Introduction: Angels of a Lower Flight
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recounts Susie Scott Krabacher's journey from abusive childhood, to Playboy centerfold to humanitarian leader and hero to thousands.
Susie endured unspeakable abuse as a girl, enjoyed fame and notoriety as a Playboy centerfold as a young woman, and finally found her calling as a relief worker in Haiti as an adult. Through her unflinching faith in God and religion Susie found the strength to recognize the plight of the impoverished, and stop at nothing to see that they get the care and attention every human being deserves.
Widely considered one of the poorest nations in the world, where citizens suffer hellish living conditions, many might regard Haiti as a lost cause. But Susie Scott Krabacher has helped to drastically improve entire communities and has personally saved the lives of hundreds of Haitian children. Her projects in Haiti include the abandoned baby unit at the public hospital, a school in the poorest slum in the country, an orphanage for terminally ill and handicapped children, an orphanage for healthy infants and toddlers, a number of feeding centers and a Health Center. Her foundation "Mercy and Sharing" brings miracles to Haiti's children every day.
Susie's starkly honest memoir transcends its genre by providing detailed historical content and universal truths as witnessed through the eyes of a truly unique individual. Angels of a Lower Flight is just one woman's story, but reminds us that no obstacle is insurmountable, and that though we are each only one person in this world, we alone can make a world of difference. Discussion Questions:
1. Susie Scott-Krabacher opens her memoir with the C.S. Lewis quote "You don't think-not possibly-not as a mere hundredth of a chance-there might be things that are real though we can't see them?" What does this say about her intentions when writing this book? What did she hope we would accept as real without the benefit of seeing?
2. In the "Overture" (Page 1) Susie writes, "I feel a strange paradox of being young and old at the same time." She later tells us that as a four-year-old she "looked old and wise" (page 21). Why do you think this is the case? What about her life experiences has blurred the lines between childhood and adulthood? What made her feel wise beyond her years in youth, and young at heart in adulthood?
3. During her relief efforts with the children of Haiti, Susie continually fights the urge to cry. Why does she do this? What cultural differences would make the Haitian locals laugh at the sight of a white woman crying over a child? Do they see tears as weakness? As self-indulgence? How might it affect the children to see Susie cry?
4. Discuss Susie's relationship with her family during her youth. What stopped her from alerting her parents to the abuse she was enduring at the hands of her grandfather? Why was Susie so forgiving when her father failed to adequately protect her and her siblings against their mother? In what ways do you see Susie's childhood affecting her adult relationships with men?
5. Susie's appearance and the clothes that she wears are mentioned in the book periodically. At what times in her life did Susie's beauty help her? When might it have hindered her progress? She often describes the clothing she was wearing at different important events in her life. The long dresses her mother made her wear as a child, the blue jeans her foster family allowed her to wear to school. The swimsuits at the playboy mansion. Short shorts and sundresses in Haiti. In what ways do you see the phrase "the clothes make the [wo]man" applying to Susie?
6. Chart Suzie's experience with religion. How did her strict religious upbringing affect her decisions in adulthood? At what points did she begin to abandon religion? When did she seem to communicate with and rely on God most?
7. How did the inclusion of Psalms throughout the book affect your reading? If you are religious, did it help you relate to Susie and to the Haitian children and what they went through? If not, did you find it distracting and ancillary?
8. Discuss Susie's decision to spend the night in Cite Soliel despite countless warnings that it was dangerous (Chapter 12). Did you think she was being brave or foolish?
9. Susie met, loved, and cared for hundreds of children. Why do you think she chose to share Ashley's story with us in such detail and with such intimacy?
10. Susie met "vagabond" after "vagabond" in Haiti. After being deceived by Maude Silverice, Madam Scarasse, Madam Mire and Reginaud Basin what do you think gave her the ability to keep trusting in the good of people? Do you think you could have done the same?
11. When the healthy babies in the hospital begin to go missing Susie eventually chooses to accept the fact that they were being "exported" for adoption. "Some practices-however horrible, however protested-you learn to accept so you can continue doing the good you're able to do" (pg 229). Is acceptance her only option? Are there things in life that we simply must accept in order to carry on?
12. In many instances, widespread belief in Voodoo became an obstacle in finding Haitian nationals willing to help care for the children in the orphanage. It became crucial to find people who would ignore the Voodoo belief that sick or disfigured children are evil or represent omens. To many readers the Voodoo beliefs must seem far-fetched and ridiculous. Did this surprise you? How does Suzie overcome this widespread belief?
13. When Mark comes out as a homosexual, Susie is incredibly supportive despite her religious upbringing. How do you think Mark's life decisions and eventual suicide must have affected the family and Susie personally?
14. In each grave of each child who passes away while in Susie's care she places a scrap of paper with the words, "In this world you were loved." What does this quote mean to you?
15. Did reading Angels of a Lower Flight
open your eyes to the conditions in which children live in Haiti? Are you compelled to read further about the plight of children in impoverished countries? Are you currently involved in philanthropic efforts? How has reading this memoir affected your opinion of humanitarian relief efforts in the States and abroad? Will you become more involved? Enhancing Your Book Club:
Find out what you can do to help Susie and Joe's foundation "Mercy and Caring" at www.HaitiChildren.com
Learn more about the history of Voodoo and its role in Haiti's history: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vodou
Get a crash-course Haitian history lesson with this Timeline: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haiti_timeline
If someone you know, like Susie's brother Mark, is dealing with HIV or aids, recommend the support group chat rooms at http://www.13km.com/. Online resources for suicide prevention can be found at http://www.afsp.org/.
Prepare a dish of traditional Haitian rice and beans to enjoy during your book club meeting. Recipe available at: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Rice--Beans-Haitian-Style/Detail.aspx