The Stationery Shop discussion questions

  1. The Stationery Shop’s plot revolves around Tehran’s coup d’etat of 1953. What did you know before reading The Stationery Shop about the Iranian coup? Did you do any research after reading? (Make sure you read the book’s acknowledgements!) 
  2. The Stationery Shop is a place Roya loves—books and pencils and quiet. Have you ever had a peaceful place where you loved to spend a quiet afternoon? What made it so special?
  3. What did the book’s epigraphs, from F. Scott Fitzgerald and Harry Truman, mean to you? What kind of tone did they establish for the story?
  4. Bahman once asked Roya, “what would you do if you could do what you want?” (p. 29). Even though Roya and Zari have a progressive father who wants an education for his daughters, is this desire considering of what was best for them? Does the political upheaval in Tehran play a part in Baba’s emphasis on an education?
  5. Bahman opens up a world of new foods, art, literature, music, film, and friends to Roya. Have you ever had anyone in your life that exposed you to a new and larger life?
  6. From Pride & Prejudice to A Place for Us to The Notebook to the two central relationships in The Stationery Shop, class and manners often play a part in family relationships in literature. Roya recognizes “This was the societal web of niceties and formalities and expected good female behavior that often suffocated her. But she had no choice but to bear it, to try to navigate within it.” (p. 56) Do you think love or similar upbringing or something else is the most important factor in a successful marriage? Is this exclusive to the time and place of the novel, or is this still the case for women today?
  7. Badri struggles with mental illness. Do Bahman and his father deal with her illness and her treatment of others well, or as well as could have been possible for the time and culture? Do they share blame in what happened later?
  8. Roya and Zari adjust very differently to American life. Roya describes it as “being plunged into a darkened room” (p. 167). Why do you think Zari adjusted more easily? Was it in her personality, or because Roya is still grieving the loss of Bahman?
  9. First love is powerful. Were you rooting for Roya and Bahman? Did you think Roya was mature enough to be ready for marriage? How did you feel when she later grew close to Walter?
  10. How would the novel have been different if the story had unfolded in a linear fashion?
  11. Mr. Fakhri tells Roya “fate has written the script for your destiny on your forehead from the very beginning” (p. 127). Do you believe in fate or are we a product of our choices?
  12. Is there a villain in this story? Who is innocent and who is in the wrong?
  13. Did you think the book was better or worse for the epilogue?

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