Lunch with Lenin

Lunch with Lenin by Deborah Ellis

– A Collection of Short Stories for Young Adults –

I. ‘Through the Woods’

A. Write using your background knowledge:

Write a paragraph of 7 – 10 sentences starting with these two sentences: Why do some people use illegal drugs?  
This is what I think.

B. Read the story: p. 1 – 10.

C. Write a summary:

Matthew is a _________ teenager. He  looks like a normal boy with his _______ ,  ________  and ________ . He gets along well with ________ . But he is not happy.  His parents _______ and his grandmother  ___________ . To deal with his loneliness and pain, he ________________ .

D. Write a reflection:

Write paragraph, of 5 – 7 sentences, giving your opinion of Matthew’s behaviour. Do you think he made a good decision to provide his grandmother with marijuana?

II. ‘Pretty Flowers’

A. Write using your background knowledge:

There are some things I do simply because I belong with my family.  I _____ . I ________ . And I ________ . Someday, when I live on my own, I might not do all these things. But now, I do, just because that is how we do things in my family.

There are some things I do purely for the good of others. I __________ . I ____________ . I even _________ . None of those things would I do for myself. But since they help the people I love, I do them anyway.

B. Read the story: p. 11 – 24.

C. Write a summary:

Tahmina is a _________ girl living on ___________ with her _______ in Afghanistan. Soldiers have come and __________________ , her family’s only way of ______________ . Now how will they pay their debt? Sadly, Tahmina __________________ .

D. Write a reflection:

Sometimes life is complicated. Growing poppies that will be used to produce illegal drugs is wrong. But so is forcing girls to marry in order to pay family debts.  Should the police officers have destroyed the poppy crop without giving the family time to find an alternate source of income?  This is what I think. _____________________

II. ‘Lunch with Lenin’

A. Write using your background knowledge:

Alexander Dumas, author of The Three Musketeers once wrote that “human wisdom is summed up in these two words,–‘Wait and hope’.”  Wait for _____ .  And hope for _____ .  Sometimes it seems like much of life requires waiting and hoping .

B. Read the story: p. 37 – 57

C. Write a summary:

________ in ‘Lunch with Lenin’ is a _________ boy who is left by_____________ in _____________ . He waits and waits, but ______________ . [Add 4 or 5 sentences but do not tell the ending.] Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of America, said that the person who “lives upon hope will die fasting.”  At the end of the story, Valerin is _ _________ , still hoping that ________ .

D. Write a reflection:

Is Valerin wise to keep waiting for his ________ ? Or is he foolish? I think that _________ .

More often than not, I think that the best course of action in life is to wait/take action . Overall, I tend to agree with Dumas/Franklin who said that _______ .

Some Examples

          Why do people make the decision to use illegal drugs? This is a question that many loved ones, counsellors, therapists, and doctors continue to ask. If you have never struggled with addiction, it is very difficult to understand the reasons why some people do. There are many reasons why people make this choice and while I will attempt to cover three of them it is important to realize that each person walks their own unique path into addiction and to discover their reasons requires that we engage with their stories. The first reason that people choose to use illegal drugs is peer pressure; quite simply, they do it because their friends do it and they long to be accepted. Secondly, there is curiosity. Many people have heard that doing illegal drugs feels good, and the truth is for a while it does, so they want to try it for themselves. Many illegal drugs, like amphetamines or cocaine, give users a rush of energy or the feeling of great power; once they have felt this way, they want to feel it again and so they continue to use illegal drugs. Thirdly, many people are looking for a means to escape from the circumstances of their lives; whether they are experiencing abuse, rejection, depression, or any of a number of other negative experiences, the use of illegal drugs provides them a means of escape from the reality of their lives and for a brief time they feel better. The problem is this feeling never lasts, and the guilt and shame that come when someone is “coming down” from drug use makes them feel worse, causing them to return to the drugs in order to feel better. There are numerous reasons why people will decide to use illegal drugs, but possibly the overall reason is that they like the feeling they get when they are high. The other reasons are as varied as the people who decide to take illegal drugs and to truly discover why, we need to take the time to get to know them, to engage in the stories of their lives, because only as we do that will we be able to understand the real reasons behind why a person makes that choice. (Isaak in grade eight)

      Matthew, in ‘Through the Woods’, is an ordinary young troubled boy. He looks like a normal boy with his open face, tidy hair and clean look. He gets along well with the teachers. But he is not happy. His parents beat him and his grandmother is physically ill and weak. To deal with his loneliness and pain, he smokes marijuana and makes a great effort to help his grandmother, and himself. (Brianna in grade eight)
        It was not wise for Matthew, in ‘Through the Woods’, to give marijuana to his grandmother. Using drugs, including marijuana,   is bad for a person’s health and can possibly kill. Matthew gave a lot of marijuana to his grandmother, because he loved her and didn’t want her to suffer in pain. But I think he would not want to watch her die, because of that marijuana, either, so he was not thinking ahead about what would be good for her in the future. In addition, buying drugs was dangerous. If he had got caught, he, his grandma and the kid selling marijuana would have all been in great trouble. So, I do not think Matthew made a wise decision. (Isabel in grade eight)

        Tahmina is a strong and hard-working girl living on an opium crop with her mom, dad, and three younger brothers, Zamir, Zmarai, and Aryan, in Afghanistan. Soldiers have come and destroyed the poppy crops that Tahmina and her father worked so hard to tend for, because they say that there are too many heroin addicts in Europe. This crop was her family’s only way of putting food on their table, having a roof over their heads, and paying back the money that they owed to the storekeeper, Mr. Najibullah. Now how will they pay their debt? Sadly, Tahmina, the eldest child and only daughter has to be sold to the storekeeper to be one of his many wives. I do not think that it’s fair for Tahmina to get her future destroyed to pay off debt that’s not even hers. It may be the family’s only solution, but it is definitely not just. (Saniya in grade eight)

       Sometimes life is complicated. Growing poppies that will be used to produce illegal drugs is wrong. But so is forcing girls to marry in order to pay family debts…. I believe that the police officers did not have to give the family notice before destroying the poppy crop because I’m sure that the family was aware that what they were doing was illegal, although it would’ve been convenient to Tahmina and her family to have time to consider other options for making money, but it was not the soldiers’ responsibility to let these kinds of emotions get in the way of them doing their job. The soldiers had a job to fulfill in order to feed their families and look after themselves. I believe that it didn’t have to come to this, and that Tahmina’s family should’ve considered a money-making business that did not include illegal activity. What bothers me about the whole situation is that after all of this, the parents chose to sell their daughter to a man, Mr. Najibullah, to be one of his many wives to pay off their debt. Why should Tahmina have to pay for something that isn’t her fault? Selling her is destroying to Tahmina future. Worst of all, Tahmina would not do something to fight back and say that she does not want to be sold because she considers what she’s sacrificing as an act of honour for her family. (Saniya in grade eight)

Tahmina, [in ‘Pretty Flowers’,]  is a twelve-year-old girl living on a small opium orchard with her family which consists of her siblings Zameer, Zmarai, Aryan, and her Papa and Mama in Afghanistan. In the story, soldiers come to their orchard and bulldoze it in an attempt to stop the trade of opium, an illegal drug that is made from the seeds of the poppies the family grows, between Europe and the Afghanistan. In doing this, the soldiers have destroyed Tahmina’s family of their only means of survival and they are forced into poverty as a result. Without the income from the poppy field, they are unable to pay their landlord and fall further and further into debt. How will they pay off what they owe? Sadly, Tahmina discovers that her father has decided that the only way to pay off their debt is to sell her as a wife to a shopkeeper, Mr. Najibullah. Tahmina’s life is torn apart from that moment and even though her brother encourages her to run away, Tahmina makes the hard decision to stay in order to ensure that her family survives.  (Isaak in grade eight)


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