Study Guide

Homeless Bird Gender

By Gloria Whelan

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Gender is a big theme that is a little difficult to nail down because it informs the text without being explicitly addressed all the much. There are definitely instances in Homeless Bird where we get direct commentary on gender, though, particularly as it limits women. For instance, despite the fact that Koly wants to go to school, she can't because she's a girl—so it would be a waste of time. It isn't just men who are invested in upholding gender roles in this book, however. Many women work just as hard to maintain these societal roles, no matter how restrictive they seem. We're looking at you, Mrs. Mehta and Maa. Big time.

Questions About Gender

  1. How is Koly's life affected by gender roles? Are the men in the novel constrained by gender roles? If so, how?
  2. What assumptions are made about women in Homeless Birds? How does Koly go against these notions? Does Mrs. Mehta conform to all of them?
  3. How are ideas about gender impacted by the culture in the book? Does social class affect it at all?

Chew on This

Koly learns that she has to do what she's passionate about, regardless of the gender expectations society tries to push on her.

Homeless Bird talks a big game when it comes to gender roles, but in the end, no one really breaks free from them.

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