Weekly Discussion Questions for I Put a Spell on You: The Autobiography of Nina Simone by Nina Simone with Stephen Cleary
Discussion Questions


Discussion Question for the Week of Oct 1 – Oct 7
How does Nina Simone’s childhood as she tells it help you understand the relationship between gospel music and blues music?


Discussion Question for the Week of Oct 8 – Oct 14
Do you see Nina Simone’s playing style and insistence on certain decorum from her audience as tied to her rejection from Curtis? Why or why not?


Discussion Question for the Week of Oct 15 – Oct 21
Nina Simone spoke of being frustrated with the label “jazz singer” when it did not fit her playing style, and she was particularly upset that she would regularly be compared to Billie Holliday. She said:
What made me mad was that it meant people couldn’t get past the fact we were both black: if I had happened to be white nobody would have made the connection. And I didn’t like to be put in a box with other jazz singers because my musicianship was totally different, and in its own way superior. Calling me a jazz singer was a way of ignoring my musical background because I didn’t fit into white ideas of what a black performer should be. It was a racist thing. . . . It diminished me. (69)
What ways can we, as listeners of African American music, work to respect artists’ visions of themselves and avoid the pitfalls of racial—and racist—stereotyping?


Discussion Question for the Week of Oct 22 – 28
What were your thoughts upon first hearing the song “Mississippi Goddam”? Did it change the way you saw the Civil Rights Movement, and does it change the way you engage in civil rights advocation today?

Discussion Question for the Week of Oct 29 – Nov 4
In our chapters for this week’s reading, Nina Simone discusses her internal conflict over living in the US, a place full of people who had murdered her leaders, who had in many ways betrayed her, and were working to erase her despite all the money she had made for the record companies. What did you learn from reading her account of exploitation and her attempts to run from it by leaving the country?

Discussion Question for the Week of Nov 5 – Nov 11
What are your thoughts on how Nina Simone chose to end her autobiography? Does her experience make you view the music industry any differently?