An Iranian Princess, A Cuban exile rich girl and a German bad girl become roommates at a posh, Swiss boarding school in the 1970s. This is a story beautifully told by one of my favorite authors, Cristina Garcia. Dreams of Significant Girls follows three very different girls for three summers. Ingrid is a wild girl who is always looking for trouble and men. Vivien is the daughter of a Cuban Exile family who had to leave Miami after her father’s trip to Cuba made him a pariah. Shirin is an Iranian princess who comes from extreme wealth and is brilliant in math and science. The three are roommates for the summer. It does not start off well. The girls are dealing with their issues on their own. Things get really tense when Shirin decides to show up at the dance with the boy’s school, only to get assaulted and then witnesses Ingrid in a compromising position. When Ingrid is kicked out for something Shirin did, Shirin feels guilt that causes her to change over the summer. She comes back with Arabian stallions for the girls to ride together and a whole barrage of expensive gifts. Their friendship grows and their adventures together begin. I very much enjoyed this story. The richness of the characters will draw readers in. I loved the setting of the Swiss boarding school with the different cultures and affluence. It will be interesting for teens to read this and understand what it was like to get a hold of a boy without texting and Facebook. I also found it interesting to read about the impact World War II had on the families. I am a huge fan of Cristina Garcia and it is a pleasure to read everything she writes.
Some ideas for discussing with teens:
Discuss when Ingrid said, “It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Shirin’s Arabian stallions saved my life.” (pg. 135)
Discuss how Shirin changed after the first summer.
Discuss the hypnosis.
Why do you think Shirin broke into the sweet shop and pharmacy?
Discuss how Vivien’s relationship with her father changed.
If you could go to a Swiss boarding school for the summer, what classes would you want to take?
Which are you most like, Vivien, Shirin or Ingrid.
Talk about Ingrid’s wild ways.
Discuss Omar’s relationship with Vivien. What would you do in her shoes when he came with the poetry?
Discuss the girl’s decision to pose nude for Ingrid’s art show.
Discuss Ingrid’s behavior at the garden party and swimming that made her notorious.
This story took place back in the 1970’s before cell phones and social media. What would you life be like if you were a teen back then?