The Autobiography of Jenny X by Lisa Dierbeck
Warning: May contain spoilers
1. The Autobiography of Jenny X is the story of a collision between the powerful and the powerless. The adolescent female body is envisioned as a site of conflict and a crucible of change. What aspects of the female experience does the novel give voice to?

2. In what sense may Jenny X be an Everywoman, a figure who represents an ordinary or universal female?

3. As a pregnant schoolgirl who is subjected to exploitation and domestic violence, is Jenny a victim? When she breaks the law to protect her unborn child, are her actions fair?

4. The moniker "Jenny X" suggests an anonymous person, forever unknown. Discuss the meaning of a character who leads a double life, in disguise, while concealing her true self. On the surface, she is soft-spoken, respectable and self-effacing. But she possesses the power to create and destroy. What is the author suggesting about women's roles today?

5. Discuss the effects of poverty on Jenny. Examine the attitudes of others toward a teenager without means or stature. How does this treatment shape her development? What messages did she receive?

6. Dan's reaction to Nadia might be described as love at first sight. What he admires is described as follows: "Gem. Chic. Sleeveless. Sheath. Genuine. Twenty-four carat. Class A. Pearl" (page 66). What attracts him? Discuss.

7. How do the two men in the novel misperceive the same woman? Describe the aspects of Jenny/Nadia that neither man can see.

8. "In Christopher's family, no one was fat ... That Jenny was overweight recommended her to him ... Her puckered thighs denounced the allure of elite private colleges. Her soft hips spread out over the sill to question the benefits of good taste and advantageous social connections" (pages 220-221). What does this passage reveal about Christopher? In what other ways does Jenny/Nadia become a symbol?

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9. On page 221, Christopher remarks: "He'd seen her original sins that day and he'd restored them." Explore the idea of sin as it appears in the novel, including the references to the Garden of Eden in the chapter entitled "The Homecoming" (page 285).

10. What place does forgiveness, or the lack of it, play in The Autobiography of Jenny X?

11. Art surfaces in the novel in several guises. Identify the various kinds of art in these pages—from art therapy to commercial photography. Is one form more authentic than another? Why or why not?

12. There is a monastic quality to Nadia's artistic endeavors. Created in seclusion, her paintings are rarely seen in public. How might this private ritual be interpreted? What is Nadia hiding or protecting? What is the place of creative expression in Nadia's life? How does it compare to Christopher's ideological art?

13. When he finally sees her again, Christopher realizes: "Jenny was his fiction, his creation, his protagonist" (page 272). What is the author conveying about art, fiction and reality?

14. How do anger, resentment, desire and forgiveness bind the three main characters together?

15. Passages in the novel are set in the near future, in a period in which familiar civil liberties have been curtailed. Describe the civilization that can be glimpsed in the background. How does the author use this device to offer social commentary?

16. Jenny and Christopher are counterparts who remain interlinked. By the end of the book, Christopher has lost his inheritance to the woman he'd abandoned; he is now destitute and homeless. They have traded places. What does this dynamic suggest?

17. Though written by a woman, the novel contains three distinct points of view, telling the tale from entirely different vantage points. Who is narrating? Does anyone tell a complete version of the story? Why is it called an autobiography?

18. The novel probes the force of memory. It is not told chronologically but is fragmented. Why?

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