Cigarette Girl Discussion Prompts

Willie is nineteen when we meet him. Would you describe him as a man or a boy?  Why?

What were you like at nineteen?  What support systems did you have in place?  How independent were you? How equipped to handle life?

Why do you think Elena gave Willie her Papi’s watch? What do you think having the watch meant to Willie?

Why do the farmers deny they ever had a barn?  What do you think of Willie’s response?  How might you have responded?

In one word, describe the farmers’ attitude towards the migrants?  Discuss what this says about the farmers.

The farmer’s wife refers to Willie as a half-breed.  What does his response tell you?

Willie’s world is turned upside down when he learns his heritage is not what it seems.  What might your reaction be to such a discovery?

We’ve all known people like Mildred.  How would you describe her?

There is history between Willie and his Pop.  Where can their relationship go from here?

What makes someone a parent?

What role does the Depression play in this story?

Despite their similarities, there are marked differences between Elena and Loretta.  What do those differences immediately tell you?

Loretta is immediately willing to help Willie.  Why?  And why do you think Willie is so accepting of her help?

There are many reasons for people to have sex. Why do Willie and Loretta do so?

As Willie comes to viscerally understand the place of Mexicans in California society, he holds in his anger.  What puts him over the edge?

What ramifications did Willie face because of his mixed race? Discuss how society treats people of mixed race today.

What role does the money Willie makes from the Charlie cards have in the story?

Willie has the choice to step back from Loretta and the crime surrounding Elena’s death. Why does he pursue it?

What edge does Loretta have over Willie?  What edge does he have over her?

Sometimes people make each other stronger, and sometimes they diminish each other.  Which would you say is the case for Willie and Loretta? Discuss who in your life makes you stronger and who makes you weaker.

Loretta works for the people who killed her husband.  What do you think it takes to do this?

Why would there be such a discrepancy between the newspaper report of how Norton died and how he actually died?  How often do you find yourself questioning what is said in the media?

Despite all he’s been through, Willie craves respect and believes in honor.  What do these two words mean to you?  What role do they play in your life?

What does it say about Willie that he is unable to kill?  Why do you think it is easier for Loretta?

Can you imagine any circumstances in which you could be as seemingly callous as Loretta?  And is she really callous?

Why do you think Willie turns to Stan? When Stan came through for him, how might that have impacted Willie?  Discuss a time when someone came through for you unexpectedly – or let you down.

What do you think the will to survive did to Loretta’s soul?  In the end, how do you judge her?