The Sound of Gravel Discussion Questions

Instructor: Shanna Fox

Shanna has been part of the whirlwind world of teaching middle school for 20 years. She has a Master of Education degree in instructional design.

The Sound of Gravel holds a lot of opportunity for meaningful discussions among your high school students. These questions will help you guide them through the memoir's tougher topics, as well as the strength that Ruth shows throughout her life.

The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner

The Sound of Gravel is a powerful memoir by Ruth Wariner that follows her family through many trials and tribulations. The polygamist lifestyle in which her family is embroiled is filled with challenges, abuse, and poverty. Students will have much to discuss after reading this memoir. These questions can help your high school students explore how the setting affects Ruth and how her relationships with family members change throughout her life. Additionally, they will help you guide students through an exploration of theme and a deeper understanding of the genre.

Questions about Setting

  • Describe Ruth's life in Mexico versus her life in the United States. What challenges does she and her family face in each place? How does she cope with the challenges?
  • The church is also part of this memoir's setting. Describe how her family's place in the church influences the living situation of Ruth from the beginning of her life to the summation of the book.
  • Poverty follows Ruth's family from one place to the next. How do they face this obstacle? Do you think it relates to the polygamist lifestyle? If so, how? If not, why not?

Questions about Relationships

  • How does Ruth relate to her siblings? Describe her relationship as a young child with her siblings who have mental and physical challenges. Explain how her relationship with them changes after her mother's death.
  • When Ruth takes on the role of parent, how does she care for her siblings? What challenges does she face, and how does she tackle these challenges? Use evidence from the text to support your claims.
  • What role do Ruth's maternal grandparents play in her life? How does her relationship with them and their relationship with each other differ from the ones within her immediate family? Do you think she would have escaped the community without this relationship?

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