Discussion Questions and Further Reading for "Green"

We hope the stories in each issue of Oregon Humanities are the beginning of conversations and exploration for our readers. Here you'll find some prompts for discussing these articles with others, as well as links to books, articles, and organizations where you can learn more about the stories and ideas explored in the "Green" issue.

Discussion Questions

  • In “Tonalidades de la Vida” (“Shades of Life”), Ana Maria Rodriguez considers the role of green in her life, from the fields where she has labored to the robe of the Virgin of Guadalupe. The color green is rich in meaning: it symbolizes wealth and abundance, ecology, envy, and many nations, political parties, and faiths. When you think of the color green, what meanings come to mind? How are those meanings connected? 

  • Michael Heald’s article “Buying In” explores the history and contemporary resurgence of worker-owned cooperatives in Oregon. Worker-owned co-ops, he writes, “are broadly defined by two characteristics: first, workers collectively own the business, thereby benefiting financially from the business’s success; second, workers participate in the management of the business’s operations, and are typically allotted one vote per worker-owner.” Thinking about places you’ve worked, how would they have been different if decisions were made democratically? What do you think might be the advantages or disadvantages of such a system?

  • In “Portrait of My Mother in Mint Green,” Jennifer Perrine writes about learning that their late mother, who was passionate about politics, never became an American citizen. Perrine writes: "I lay awake wondering what it meant that my mother had never once cast a ballot, that for all her political convictions and opinions about leaders, she never voted to determine the outcome of an election.” In your opinion, what is the connection between political conscience and voting? Are there other meaningful ways to engage with politics? Do you know noncitizens who are politically active? What mechanisms do those people use to participate in civic life? What mechanisms do you use?

  • In “Losing the Forest for the Trees,” Juliet Grable writes about how the death of thousands of white fir trees has affected her home, a small mountain community in Southern Oregon called The Greensprings. Thinking about where you live, are there plants or animals that have been noticeably affected by warming temperatures, fire, or human activity? Thinking forward, what do you imagine the nonhuman landscape will look like in five years? What will it look like in fifty?

  • In “Memoria Ancestral,” Yanely Rivas explores how a particular dish—and the plant that dish is made from—connects her with one of her ancestors. Do you have family recipes that help you remember your relatives? Are there particular plants that make you feel closer to your ancestors? How do you use food to pay tribute to people you’ve lost?

  • In “Merciful Debt” Rosanna Nafziger explores the fraught dynamics of social class, charity, and the particular tight knit Mennonite community in which she was raised. How does the essay explore the concept of generosity within the Mennonite community and beyond? Can you recall a time when you experienced generosity from your community or others? How did it make you feel, and did it come with any expectations or strings attached?


Further Reading

“Tonalidades de la Vida/Shades of Life”


“Buying In”

Oregon once had several cooperatively owned plywood mills:

Northwest Cooperative Development Center is an organization that helps new co-ops get started.

The Rise and Fall of the Burley Design Cooperative” by Joel Schoening explores the history of Oregon’s most famous former co-op. (JSTOR link requires a library or school login.)


“Portrait of My Mother in Mint Green”

Eliminating the Naturalization Backlog,” National Immigration Forum (May 11, 2023)

National Survey Finds Just 1 in 3 Americans Would Pass Citizenship Test,” Institute for Citizens and Scholars (October 3, 2018)

1984 by George Orwell

Animal Farm by George Orwell

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

In Dubious Battle by John Steinbeck


“Memoria Ancestral”

Kitchen Ghost” by Lola Milholland, Oregon Humanities magazine (Winter 2020)

Love and Noodles” by Marilou Carrera, Beyond the Margins (March 3, 2021)

Mama Will Feed You” by Janey Wong, Oregon Humanities magazine (Winter 2020)


“Merciful Debt”

Having and Being Had by Eula Biss 

Shunned” by Meredith Hall (Creative Nonfiction)

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal by Jeanette Winterson


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Also in this Issue

From the Director: Seeing Green

Editor's Note: Green

Pantoum for an Uncertain Future

Tonalidades de la Vida / Shades of Life

Buying In

Portrait of My Mother in Mint Green

Losing the Forest for the Trees

Memoria Ancestral

Merciful Debt


People, Places, Things: The Dalles, Oregon, 1988

Discussion Questions and Further Reading for "Green"