Literally Leander discussion

Under a Painted Sky
This topic is about Under a Painted Sky
17 views
Book Discussions - 2018 > Final Thoughts - December

Comments Showing 1-7 of 7 (7 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

Leander Public Library | 146 comments Mod
This month marks the end of our first year of book club, and the book we chose to feature was Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee. As always, there are going to be spoilers in this thread, so prepare yourselves!

This month, our discussion prompts were written by one of our staff members. Please don't feel as though you are required to answer them. We're offering them as starting points, but we'd love to see any of your opinions, observations, or any questions you might like to pose to your fellow members.

1. Samantha and Annamae disguise themselves as boys to escape west. Do you think this would have truly thrown people off their trail? Do you believe that they would’ve had another option?

2. Sam carries Lady Tin-Yin, her violin, everywhere. What do you think Lady Tin-Yin represents for Sam?

3. Why do you think this novel is called “Under the Painted Sky?” Would you have given it a different title?

4. Sam’s inner monologue often discusses her companions in terms of their traits as dictated by the Chinese Zodiac. Do you think that the descriptions of the characters matched the traits of their zodiac animal?

5. Do you think your zodiac traits describe your personality? Click here to check out your zodiac!

6. The Broken Hand Gang is not a very big part of the story, but they are referenced often. What kind of significance would you say they hold in the novel?

7. There is a focus on the meaning of family. Which families to do you see taking place in the novel? Is family just what you’re born with it, or can you make your own?

Under a Painted Sky is the first western we've ever featured for this book club (and we have to admit that it's a rare genre for young adult in the first place) so we're looking forward to hearing what you have to say!


Kristen | 141 comments I sort of mentioned this in the "first impressions" thread for this book, but western is not a genre I generally associated with people younger than 50. Earlier this year, though, I read a handful of young adult westerns and I really liked them. I adore historical fiction in general, so I'm not sure why I was so against the western subgenre.

But anyway, it's been a long time since I've read this book (earlier this year, like March maybe?) and so I don't remember a lot of it. Plus I also read Vengeance Road around the same time and I tend to confuse the two of them a little (forgive me.)

1. Samantha and Annamae disguise themselves as boys to escape west. Do you think this would have truly thrown people off their trail? Do you believe that they would’ve had another option?
I think the efficacy of the gender-swap method all depends on whether you want the answer based on book tropes or on real life. Because historical fiction, especially in young adult, is overflowing with girls masquerading as boys. So of course it's not surprising to the reader that they've dressed themselves as "Sammy and Andy." Unless you're new to historical fictions and didn't know that this is a thing.

But in real life? That's a different story. I guess it depends on how often women actually dressed as men, and how often they got away with it. I know there are a few women out in the world who managed to hold up the facade. Factually, there are a few women in history who have pretended to be men, usually so that they can fight in wars. But I don't think, in real life, that it would've been something that people would've immediately assumed happened to the girls.

2. Sam carries Lady Tin-Yin, her violin, everywhere. What do you think Lady Tin-Yin represents for Sam?
I think the violin is supposed to be a physical representation of Sam's past. She held onto it for so long, remembering her father and the way she was raised, and holding on to her dream of becoming a musician. But she loses the violin in a fast-flowing river, showing that she's willing to let go of the past to preserve her future, even if it's hard to do so, when tough decisions need to be made. She chose to continue living without her violin, instead of being crushed under the weight of her grief and the loss of her former life.

3. Why do you think this novel is called “Under the Painted Sky?” Would you have given it a different title?
If I'm going to be honest, the title is part of the reason I was drawn to the book in the first place. The south/southwest is known for its beautiful skies. Texas itself has been called a place of wide, blue skies.

I thought that the title of the book was very fitting; Sam and Annamae are thrown into a new world where they are running away from their pasts and into new futures, literally under a sky that's awash with a dozen different colors. It's beautiful and descriptive.


message 3: by Christine (last edited Sep 10, 2019 06:30PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Christine | 127 comments Once again, I'm super late to the book club discussion. Under a Painted Sky is the first YA western novel that I've read. (I read Stage Dreams, a YA western graphic novel, earlier this summer.) While I enjoyed Stage Dreams, I thought Under a Painted Sky was just okay.

1. Samantha and Annamae disguise themselves as boys to escape west. Do you think this would have truly thrown people off their trail? Do you believe that they would’ve had another option?
It stressed me out that Samantha and Annamae (thereafter known as Sam and Andy respectively) disguised themselves as boys. I was sure that they would make one wrong move and be found out. I mean, they had close calls all the time. I would not think that their scheme would be successful in real life but women have been able to disguise themselves as men throughout history.

2. Sam carries Lady Tin-Yin, her violin, everywhere. What do you think Lady Tin-Yin represents for Sam?
I thought it was interesting that Sam personified Lady Tin-Yin. I think Lady Tin-Yin represents the past for Sam. The violin had been in Sam's family for four generations. When Sam learned that her violin was ruined, she thought of the past. "Objects have pasts that cling to them, which means [Lady Tin-Yin] was filled with positive energy. Now she is gone, and only one thing remains of my past ... ".

4. Sam’s inner monologue often discusses her companions in terms of their traits as dictated by the Chinese Zodiac. Do you think that the descriptions of the characters matched the traits of their zodiac animal?
The descriptions of the characters did seem to match the traits of their Chinese zodiac animal. However, I also think confirmation bias is at play here. Confirmation bias is a term used in psychology that means to search for or interpret information that confirms preconceptions. Sam might ignore the traits of a character that do not match their Chinese zodiac animal and overemphasize when character traits do conform to the zodiac animal.

6. The Broken Hand Gang is not a very big part of the story, but they are referenced often. What kind of significance would you say they hold in the novel?
A law enforcement officer told Sam and Andy that people went west to escape the law, but their schemes would always fail. The law enforcement officer specifically mentioned members of the Broken Hand Gang, but Sam realized she was in a similar position to the Gang. While reading the book, I thought that mentions of the Gang may be subtle reminders to the reader that, according to the law enforcement officer at least, Sam would get caught for her crime. After finishing the novel though, I think references to the Broken Hand Gang are part of the novel's focus on the meaning of a family.

7. There is a focus on the meaning of family. Which families to do you see taking place in the novel? Is family just what you’re born with it, or can you make your own?
The novel ends with a discussion of the Chinese principle known as yuanfen, which is fate a person has with someone else. People that share a strong yuanfen can become as close as family. The concept is repeated throughout the book to demonstrate its importance in the novel. It seems that Sam, Andy, Cay, Peety, and West share a strong sense of yuanfen because they are as close as family (and more importantly, consider themselves to be a family of their own making) throughout the novel.


Kristen | 141 comments Christine wrote: "It stressed me out that Samantha and Annamae (thereafter known as Sam and Andy respectively) disguised themselves as boys. I was sure that they would make one wrong move and be found out. I mean, they had close calls all the time. I would not think that their scheme would be successful in real life but women have been able to disguise themselves as men throughout history."

I don't know if you read a lot of historical fictions, but this is definitely a thing; they dress as men, almost get found out, and eventually are found out by either their enemy, their love interest, or both.

I think it's an interesting point that it wasn't actually that uncommon throughout history. There's even a Wikipedia article listing various people who have dressed as the opposite gender specifically during war time. Most are women dressing as men to enter the army, but there are instances of men dressing as women as disguises to assassinate enemies.


Christine | 127 comments Kristen wrote: "I don't know if you read a lot of historical fictions, but this is definitely a thing;"

I do enjoy reading historical fiction, but can only recall a handful of times where I have come across this trope in novels (namely, the two westerns I've read and in The Language of Fire: Joan of Arc Reimagined). Unlike in Under a Painted Sky, the plot of Stage Dreams did not revolve around a girl fearing she would be found out as such, which is probably why I felt less stress while reading the graphic novel.

I can name more movies that I've seen containing this trope. Mulan and She's the Man are two of my favorites. I enjoyed reading this blog post from New York Public Library about the prevalence of this trope in teen fiction. The post listed several books to read and movies to watch for people interested in this trope.


Kristen | 141 comments Christine wrote: "I can name more movies that I've seen containing this trope. Mulan andShe's the Man are two of my favorites. I enjoyed reading this blog post from New York Public Library about the prevalence of this trope in teen fiction. The post listed several books to read and movies to watch for people interested in this trope."

Oh yeah, it's definitely a major trope in most teen-related things (shows, books, movies, etc.) I actually made a shelf for books that have characters that dress as the opposite gender, for whatever reason. They're usually historical fictions or fantasies.


message 7: by 汉成 (new)

汉成 蒋 | 1 comments Samantha dreams of moving back to New York to be a professional musician—not an easy thing if you’re a girl, and harder still if you’re Chinese.I think that Samantha can go to Tibet in China. Tibet is a place where people can cultivate their souls. Click here( TIBET) to see what kind of place Tibet is.


back to top