the book at Lulu.com
discussion questions for
Corrigan's speech at the award ceremony
Mulcahy's speech at the award ceremony
Grosh's speech at the award ceremony
read the first
chapter (pdf document)
Democrat & Chronicle coverage
Elaine Barlow has a bargain with her husband George: if she doesn’t
find a new job by year’s end, he will choose their next move and
re-establish his vet practice, which will probably spell the end of her
career. Elaine used to be a high-flyer. She got her PhD, traveled all over
Africa on a string of prestigious research fellowships, and landed a top-notch
university teaching job. But she failed at the game of academic politics,
she didn’t get tenure, and now she can’t seem to find another
job. She’s lost her paycheck, her social status and her self-esteem.
Stripped of her professional identity, Elaine lives a life of errands with
her preschool daughter Stella. She listens to former colleagues being interviewed
on NPR, while she has become invisible. Elaine studies the people she meets
to see how they do it—how they live without tenure. She begins to
imagine herself as something else. Lawyer? Teacher? Wildlife rehabilitator?
Convenience store clerk? Long days with the spirited Stella leave Elaine
feeling like a double failure. George stays out late several nights a week,
supposedly working long hours at the job he hates. Can Elaine pull herself
together before her marriage collapses too?
Finally, Elaine gets a chance at another academic job, but George refuses
to relocate for it. He obviously has a secret, and Elaine fears the worst.
But Elaine has been learning—from a manicurist, a flooring salesman,
her former students, her parents, Stella, and their menagerie of special
needs pets. She learns that it’s never too late to grow into a person
you respect. And when that happens, anything is possible.
Discussion Questions For
Tenure Track to Mommyville
By Barbara Grosh
- Job seeking is an arduous process. How
does this process change Elaine? How does Elaine change the process? How
are her struggles as a stay-at-home mother similar to or different
from her struggles with finding an academic job?
- How does the process
of working to achieve tenure impact Elaine’s
subsequent life experiences and self- image? Do you think that
Elaine obtains tenure in Mommyville? Have you ever tried to achieve
something and failed? If so how has that result impacted other
elements of your life?
- Early in the book, Elaine describes her existence
in jobless limbo as a “sabbatical of a sort.” At
the end of the book, she describes her new existence as a “sabbatical
without committee work.” How do these two states differ? Have
you ever taken a sabbatical of any kind? Was it “of a sort” or “without
- Compare and contrast Elaine’s and her mother
experiences as mothers and as life long learners. What influenced
their experiences (societal expectations, financial resources, other
individuals)? Are they different from or similar to one another? Tell
about the influences that have affected your experiences. Do
you consider yourself to be a life-long-learner in awe of the universe?
Track to Mommyville is in many ways an exploration of contrasting marital
relationships. Discuss the marriages of Elaine and George,
Thelma and Paul, and Dori and Mike. How do they solve (or not)
issues concerning personal growth and communication? In each
instance, is the relationship “in balance” or does one
partner support the other more? What does it mean for a
marriage to be “out of balance”?
- There are a number of people,
such as Mike, Dori, Gladys, Hudson, and Rebecca who at times have a
profound influence over the choices that Elaine makes. Why does
Elaine select these individuals as her mentors? How does she
use their guidance? Is she aware
of their assistance at the time or is it upon reflection that she is
aware? How and when have people in your life influenced you
to change your course of action?
- Mike speaks of finding motivation in
order to overcome obstacles in life. What is his motivation? What
is Elaine’s? What