Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

Dumplin’

Murphy, Julie (Author)
HarperCollins 2015. 378 pages
First published: 2015
ISBN: 9780062327185 (hardcover)
9780062327192 (paperback)
9780062327208 (e-book)
Original language: English
Book type: Novel
Book genre: Realistic

Text Elements:

characterization, conflict, figurative language, point of view, setting

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

Funny and smart, eleventh grader Willowdean’s voice rings from this uplifting tale about growing up big in small-town Texas, where the annual beauty pageant reigns supreme. The first-person account portrays a healthy perspective on full-figured body types: “if this were, like 1642, my wide birthing hips would be worth many cows or something.” But the death of beloved (and overweight) Aunt Lucy, and Will’s own burgeoning sexuality, create new questions and insecurities: “Kissing Bo. The thought embarrasses me. I want to melt into a puddle to be washed down the kitchen drain.”

Witty language conveys the insidious nature of beauty culture and its oppression of girls, both at home (“Now dumplin’,” says ex-beauty queen Mom. “There is nothing less attractive than a discontent young woman”) and at the mall: “The walls of Sweet 16 are covered with mirrors … tiny t-shirts that say things like, I’m too pretty to do homework.”

The plot is rich with well-timed twists and turns: best friends Ellen and Will seem to be growing apart; Will launches into enthusiastic yet precipitous make-out sessions with Bo; she stands up to Mom—and the whole town—by entering the beauty pageant. This leads to revelations about Aunt Lucy’s life, an introduction to drag-queen culture, new ‘misfit’ friends, dating and love. In the end, the pursuit of warm, meaningful relationships offers the key, as Will forges new ways to be with her mother, repairs the rift with Ellen, dares to share real intimacy with Bo—and enjoys the pageant on her own terms: “let the glitter fall where it may.”

  •  

    The adolescent protagonist is actively seeking a sense of self-esteem and self-determination. The tension created as she assumes a certain level of autonomy offers opportunities for discussion on the representation of female characters.

  •  

    Body positivity is explored here in relation to identity construction, along with events that can have an impact on self-confidence in teens. Discuss examples of these events and explore the way the protagonist deals with them.

  •  

    The novel may be used in conjunction with others that explore teenage body positivity through discussion of key questions during literature circles or during a genre study of realistic YA novels that deal with these issues.

  •  

    Do you believe beauty pageants empower or degrade the participants? In small groups, debate the topic and try to reach a consensus.

  •  While you read, note down keywords that represent Will’s self-esteem and self-worth. How does her perception of herself change as the story develops?
  •  What does the future hold for Will and Bo? With a partner, write and perform a one-scene screenplay at Harpy’s about Will and Bo deciding where their relationship will go after the pageant.
  • To exercise critical judgment
  • Health and Well-Being
  • Personal Development
  • Social Sciences
  • Husky (J. Sayre) (Topic)