A Reading Group Guide to Drawing Deena
By Hena KhanAbout the Book
Deena is a middle schooler who loves art and cherishes her family deeply. However, like many teens, she grapples with navigating her family relationships. The financial struggles and conflicts between her parents contribute to her anxiety, indecisiveness, and self-doubt. After she reaches a breaking point, Deena discovers the strength to assert herself. This pivotal moment becomes a turning point for both Deena and her parents as they recognize the significance of seeking help when you need it. Discussion Questions
1. Deena’s mom is running a Pakistani clothing business from home. How does Deena help her mom with the boutique?
2. Our bodies show anxiety and stress in many ways. For example, Deena clenches her teeth in sleep, bites her nails, gets stomachaches, is not able to eat in the morning, and sometimes she even vomits. How do you feel when you are worried or stressed out about something? Do you have any physical symptoms? What are they?
3. In some cultures, it is considered disrespectful for children to disagree with their parents. When Deena’s mom cannot understand why her daughter is stressed, Deena wonders how some kids on TV talk back to their parents, saying, “You don’t understand me” or “I hate you.” (Chapter two) What are some better or more respectful ways to show disagreement or concern without yelling? How do you think Deena could have explained to her mom why she felt stressed?
4. Deena’s aunt, Saima, brings the family’s dishes back with chicken pulao (rice cooked with chicken) in one of them, along with some empty containers. It is a Pakistani tradition not to return someone’s dishes completely empty. Do you exchange food with family and friends? What are some of your cultural traditions around sharing food?
5. Why do you think Parisa uses photo filters and a glam app to retouch her pictures? What actions and traits make us feel good about ourselves besides how we look?
6. Parisa has her own social media account, which is filled with her selfies. She gets a lot of comments with fire emojis, heart eyes, and words like “beautiful” and “gorgeous.” (Chapter twenty-four) What happens to our minds when we get likes or when we do not get likes? How can social media help us and how can it hurt us? What are some healthy social media habits?
7. According to Deena’s mom and aunt, the internet is a place where “‘weirdos and creeps’” hang out, which is why they don’t want Parisa’s pictures on social media for boutique publicity. (Chapter ten) There are many reasons why social media could be a dangerous place for all of us. What do you think are the risks of social media, and what steps can we take to stay safe when we use it?
8. In some families, talking about feelings like sadness, worry, or anxiety, and going to therapy might be considered taboo. Deena’s mother was supportive of Deena getting help, but how did her dad initially react? What helped Deena share her feelings with her parents openly?
9. A local artist, Salma, runs workshops and mentors young people. She tells Deena that “‘we artists need to stick together’” and that “‘it’s important as artists to be in community.’” (Chapter forty) Have you ever had an experience where someone helped and guided you? How do you think having a mentor could benefit you?
10. When Deena mentions to Salma that she is inspired by Van Gogh’s art and tries to copy his style, Salma says, “‘It’s important to look to the past greats, to understand art history. But remember, other cultures outside of Europe have been producing art for just as long, even if it doesn’t get celebrated or recognized as much in the West. It’s good to understand that, and to decolonize your mind.’” (Chapter twenty-one) Deena did not understand what Salma was talking about. What do you think Salma was trying to say to Deena? What does it mean to decolonize our minds?
11. Parisa wishes she were as confident and talented as Deena, while Deena wishes she could be more like Parisa. We all have unique abilities and talents. When we are unable to recognize our skills, it can make us feel less sure about ourselves. What are some things you enjoy doing or feel you are good at? It can be anything, such as drawing, sports, helping others, etc.
12. How does Mr. Lin, the school counselor, describe anxiety? When does this emotion help us, and how can it become a problem and get in our way?
13. Deena was very stressed and conflicted about sharing her feelings and fears with her parents. When she learned effective ways to communicate and be assertive, how did she feel, and how did her mother react? Extension Activities
1. While most Western wedding ceremonies last a day or two, weddings for Pakistani and Pakistani American families can often last several days. Typical Pakistani-style wedding traditions may involve multiple Dholkis (singing and dancing events), a Mehndi (henna party), a Shaadi (religious ceremony and reception), and a Walima (a reception hosted by the groom and his family). How is a Pakistani wedding different from weddings in your culture(s)? Consider breaking into small groups and sharing your favorite and most meaningful traditions you have seen or experienced from weddings you have attended.
2. Arrange a henna party! Order some organic henna cones online and watch a video to learn how to draw henna designs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EuRofLGv_c8. After practicing on paper, draw a design on your hand or a friend’s hand with a henna cone. Or use paper and colored pencils to create designs that could be used with henna.
3. How did Ms. Freundlich help Deena during her panic attack? Learn more about what panic attacks are (https://www.unicef.org/parenting/mental-health/what-are-panic-attacks#panic-attacks-coping
) and what to do when you feel stressed (https://kidshealth.org/en/kids/5-steps.html). Watch this short video to learn some deep breathing and grounding exercises to calm your mind and practice them: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rTvzhZxeMS4.
4. When people have anxiety, sometimes they fall into “thinking traps.” Keeping a record of when we feel anxious could help find a pattern of how our bodies physically respond to stress. Decorate a journal cover and write how you feel in your body when you have strong emotions. You can also try drawing out what you feel.
5. Offering chai (hot tea) to guests is a common Pakistani custom. Due to its simplicity and inviting aroma, every guest is offered this drink. This is why whenever clients come to Deena’s house, her mom asks her to make chai for them. What is a popular drink in your family and culture(s)? Make your favorite drink and share recipes with your classmates.Guide prepared by Noureen Qadir-Jafar, Youth Services Librarian at the Levittown Public Library in New York. This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.