Air You Breathe (Peebles) - Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions
1. In The Air You Breathe, Dores grows up under the watchful eye of Nena, the head of the kitchen on the Riacho Doce plantation, while enduring gossip about her birth mother. Graaa’s mother does everything she can to expose her absent-minded daughter to the arts and education. In what ways do Dores’s and Graca’s relationships with their mothers or mother figures affect the way they lead their lives in Rio and beyond?

2. Throughout the novel, Graca comes across as spoiled and selfish; however, Dores is forced to reevaluate her intentions when Graca accuses her of only ever looking out for herself. To what extent is this true and what might have prompted Graca to make such a comment?

3. Music is a pivotal part of each of the characters’ lives. In what ways does music act as an escape and a burden for Dores, Graca, Vinicius, and the Blue Moon boys?

4. Dores’s love for Graca can become dangerously unconditional and we see that any attention from Graca is enough to make Dores want to abandon the work they’ve put into the Sofia Salvador act to run away with her. Are there instances when Dores seems to have had enough? What pulls her back into Graca’s influence? Was Dores, in a sense, liberated by Graca’s death?

5. Why, when Senhor Pimentel reappears in the girls’ lives, is Graca so willing to let him back in? Is Graca’s love for her father similar to Dores’s love for Graca in that both are willing to settle for minor displays of affection?

6. Madame Lucifer and the Lion fought to get to their positions of power, and both show their respect for Dores’s perseverance. How is Graca treated in comparison to the way Dores is? Are there instances when Graca, rather than Dores, is invisible or in the shadows?

7. Vinicius is a grounded character who cares about the integrity of his music first. How does Vinicius, and his relationship with music, change when Sofia Salvador and the Blue Moon boys gain fame, first in Rio then in Los Angeles? When Graca wants to abandon ship, Vinicius wants to convince her to stay and finish filming for their movies. Is this a practical decision or one that reflects how he feels about fame?

8. Graca and Dores want what the other has. Dores wants Graca’s voice and her command on stage while Graca wants Dores’s ability to write music and her relationship with Vinicius. In what ways would our opinion of Dores change if the story had been written from Graca’s point of view?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

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