Reading Group Guide


1. What does the title of the book mean to you?

2. How was Shapiro’s childhood different from that of children in more normal households?

3. What trauma did Shapiro’s mother experience as a child? How did hearing about them affect Shapiro?

4. What traumas did Shapiro experience as a child?

5. Have you had any personal experiences with mental illness with a family member or a friend? If so, how do your personal experiences compare to Shapiro’s experience?

6. Would you be able to recognize the signs of mental illness? Do you know any support services in your community that could be of help in such a situation?

7. Shapiro, her father, and her brother react differently to the mental illness of Shapiro’s mother. Discuss their reactions and what each of them could have done differently.

8. Does the stigma of mental illness still exist? If so, when would it be appropriate to keep family secrets?

9. Do you think keeping family secrets is ever healthy? If so, when would it be appropriate to keep family secrets?

10.How do you feel about Herbie (Shapiro’s older brother)? What did he do to help Shapiro? What more could he have done?

11.Shapiro talks about being “the girl” in an immigrant family, especially in the eyes of her father. Discuss the ways in which Shapiro’s parents treated her and her brother differently.

12. Shapiro worries at various times in her life about being like her mother. In what ways is she similar to her mother? In what ways is she different?

13. Shapiro talks about being “invisible” with her father, boyfriends, and others. Later, after becoming a psychotherapist and helping others, she says: “I am no longer invisible.” What does she mean?

14. Do you believe it is possible to forgive and move beyond trauma without forgetting? Why or why not?