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Playground Zero: A Novel
by Relyea Sarah

Published: 2020-06-09T00:0
Paperback : 432 pages
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1968. It’s the season of siren songs and loosened bonds—as well as war, campaign slogans, and assassination. When the Rayson family leaves the East Coast for the gathering anarchy of Berkeley, twelve-year-old Alice embraces the moment in a hippie paradise that’s fast becoming a cultural ...
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Introduction

1968. It’s the season of siren songs and loosened bonds—as well as war, campaign slogans, and assassination. When the Rayson family leaves the East Coast for the gathering anarchy of Berkeley, twelve-year-old Alice embraces the moment in a hippie paradise that’s fast becoming a cultural ground zero. As her family and school fade away in a tear gas fog, the 1960s counterculture brings ambiguous freedom. Guided only by a child’s-eye view in a tumultuous era, Alice could become another casualty—or she could come through to her new family, her developing life.

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Excerpt

from Part II: Occupy, Chapter 5

Then on Sunday, Alice’s father asked if she would go for a walk.
“Where are we going, Dad?”
“Just for a walk. It’s a beautiful day.”
So, he’d learned the local commonplaces, Alice thought, though coming from him the slogan sounded phony and jarring.
She could see they were heading for Telegraph Avenue. She wondered if they would be passing People’s Park, but her father was an uneasy presence and there would be no asking. Contact of any kind was becoming unbearable; there was a hum whenever they found themselves alone in a room, the sound of suppressed anger. She could not remember when they’d last gone anywhere together; but here he was, on a Sunday in May, offering to lead her on a walk through the forbidden zone. Maybe the park was a sign of change, and he was responding. Maybe the adventure would forge a bond between them, the beginning of a new sympathy. She’d never been on Telegraph Avenue with her father alone. She could sense him moving alongside her, carrying her along. Why was he taking her there? Was there something he planned to show her, something he wanted her to know? ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

1. How is the era the author describes different from the one you experienced as a young teenager? How might this story be different if it happened today?

2. How is this story similar to or different from other coming-of-age novels you have read?

3. What role does the city of Berkeley play in the story? How might the story have been different if it had happened elsewhere?

4. The author tells the story from multiple points of view. What effect did this have on your experience as a reader?

5. Which point of view did you identify with the most? Why?

6. Do you have a generally positive or negative impression of the social upheaval of the 1960s? How did this story influence your ideas about that era?

7. In this story, freedom has many different outcomes. What are some of the pros and cons for the main characters?

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