?

  11. Anise flees from the hospital and across the bridge to a park where she contemplates taking her life. What changes her mind? Why must she make the return journey to the hospital alone?

  12. In your opinion, what is Anise most hungry for? 14. What might Sobat be suggesting about the healing powers of art and story?

1 “Beyond Stereotypes,” Global study commissioned by Dove of 3,000 women and girls, Dove realbeauty School Program, 2006, 11.
2 Johnson, et al, Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 1984, 13.
3 Mellin, Scully and Irwin, Paper presented at American Dietetic Assoc. Annual Meeting, October 1986. (Berkley study)
4 Dr. Susie Orbach, Dove realbeauty School Program, 2006, 11.
5 American Psychiatric Association Work Group on Eating Disorders. (2000). Practice guideline for the treatment of patients with eating disorders (revision). American Journal of Psychiatry; 157 (1 Suppl): 1-39.
6 “Eating Disorders and Body Image,” (2006), 14 January 2008,

<www.heretohelp.bc.ca/publications/factsheets/eatingdisorders.shtml>.

School Appeal

Topics and Themes English:

  • Intertextual studies (how other literature texts inform Gravity Journal)
  • Journal writing
  • Creative writing
  • Media studies – gender and body image in media
  • Frida - the film
  • Etymology and power of words
  • Free verse poetry/ haiku
  • Songs and lyrics by Canadian singer/songwriter Tom Barlow
  • Research paper on the various historical/cultural figures in the novel: Frida Kahlo, Emily Murphy, Rosie the Riveter, bell hooks, Angela Davis, Michaëlle Jean, Rosemary Brown, Rosa Parks, Adrienne Rich.

Possible Topics and Themes for students of Art:

  • Chiaroscuro
  • Frida Kahlo
  • The Scream by Edvard Munch
  • Vincent Van Gogh (Starry Night, Crows Over The Wheatfield etc.)
  • Women artists
  • Art therapy

The book is suitable for grades 9 through 12, and there are applications for the study of English, Creative Writing, Art, Health and Phys Ed.