images_13-35-34.jpgBook Overview (from

Jeannette Walls grew up with parents whose ideals and stubborn nonconformity were both their curse and their salvation. Rex and Rose Mary Walls had four children. In the beginning, they lived like nomads, moving among Southwest desert towns, camping in the mountains. Rex was a charismatic, brilliant man who, when sober, captured his children's imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and above all, how to embrace life fearlessly. Rose Mary, who painted and wrote and couldn't stand the responsibility of providing for her family, called herself an "excitement addict." Cooking a meal that would be consumed in fifteen minutes had no appeal when she could make a painting that might last forever.
Later, when the money ran out, or the romance of the wandering life faded, the Walls retreated to the dismal West Virginia mining town -- and the family -- Rex Walls had done everything he could to escape. He drank. He stole the grocery money and disappeared for days. As the dysfunction of the family escalated, Jeannette and her brother and sisters had to fend for themselves, supporting one another as they weathered their parents' betrayals and, finally, found the resources and will to leave home.
What is so astonishing about Jeannette Walls is not just that she had the guts and tenacity and intelligence to get out, but that she describes her parents with such deep affection and generosity. Hers is a story of triumph against all odds, but also a tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a family that despite its profound flaws gave her the fiery determination to carve out a successful life on her own terms.
For two decades, Jeannette Walls hid her roots. Now she tells her own story. A regular contributor to, she lives in New York and Long Island and is married to the writer John Taylor.

See a YouTube videoof Walls talking about her life and her book.

Discussion Questions

Supernova p.41

1. Though The Glass Castle is brimming with unforgettable stories, which scenes were the most memorable for you? Which were the most shocking, the most inspiring, the funniest?
2. Discuss the metaphor of a glass castle and what it signifies to Jeannette and her father. Why is it important that, just before leaving for New York, Jeannette tells her father that she doesn't believe he'll ever build it? (p. 238).
3. The first story Walls tells of her childhood is that of her burning herself severely at age three, and her father dramatically takes her from the hospital: "You're safe now" (p. 14). Why do you think she opens with that story, and how does it set the stage for the rest of the memoir?
4. Rex Walls often asked his children, "Have I ever let you down?" Why was this question (and the required "No, Dad" response) so important for him -- and for his kids? On what occasions did he actually come through for them?
5. Jeannette's mother insists that, no matter what, "life with your father was never boring" (p. 288). What kind of man was Rex Walls? What were his strengths and weaknesses, his flaws and contradictions?
6. Discuss Rose Mary Walls. What did you think about her description of herself as an "excitement addict"? (p. 93).
7. Though it portrays an incredibly hardscrabble life, The Glass Castle is never sad or depressing. Discuss the tone of the book, and how do you think that Walls achieved that effect?
8. Describe Jeannette's relationship to her siblings and discuss the role they played in one another's lives.
9. In college, Jeannette is singled out by a professor for not understanding the plight of homeless people; instead of defending herself, she keeps quiet. Why do you think she does this?
10. The two major pieces of the memoir -- one half set in the desert and one half in West Virginia -- feel distinct. What effect did such a big move have on the family -- and on your reading of the story? How would you describe the shift in the book's tone?
11. Were you surprised to learn that, as adults, Jeannette and her siblings remained close to their parents? Why do you think this is?
12. What character traits -- both good and bad -- do you think that Jeannette inherited from her parents? And how do you think those traits shaped Jeannette's life?
13. For many reviewers and readers, the most extraordinary thing about The Glass Castle is that, despite everything, Jeannette Walls refuses to condemn her parents. Were you able to be equally nonjudgmental?
14. Like Mary Karr's Liars' Club and Rick Bragg's All Over But the Shoutin', Jeannette Walls' The Glass Castle tells the story of a wildly original (and wildly dysfunctional) family with humor and compassion. Were their other comparable memoirs that came to mind? What distinguishes this book?
(Questions above were issued by publisher Simon & Schuster)

15. On page 35 Jeannette's mother asks her father to pull over to look at a tree. What kind of tree is it, and what is the significance of Jeannette putting this little story about their pulling over for the tree in her memoir?
16. On page 36, her father chases a monster he calls Demon. Does he really believe in this Demon? If so, what is it? If not, why does he chase it?
17. On page 61, Rex defines "turbulence." Do you think he understands how ironic he is being in light of the circumstances?
18. Why does Jeannette want to go to NYC?
19. Why does the school counselor care whether or not Jeannette goes to college locally or in New York City?
p. 236
20. After watching the video of Jeannette and her mother, how does your opinion of her mother change? How does your opinion on Jeannette change?

To access the LibraryThing page for The Glass Castle, click here.


What are motifs? These are ideas, events or images from the book that have more than a literal meaning. They are symbolic or metaphorical, reflecting larger themes.
The joshua tree.
The glass castle
The garbage hole.
Lori's glasses


Memoir Writing

Your first writing assignment will be to write like Jeanette Walls has. You will write a short memoir. The journals, freewriting and brainstorms you have done up until now will help you with this.

One of my students from a few years ago wrote a memoir that was very well done. If you want to read it, click on the button below.

The Glass Castle Vocabulary Workshop

You are going to be put into groups of 3-4 students. Each group will have 4-6 words to look up, study and find a picture for. Each picture must be relevant. It must represent the word as best as possible. Due Tuesday, November 8 @ 2:04PM
saguaros p.22

Creosote p.35

Venus de Milo p.38

Impressionistic p.38

Supernova p.41

Supernova p.41

Ore p.55

Vat p.56

Binary numbers p.58

Obsidian p. 59

Amethyst p.60

Mirage p. 61

Tobogganing p. 54

Pyrite p.59

Contraption p.64

Encrustation p.65

sulked p.76

Centrifugal p. 74

Ingenuity p. 67 G1

Centrifugal p. 74 G1

Wheedle p. 76 G1

Vying p. 76 G1

Evasive p.76 G1

Barite p. 76

Cyanide p.78 G2

Depicting p. 78 G2

Shanghai p.79 G2

Forlorn p.81 G3

Antique p. 84 G3

Provoked p.89 G3

Nuance p.89 G3

Magistrate p.89 G3

Justifiable p. 89 G4

Eucalyptus p.90 G4

Adobe p.145

Gieger Counter p.90 G4

Hacienda p. 95 G4

Miscellaneous p. 97 G4

Immaculate p.114 G5

Billowing p.119 G5

Transistor p.123 G5

Geode p.124 G5

Adobe p.145 G5

Cantankerous p.146 G6

Rustic p.149 G6

Rickety p. 151 G6

Makeshift p.152 G6

Primative p.156 G6

Tourniquet p.169 G7

Corrugated p.189 G7

Conspicuous p.191 G7

Agitator p.206G7

Pentecostals p.206 G7

Caryatid p.208 G8

Cajole p.209 G8

Fleece p.219 G8

Scythe p.224 G8

Yacht p.225 G8

Dulcimers p.225 G9
Aerodynamics p.233

Aerodynamics p.233 G9

Bodega p.248 G9 G9

Dilapidated p.253 G9

Murals p.253 G9

Façade p.258 G10

Cesspools p.258 G10

Gaunt p.260 G10

Shetland p.263 G10

Spectrum p.261 G10

Turpentine p.267 G11

Squatter p.278 G11

Supernova p.41 G11

Vat p.56 G11

Ingenuity p. 67 G12

Centrifugal p. 74 G12

Wheedle p. 76 G12

Vying p. 76 G12

Evasive p.76 G13

Barite p. 76 G13

Sulked p. 76 G13

Cyanide p.78 G13

Look them up.

DESE Standards Applied in this Unit

1.6 Drawing on one of the widely used professional evaluation forms for group
discussion, evaluate how well participants engage in discussions at a local

Questioning, Listening, and Contributing
2.6 Analyze differences in responses to focused group discussion in an
organized and systematic way.

Vocabulary and Concept Development
4.26 Identify and use correctly new words acquired through study of their
different relationships to other words.
4.27 Use general dictionaries, specialized dictionaries, thesauruses, histories
of language, books of quotations, and other related references as needed.

Structure and Origins of Modern English
5.30 Identify, describe, and apply all conventions of standard English.
5.31 Describe historical changes in conventions for usage and grammar.
5.32 Explain and evaluate the influence of the English language on world
literature and world cultures.
5.33 Analyze and explain how the English language has developed and been
influenced by other languages.

Understanding a Text
For imaginative/literary texts:
8.32 Identify and analyze the point(s) of view in a literary work.
8.33 Analyze patterns of imagery or symbolism and connect them to themes
and/or tone and mood.

Making Connections
9.7 Relate a literary work to the seminal ideas of its time.

10.6 Identify and analyze characteristics of genres (satire, parody, allegory,
pastoral) that overlap or cut across the lines of genre classifications such
as poetry, prose, drama, short story, essay, and editorial.

11.6 Apply knowledge of the concept that a text can contain more than one
11.7 Analyze and compare texts that express a universal theme, and locate
support in the text for the identified theme.

13.26 Analyze and evaluate the logic and use of evidence in an author’s
13.27 Analyze, explain, and evaluate how authors use the elements of non­
fiction to achieve their purposes.

Style and Language
15.10 Analyze and compare style and language across significant cross-cultural
literary works.

20.6 Use effective rhetorical techniques and demonstrate understanding of
purpose, speaker, audience, and form when completing expressive, persua­sive,
or literary writing assignments.

21.9 Revise writing to improve style, word choice, sentence variety, and subtlety
of meaning after rethinking how well questions of purpose, audience, and
genre have been addressed.

Standard English Conventions
22.10 Use all conventions of standard English when writing and editing.
23.15 Craft sentences in a way that supports the underlying logic of the ideas.

Evaluating Writing and Presentations
25.6 Individually develop and use criteria for assessing work across the
curriculum, explaining why the criteria are appropriate before applying

Analysis of Media
26.6 Identify the aesthetic effects of a media presentation and identify and
evaluate the techniques used to create them.