Because I Am Furniture

Because I Am Furniture

by Thalia Chaltas

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Overview

Anke’s father is abusive to her brother and sister. But not to her. Because, to him, she is like furniture— not even worthy of the worst kind of attention. Then Anke makes the school volleyball team. She loves feeling her muscles after workouts, an ache that reminds her she is real. Even more, Anke loves the confidence that she gets from the sport. And as she learns to call for the ball on the court, she finds a voice she never knew she had. For the first time, Anke is making herself seen and heard, working toward the day she will be able to speak up loud enough to rescue everyone at home— including herself.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780142415108
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 02/23/2010
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 188,708
Product dimensions: 8.26(w) x 5.54(h) x 0.95(d)
Age Range: 12 Years

About the Author

As a teenager Thalia Chaltas wanted to do everything, and she envied people who knew without question what their life goal was. Thalia did preliminary training to be a kinesiologist, a helicopter pilot, and a fire fighter, and has at times been a bus driver, a ropes course instructor, and a contralto in an a capella group. Along the way she has played lots of volleyball, written poetry, and collected children’s books. And eventually, that anvil fell from the sky and she realized writing was what all this previous intensive training was for.

She has kept every poem she has ever written – except one. Because she can’t find it.

Thalia lives in California with her daughter. Because I Am Furniture is her first novel.

Read an Excerpt

I am always there.
But they don’t care if I am because I am furniture.

I don’t get hit I don’t get fondled I don’t get love because I am furniture.

Suits me fine.

When the garage door goes up he’s home.

We close up conversation and scuttle off like crabs each to our room—
Shut the door.
Shut the door.
Shut the door.

Mom alone in the kitchen where she should be

before the garage door goes down and we are locked in hell.

Dinner.

He knocked Darren onto the linoleum.

I don’t remember his arm swing,
just Darren and his chair—
eight tangled limbs on the floor.

No reason that I could see.

But my father picked up his reasons and his plate and went to eat in the living room.

Darren picked up his chair and himself and we are now eating in customary ice-age silence.

When I was much younger Yaicha and Darren would point at my nose and say,

“You don’t look like us your nose is different you don’t belong.”

Yaicha and Darren told me that I was the mailman’s child,

and I got so angry,
stalking away,
hot steam in my ribs.

Yaicha and Darren told me that I was the mailman’s child

and now I am thinking how wonderful it would be to have the mailman as my father.

My mom.

At times I still want to sigh,
curl into her,
nourish in her motherness,
especially when she wears that old suede jacket that smells of fall leaves, like the pliable leather armchair left outside on the back porch.

But she doesn’t welcome that.
Maybe I am not that young anymore.

And when he is there all her motherness has to be spent on him.

Oh, yay charity day visiting Angeline the Wimp.

I see her often enough at school.
Don’t want to visit her house.

Since her dad left her and her mousy mother for some bouncy secretary in Texas mom and I are here to touch base, be friendly.
Our moms met way back when we were in preschool.

Angeline irritates me—
she’s delusional,
terrified,
weak.

the ocean has “man-eating seaweed”

the garden has “corn-barfing worms”

the fancy sound system has “thought-tracking speakers.”

I didn’t choose to be friends with her.

Angeline doesn’t have a father around

and my mom says she really needs one.

Maybe.

But not like mine.

Scrubbing my volleyball knee pads while I’m in the shower,
hot water,
way too much soap,
but, man,
three days of preseason training on the sly collected a hell of a stink.

The foam won’t dry out overnight.

My knees will probably froth in soap bubbles if I dare set foot in tryouts tomorrow.

First day.
Ninth grade.
High school.

Honking in the parking lot,
upperclassmen back smacking,
squeals of recognition,
a grimly nodding principal.

I’m supposed to feel something more than just rattled by the sheer number of people in the halls, right?
Scared?

Except that I’ve been in and out of this building a bunch of times for years—
Yaicha’s musicals,
Darren’s debate team.

I learned my classrooms from the map,
and I just spent whole days going to volleyball training here,
so I kind of get it already.

I like school.

Not scared.

But excited in that jiggering-on-too-much-hot-sauce kind of way that it’s time to step out of my old framework,
raw and amorphous,
to become something I’ve never thought of before.

After school is a different story.
Volleyball tryouts.

I wasn’t going to do it.
Even though I crave it I wasn’t supposed to try out because my father said,
“Competition is dangerous for a young girl’s mind.”

But I already like the girls from preseason training.
And that tenth-grader Rona saw me growing roots outside the locker room dangling my new volleyball sneakers bought with my own money in secret.

Rona looked me in the eye.

“You are going to put on some shorts, right?”

and as she steered me through the splintered wood door she told me about some player last year who tried out with mittens on to protect her nylon nails.

Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION

In her family, Anke feels as significant as the living room sofa. Her father is physically and emotionally abusive to her sister and her brother, but he ignores Anke. Her mother is in denial about his cruelty, and goes meekly through the motions of being a “good” mother. Despite knowing her father’s treatment of her siblings is wrong, Anke is lonely and questions her own worth—if she’s not worthy of even bad attention, does she really deserve good attention?

Desperate to belong, Anke joins the volleyball team in spite of her father’s disapproval. She makes a new friend, becomes a star player, and ultimately finds her voice. She falls for Kyler, a soccer player, and sorts through her feelings for her neighbor Jed. As her confidence grows, she gains the courage to stand up to her father when he attacks a childhood friend. In breaking the family silence, Anke gives them all a chance at a new life.


ABOUT THALIA CHALTAS

As a teenager Thalia Chaltas wanted to do everything, and she envied people who knew without question what their life goal was. Thalia did preliminary training to be a kinesiologist, a helicopter pilot, and a fire fighter, and has at times been a bus driver, a ropes course instructor, and a contralto in an a capella group. Along the way she has played lots of volleyball, written poetry, and collected children’s books. And eventually, that anvil fell from the sky and she realized writing was what all this previous intensive training was for.

She has kept every poem she has ever written – except one. Because she can’t find it.

Thalia lives in California with her daughter. Because I Am Furniture is her first novel.


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

PRE-READING DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
  • The title Because I Am Furniture is a metaphor—a comparison of two unlike things without the use of as or like. What does the comparison of “I” and “furniture” suggest to you about the narrator and the story?
  • We have all been in situations in which we felt invisible or unheard. Describe a situation in which you felt invisible and elaborate on your feelings. Were you angry? Hurt? Confused? Did you gain visibility? If so, how?
  • Can you think of a time when you felt caught between telling the truth and protecting someone you cared about? Explain.
  • Have you ever felt envious or jealous of a sibling or friend? Share how you worked through your emotions.
  • Describe a time in which you felt torn between two people whom you loved. How did you resolve the conflict?

  • POST-READING DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
  • Because I Am Furniture is a verse novel—a collection of poems that work together as a complete story. Identify several passages in which the visual layout of the lines contributes to the mood and/or emotion of the story. What effect does the layout of these lines create? What role does punctuation play?
  • Conflict is central to a story. Because I Am Furniture addresses three forms of conflict: man against man; man against self; and man against society. Discuss how each type of conflict applies to the story.
  • Describe Anke’s relationships with her brother, Darren, and her sister, Yaicha, in Part I of the story. In what way is she “furniture” to them? Why?
  • Anke makes the volleyball team and becomes an exceptional player. How does being a member of the team shape her identity?
  • Compare and contrast Anke’s perceptions of her mother with those of her father. How are they alike? How are they different? Does Anke seem to love one parent more than the other? Explain.
  • Anke is aware of her father’s abuse of her sister and brother and has conflicting feelings about her own relationship with him. At one point she says, “I think that it is supposed to be good that I get less from him but I feel worth less.” Why do you believe she feels this way? Is her response normal?
  • One might argue that Angeline is a character foil for Anke. How does Angeline’s perception of Anke’s father contrast with Anke’s feelings?
  • Anke’s mother remains silent about the abuse and yet, Anke calls her mother an “oasis.” What do you think contributes to Anke’s contradicting feelings about her mother? Is Anke’s mother a good mother? Support your response with passages from the novel.
  • In what way is school a haven for Anke? In what way does she feel threatened while there?
  • At one point in the story Anke says Rona is the only person to whom she could tell the truth. Compare and contrast Rona and Angeline. Why does Anke feel safe with Rona? Why does Anke distrust Angeline?
  • Compare and contrast Anke’s feelings for Jed and Kyler. Make a case for one boy being “furniture” in Anke’s life. In what way might Anke be like her father?
  • Anke’s parents do not support her efforts to play volleyball but she excels at the sport anyway. Discuss the scene in which Darren comes to watch Anke practice volleyball. What is Anke’s response? Why do you think Darren comes? Does this scene create a turning point in their relationship?
  • One morning after her father has beaten Darren, Anke notices the bruise on his torso. She describes her feelings: “ . . . and I felt my upholstery rip and bits of fluff escape to float away.” What does Anke mean? Find other references to furniture and discuss how they contribute to the overall meaning of the story. How are chairs in particular symbols or metaphors for Anke’s life? For that of her father? For their relationship? Find passages to support your response.
  • Victims of domestic violence become caught in the abuse cycle because they buy into the belief that the abuser abuses because he/she loves the victim. Does Anke fall into this cycle during any point in the novel? Why or why not? In the end, Anke breaks the cycle for her family. How might her role as an outsider give her courage? In your response, consider the passage, “Or maybe I am just outside enough, being the footstool observing from the corner that I have a view of reality.”
  • At the end of the novel, Darren, Yaicha, and Anke build a bonfire in the backyard and burn their father’s chair. Explain the significance of this scene.
  • The story takes place in the fall, and numerous references are made to autumn colors (i.e. reds, yellows, and browns). How does this color imagery contribute to the story? Many references are made to ice and fire and similar oppositions (i.e. cold and heat). What purpose do these images serve? How does the author’s use of sensory imagery contribute to the overall tone and mood of the book?
  • Symbolism abounds in references to wood, leaves and trees. Identify several passages containing these motifs and discuss their meanings. Pay particular attention to the old hemlock tree and what happens to it toward the end of the story.
  • Near the end of the book, Anke, Darren, and Yaicha sit together against the hemlock tree stump. How does this scene bring closure to the story? To this time in the family’s life?
  • How do you envision Anke’s relationship with her mother in five years? Her father? What about her relationships with Darren and Yaicha?
  • Customer Reviews

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    Because I Am Furniture 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
    XXXOOOBookwormOOOXXX More than 1 year ago
    Although this is a heavy subject, the book is easy to read. I am in awe of Chalta's storytelling; every word counts and there is no filler. We are in Anke's head, and it's not an easy place to be. She is vaguely aware of the abuse her father piles on her mother and two older siblings, but the family is in a conspiracy of silence. She understands that it's pathetic to feel left out of the abuse, but one can't help what he or she feels. Being spared means being ignored, being ignored means being worthless. I thought this would be really hard to read, and while it was it was also an empowering and hopeful book. To watch a young girl find her voice and not be afraid to use it, it was powerful. It was also interesting to see inside of this house, with all the terror and abuse that happens that no one ever say anything or ask for help. That's just the way the family was and they would rather deal with it that privately than make a change to their family. I thought the author did a great job of revealing the mentality of this family and made it easy to understand and believe. All in all a powerful and important book that really packs an emotional punch.   
    kristieeee More than 1 year ago
    I am a highschool senior and i just finished reading, "Because I Am Furniture". I must admit I was really engaged throughout the entire book. The author had a very good way of explaining everything that was going on so that you could have a better visual of what exactly you are reading. I mostly enjoyed the beginning and ending for various reasons. I greatly enjoyed the beginning because of the way it is written. The author did a really nice job of luring in her readers. In my opinion, this book is definitely a page flipper. I enjoyed the ending for the reason that it is an unexpected ending. Not the usual ending when you can guess what is going to happen. I also like d this book because it really opens your eyes to things that you may not realize or see in your own life. It can really give you a different way to view things, that maybe were not as clear to you before. Also, this book can teach people to not bully people, because you never know what someone is going through or what they have been through just by looking at them. All in all, I would recommend this book to teenagers or people in their early twenties, because that is the age that I would assume to be most interested in this type of read. Also, I recommend you read, "Because I Am Furniture," if you are looking for some good life lessons and a different perspective on life! It will teach you that even though you do not believe that you have the power or strength to do something big, if you search deep down inside of you, you have the power to do anything you want! Read this book if you are looking for an inspirational read!
    Drama_MamaNH More than 1 year ago
    This novel is written in verse. It is a Young Adult book, yet Old Adults will be moved by it as well. It is not depressing. The author moves you through so many emotions common to many teens. I've read it three times and each time something new catches my attention. "Eight tangled legs" is such a strong visual for the brother knocked off his chair by the father. There are many others just like this that call all our senses into play. I feel as if I know Anke inside out because she has such a strong voice. Any high school teacher wanting to teach voice in writing should use this book and the author's blog http://epiphanista.blogspot.com/ This is an author to watch for more great novels in the future. She has a gift of speaking/writing just like a teen, yet with imagery and vocabulary that is sophisticated enough for adults. I also recommend this book to teens who find it hard to get through a book. It has lots of white space; can be picked up and put down easily because each poem is a mini story in itself.
    jdprickett on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    This is such an important book in so many ways. And not just for people who have suffered. Take me, for instance, a school principal in contact with hundreds of little angels a day. How many do I notice that may have something going on in their lives that I could, perhaps, have helped with. Or maybe these things have to be handled the way Anke handled them. Perhaps, like people who are addicts, change can't occur until a person is ready. But I don't know about that. Someone needed to notice these kids! Someone needed to see that Darren and Yaicha were dying inside. The clues were all there!!! I like to think I would have noticed....Anyway, I am going to buy copies of your book and give them to everyone I know who loves to read, everyone who will be sitting on a beach the remainder of this summer, everyone I know who might need to be touched by this writing, the way I am touched. I am more aware now. Because of Anke.
    LisMB on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    I did not know the format of the book when I bought it. I opened it and thought.... am I going to enjoy this?? But I did. It was a sad, sullen book. Full of courage. Wonderful book!!!
    homeskilletbisquit on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    The writing reminded me of Ellen Hopkins, which is a great thing. I actually finished the whole thing in a day, it was that good (I'm a slow reader and I usually read books by chapter each day)
    EKAnderson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Some people might say that Anke is lucky, but she doesn't feel that way. Her father spends a lot of time with her brother and sister - berates them and hits them. Darren shows up at school with bruises and Yaicha is taking birth control even though she's not dating anyone. But Anke's father doesn't pay any attention to her. She feels invisible, forced to watch while her mother ignores everything that's going on as best she can. Anke has no voice, so she does exactly what her father told her not to do - she joins the volley ball team. Told entirely in verse - reminiscent of Ellen Hopkins' work, though less abrasive - Because I Am Furniture is the story of a girl as she finds a way to empower herself, and maybe even to save her family. What the verse lacks in poetic integrity, the novel makes up for with strong forward motion and a moving story or survival.
    meggyweg on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    This is a decent enough book. I liked the way Anke slowly grew in strength and confidence from her involvement with the volleyball team, and I liked her relationships with the two boys at school -- one of whom was in love with her, one of whom kissed her sometimes in private but ignored her in public.I don't think this book really stands out from the genre, however, in terms of either child abuse novels or verse novels. It was a good first effort and I'd read this author's work again, but I was not wowed by it the way I was wowed by, for example, Ellen Hopkins.
    RoDor on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Nobody says anything when Dr. Larus Feld hits Darren and knocks him to the floor and hurts Yaicha in her bedroom at night. Anke screams silently to their Mom everytime it happens, "Why don't you tell on him when he hurts my brother and sister?" Ninth-grader Anke is relieved when her father ignores her...like a furniture. Sometimes she feels jealous her father pays attention to her siblings even when he hurts them. In school, Professor Feld charms females students. On the road, he is kind to strangers. At home, he is a violent psychopath. Anke joins the volleyball team and develops physical strength. She discovers she has a loud voice when she yells "Mine!" for the ball. Can she use these to stop their father from hurting their family? And Angeline, her friend, who is already in pain herself? Does she need another kind of strength to end this horror in her life? Even though I found the verses a challenging read, I vividly felt Anke's anger, grief and helplessness through Chalta's choice of words and rhythmic style. The terror of being trapped in this situation felt so real too.
    kperry on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Anke lives in a house full of fear. Fear of her father. His temper can flair at any moment and everyone around him suffers. Anke¿s brother and sister take the physical abuse and Anke is, for the most part, ignored in the house. Anke feels she has no choice but to sit back and witness what is going on around her. Sometimes she even feels jealous of the attention her brother and sister get, no matter how horrible the attention is.Anke has one bright spot in her day - volleyball. Against her father¿s wishes, she tries out and makes the team. Volleyball gives Anke confidence and a small circle of friends. At the beginning of the school year, Anke develops a crush on Kyler, a tall, blonde soccer player. She tries to be where he is during the school day and hopes to attract his attention. She also has a confusing relationship with Jed, a boy who lives across the street. Between her family¿s dynamics, volleyball, school, and boys, Anke has a lot on her mind. Will she ever get the courage to say something about the abuse at home? BECAUSE I AM FURNITURE is written in verse. It doesn¿t take long to read and although the subject matter is very serious, the point of view is coming from an onlooking Anke so it isn¿t graphic. The ending wraps up a little too quickly and there is a loose end that will leave you wondering about one of her relationships.
    Anita.Teel on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Because I am Furniture is a very powerful story of a young girl who overcomes an abusive household. Told in verse it is a quick moving story. Living in the house with an abusive father who seems to overlook her becomes a nightmare for this young girl. She can not understand why her father doesn't even care enough to abuse her. After joining the volleyball teams the young girl becomes stronger and begins to defy her father up to the point of screaming at him and turning him in when he abuses her friend. A must read for anyone who liked "A Child Called It"
    TeddyR on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Anke lives in house of secrets. Her father abuses her sister and brother. Her mother ignores the abuse. Anke's father does not touch her. He treats her like furniture. Anke makes the volleyball team her freshman year of high school. Her coach makes her talk. Makes her scream whenever she wants the ball during a game. Anke's mother forces her to be friends with Angeline, a girl who's father left and is in need of a role model. Angeline finds a role model in Anke's father. When Anke discovers the abuse has moved beyond her house, she uses her new found voice to make her secret public.
    4sarad on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Very quick read since it's written in verse. It's a good book, but doesn't really stand out in any way. I have read many books on abuse that were much more startling or moving than this book. I do like how the main character found confidence from playing volleyball and being the member of a team and used that new confidence to stand up to her father... something her siblings and mother never found the strength to do. It's worth a read; just not the best.
    this_is_for_poplit More than 1 year ago
    Thalia Chaltas surely did not want to waste any time to introduce the readers to the plot of the book. Because I Am Furniture starts off quickly; as the reader understands the presence of an abusive relationship Anke and her siblings have with their father. Right off the bat, it can be told that the novel is extremely haunting as well as interesting. However, it seems to drag the rest of the way. Not much was added to the plot going into the second and even third part of the book. Because I Am Furniture then swiftly picks up again by the end of the book, where Anke reaches her breaking point and finally stands up for herself as well as her loved ones. Even though the novel is over three hundred pages long, it is written in verses; making it an easy read. Thalia Chaltas uses many literary devices throughout the novel, making it easier for people to understand and relate to. For example, hundreds of similes and metaphors can be found within Because I Am Furniture. Many people in society today do not read very frequently, however this novel can surely be a crowd pleaser. This novel makes you feel emotions you did not you could feel. It made me think about the relationships I have, and how they affect my thoughts and emotions. Because I Am Furniture is definitely a novel that will change your perspective on life. I have not read any other books from Thalia Chaltas but I will be searching them up very soon. If you are looking for a phenomenal book, Because I Am Furniture is perfect. Many lessons can be learned by simply reading this inspiring novel. I am pleased with my choice of reading this book and surely you will be to.
    SleepDreamWrite More than 1 year ago
    I don't read much verse novels. But this one was really good, sad but good.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Vanessaabraham More than 1 year ago
    Because I am Furniture is about one girls hardships living in a house with an abusive father. The narrator Anke, does not get abused by her father while her brother and sister get abused every day. Her mom is a victim of her father and doesn't want to do anything to disappoint him. This makes Anke feel invisible, like a piece of furniture. Joining the volleyball team at her high school gives Anke the voice she needs to save her family and help her realize she is loved and appreciated, unlike a piece of furniture. Anke holds patchy memories of a time when her family loved and cherished each other. A time when her father wasn't a monster. Anke is pushed to the edge when she walks in on her father trying to sexually assault her friend, Angie. This gives Anke the courage to stand up to her father and say the things that everyone else is too afraid to say to him. To find out what happens as a result, you must read this book. This is one of my favorite books and I love Thalia Chaltas's writing style. She makes you want to read more and more and never put the book down until you've finished. I really enjoyed this book. One of the main reasons why is because it was written in poetry form which left out all the minor details and really gripped you with the emotion that was expressed. The book evokes so many emotions that there is never a part in the book I didn't like. Reading Because I am Furniture, made me realize how lucky I am. If you enjoy reading about suspense, struggle, and bravery, I recommend that you read this book. This book is appropriate for high school students and older, due to language and graphic details.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    k_j_9_7 More than 1 year ago
    Certainly not the best book I've read. Definitely not the best. I hate the poem structure to it. It has a too convenient ending. I felt like many of the poems had nothing to do with the story Thalia was trying to tell. I didn't find it realistic at all, and there aren't enough elements to make it seem like it's not trying to be realistic. All in all, I wouldn't buy it. If you want to read it, borrow it from a library.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Innocence More than 1 year ago
    This book is a phenomal inspiration towards the act of standing up for what's right. The reality of living in a family that's on the verge of breaking apart is revelant to our modern society today. Readers feel sparks of excitement as Anke(the main character of the book), a girl whose voice was suppressed, gradually grows into a visible person who knows when to say, "STOP!" Because I Am Furniture is a book that'll create an everlasting impact on our moral beliefs of family and finding one's voice.
    Patty23 More than 1 year ago
    I was in B&N today planning on buying it, but I decided to sit down and read a little. Next thing I knew, maybe two hours later, I finished the story. I loved it. It was fast to read, entertaining, and an emotional read. I kept reading because I wanted to find out more about her and the characters. I became involved with her and the story. I highly recommend it.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    This book is about a freshmen girl Anke who is a star on the volleyball team but at home she goes unnoticed and strives for some form of attention. Her father treats her like she is a piece of old useless furniture. Her brother and sister are abused but she can't get any attention even if it is abuse. This all changes when she is on the court, volleyball gives her a voice in the game and out of the game. The book really teaches you a lesson about how abuse affects people and the difficulty they have to speak up about it especially when their life's are constantly put on the line. It almost gives you an inside look on how much it rules peoples life's but it gives you hope too because it shows you there is a way to get out and overcome it. I really enjoyed this book one of the main reasons why is because it was written in poetry form which left out all the minor details and really gripped you with the emotion that was expressed. All throughout the book i didn't have any time that i didn't like it because it evoked so many emotions.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago