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Multiculturalism Themes Across our Issues
These readings provide a framework for considering the illness experience from a multicultural perspective. The study guide is useful for teachers of literature, ethics, medical/nursing students, social workers, as well as for health care professionals, adult continuing education courses, and general reading groups that want to discuss the issue of multiculturalism as relating to health and illness.
We welcome your questions and comments. Please contact us at info@BLReview.org.
Written by: Devyani Kothari, Alexandra Ritter, Simone Leung, and Jessica Libow
"North, on Dizengoff" by Jon Mozes (Vol. 15, No. 1)
1. Ben recalls walking the streets to Bolek and Stacia’s house with his sister as a child. How is that memory transformed as he walks them as an adult?
2. What are the “taboos” in this story? How are these taboos spoken and unspoken?
3. We are told that Frank is Ben’s former therapist. How, if at all, does this dynamic linger in the depictions of their romantic relationship in the story?
4. How do the domestic roles of Stacia and Emily, Bolek’s caregiver, differ?
5. A Holocaust survivor with Parkinson’s, how is Stacia’s body figured differently in the story from Bolek’s?
Sex and sexuality
"Revealed in Splendor" by Zac Dukowitz (Vol. 15, No. 1)
1. What is indicated by the tension between the worldly goods sold in the shop and the narrator’s somewhat sheltered upbringing?
2. What is the significance of “Pittsburgh” in the story, literally and figuratively?
3. How does the narrator’s perception of families that include mothers as “exotic” reflect his own sense of identity?
4. How does the elephant operate as a symbol of “what it meant to be a man?” What is the effect of the bodily manifestations of the symbol?
5. The narrator describes his mother as “a cold, exotic object herself, staring out of her face as if through the eyeholes of a mask.” Does he objectify any of the other adult characters in the story and if so, how?
Coming of age
Sex and sexuality
"Behind the Boundaries of Flesh" by Ginger Eager (Vol. 14, No. 2)
1. How do the descriptions of Pattaya, a “sex tourism destination,” contribute to the story, especially when contrasted with descriptions of family relations?
2. Why is breastfeeding so important to the narrator?
3. The narrator talks about her relationship with her mother before she died. What do her flashbacks and her dream indicate about their relationship?
4. The narrator grants Paisley a certain level of freedom though she is often silently critical of her daughter’s actions. What are her reasons for doing so? Discuss the relationship between the two characters.
5. How did the narrator and Paisley save the other three passengers without getting Conner fired?
6. Why did the narrator become a “doula”?
7. The story ends with the narrator reflecting on the impossible promises she makes. What does this reveal about how she views herself as a parent?
"Attachments" by Yvette Benavides (Vol. 14, No. 2)
1. How do the different family members react to the visit by the officers from the Department of Homeland Security? What do their different reactions reveal about each character?
2. Discuss the importance of cameras and photographs in the story.
3. Abuelito draws a distinction between illegal immigrants crossing through their land and Homeland Security officers coming to inspect their land. According to Abuelito, which group is more dangerous and why?
4. Near the beginning of the story, the narrator describes Abuelita’s religious practices in detail, then says that “Abuelita watches the altar like it is a TV.” What does it say about the way that Abuelita prays or practices religion?
5. Why does Abuelita get upset when Santos puts the picture of his mother on the altar? How does Santos react?
6. Explain the significance of the email exchanges between the narrator and his mother.
7. At the end of the story, the narrator sends his mother a photo he recently took. What is the significance of the photo and what kind of a reaction might it inspire in his mother?
"Spotted Dog" by William Kelley Woolfitt (Vol. 14, No. 2)
1. How do the details about the village and Kai’s surroundings contribute to the story?
2. What has the spotted dog done to make the villagers fearful? Does Kai feel the same way about the dog as the others? Why or why not?
3. How and why do the villagers ostracize Kai?
4. What kind of relationship does Kai have with Nasiche? How does she treat him differently than the other villagers do?
5. Explain the importance of night in the story: Kai is described as a “night man.” How does Kai feel about the night, and why might this be?
6. Why does Kai steal the first hen, and how do his motives change?
7. At the end of the story, Kai says he will return for Nasiche, and she tells him not to worry about her safety. What does this reveal about their relationship?
"Death Defiant Bomba or What To Wear When Your Boo Gets Cancer" by Lilliam Rivera (Vol. 14, No. 1)
1. Discuss the narrator’s relationship with her husband.
2. How does the 2nd person narrative help strengthen the story?
3. Why does she choose that specific outfit? What message is she trying to convey by wearing it?
4. What does the color red symbolize in the story? Why is there so much emphasis on it?
5. When it is that the narrator loses her control? Why then?
6. Describe and discuss the narrator’s feelings towards the doctor.
7. What coping mechanisms does he narrator use in this story to deal with her husband’s illness?
"Boy, Unleashed" by Edward Hamlin (Vol. 12, No. 2)
1. How does the voice give us information about the narrator and the setting?
2. Comment on the use of pathetic fallacy in this story. In what way does the chaos of the storm mirror the chaos taking place below?
3. What role do animals, both wild and tame, play in this story? Comment on the parallels made between the boy and a “wild animal.”
4. What do we learn about the characters from the dialogue? How is it used to denote social standing and race?
5. How would you characterize the narrator’s perspective on events? What – despite his flaws – leads him to being sympathetic?
6. The author never gives us the name of the condition that the book is “afflicted” with. Why do you think that is?
7. In the final paragraphs, the narrator shifts to spiritual observations that weren’t present earlier. Why do you think that is? Were there hints of this earlier in the story? If so, where?
8. We discover the boy’s name only in the final sentence of the story. How does the narrator’s use of the phrase “the boy” characterize their relationship?
"Malaria" by Michael Byers (Vol. 12, No. 2)
1. How are some of the side-effects of malaria (chills and fever) tied in throughout the story?
2. What clues does the first paragraph give regarding the overall tone of the story?
3. What did the Orlando decide to take up tennis more seriously?
4. Why does Orlando feel responsible for George’s illness?
5. What does George’s story teach the narrator about life? How did it affect him? How do we know this?
"Bread and Honey" by Ilya Lyashevsky (Vol. 12, No. 1)
1. What are your first predictions for who the ‘he’ and ‘she’ are? What is their relationship?
2. Discuss the effectiveness of the diction and style of writing in this piece. How does the structure and rambling stylistic quality of the sentences contribute to the pace?
3. Acquiring the honey for her seems to be the man’s last task before he alludes to his departure. What could the significance be of this action?
4. Why does he follow the girl on the phone?
5. So much of the conversation and development in this piece happens in the man’s head. What does this tell us about him?
"Seeing Things" by Deena Linett (Vol. 12, No. 1)
1. How would you characterize the narrator? Does she choose to not see Lark for who he is, or is he rather carefully hidden? Is she mature? Immature? In what ways?
2. This story is not told linearly, and the events in the story are often viewed as though from afar. What effect does this have on the reader? At what point did events become clear?
3. In this story, we aren’t told if the narrator is Catholic or Protestant. We also aren’t told her name. Why do you think the author chose to withhold that information?
4. Why does the narrator think that being caught on television at a peace protest is a “mistake”?
5. In the last line of the story, the narrator says, “I have to force myself to look at [my mother] straight on.” Early on, while describing Lark, she says that “he didn’t like to look at your direct.” Comment on looking and observing in this story.
6. When the narrator describes herself as “taken,” what does she mean?
7. How does the narrator’s family effect the choices that the narrator makes? How do they influence her decisions?
"Trotsky in the Bronx" by Harry W. Kopp (Vol. 12, No. 1)
1. Discuss the importance of language in this story. How do the different languages either connect the characters with each other or isolate them? Are different languages used to convey different ideas?
2. The characters often use metaphorical language when discussing political events. Contrast this with how the author uses metaphorical language in this story.
3. Is there a parallel to be drawn between political upheavals and illness of the body? Would the characters agree?
4. We, as readers, know what the consequences of the Russian Revolution will be; the characters, however, do not. Comment on the use of dramatic irony in this story. Where else does it come into play?
5. Dr. Adler’s practice raises questions of medical ethics, for he often withholds information about his patients’ diagnoses. Do you find Dr. Adler’s tactics unethically even though they are effective?
6. What does Dr. Adler’s practice demonstrate about the role of the mind in healing?
7. What do you make of Dr. Adler’s attitude towards the people in his community—that is, socialist leaning Eastern European Jews?
8. Is there continuity between Dr. Adler’s attitudes towards medicine and social politics?
"A Hole in the Wall" by Clifford Garstand (Vol. 12, No. 1)
1. In this story, setting exists on a macro level (Washington, DC) and the micro level (one condominium apartment in a building). How does setting (micro and macro) shape the characters and the story?
2. To what degree does Aloysius become more sympathetic as the story progresses? What causes this shift?
3. “A Hole in the Wall” has a slightly unconventional structure. What do you consider to be the climax of the story? The resolution? Is there more than one?
4. Besides the obvious “hole in the wall,” through which Aloysius can see the ground below, he also notices the view from his windows and the view from a potential back porch. What potential symbolism do windows and empty spaces hold in this story?
5. What does the hole Aloysius created serve to represent? Why is he initially embarrassed by it? Does his attitude towards the hole change over the course of the story?
6. Discuss Aloysius’ tendency towards self-isolation.
7. Discuss the role of the pigeons in the story.
8. Revisit Garstang’s description of objects and movement (i.e. the children, the pigeons, his sister, his father’s business card). How do these descriptions help to convey Aloysius’ state of mind?
"Translation Memory" by Midge Raymond (Vol. 6, No. 2)
1. Several times throughout the story, places in Japan that Dan visits remind him of a significant event in his life. Why does he keep making these connections? Does it seem comforting to remember these events from home?
2. Consider the idea of efficacy and the concept of having a “façade”. Dan discusses these things in context of his business partnership, but it’s obvious that these can also relate back to his marriage. How so?
3. Explain how Julie’s personality changes depending on her Ativan usage.
4. Why does Dan express mild hesitation when Julie suggests visiting Zozo-ji?
5. Why is Julie so willing to throw all of her energy and belief into the gods of fertility?
6. What feeling does the last line leave you with? Predict what happens after the action of the story written here.
"Eggs" by Susi Wyss (Vol. 7, No. 2)
1. Discuss the relationship between Grace and her new friend Solange.
2. What is the significance of the motif of eggs in the story?
3. How does Grace feel about losing her mother and father? How does the loss affect her behavior?
4. In what ways is Grace a child? a young woman? a mature adult?
5. How does Grace’s desire and perception of being an adult change from the beginning to the end of the story?
6. What is Grace’s reaction when she is given a condom by her friend Solange before they enter Bar Etoile?
7. How does the setting of the story (in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic) and the references to specific African items (cassava, kangoya, pagne cloth, mishwi stand) add to the depth of the piece?
8. Is Grace a ngangou wali (strong woman)?
9. From the description and setting of the story, what is the disease Grace’s mother most likely passed away from?
10. Why is Alexi so angry when Grace gives him the condom?
11. Discuss the relationship between Alexi and Grace. In what ways are they similar? In what ways are they different?
12. How does the description of Grace’s first sexual experience with Alexi make the reader feel?
Coming of age
"Beware of Falling Coconuts" by Marshall J. Getz (Vol. 6, No. 1)
1. What are some examples of where knowledge and understanding are demonstrated together? Examples of when only one of them is present?
2. How does knowing of Ping’s childhood illness give us better understand him as a character?
3. What is the probable root behind Crystal’s aggression? When is she presented as vulnerable? Why then?
4. Discuss Ling’s relationship with his job.
5. How does Ling’s character evolve from the beginning to the end of the story?
6. What is the significance of the coconut tree?
"The Hangover" by Glenn Vanstrum (Vol. 5, No. 2)
1. Why was Connery significantly less emotionally affected by Mzure’s condition than Dr. Hartford?
2. Being an experienced Doctor, Dr. Hartford must have seen a lot of misery and gruesome sights in his life. Why was Mzure’s case so shocking to him? What made his condition worse than all the other patients he had treated?
3. How does this story portray Massais? What do you think makes them so strong?
4. How does the wild, natural and somewhat secluded setting add strength and depth to the story?
5. How does this story depict the life of a doctor? What does it teach us about their lives?
6. Describe the relationship between Mzure and his brother.
"Old Injuries" by Nachid Rachlin (Vol. 4, No. 2)
1. How do the connotations of living in America change as the story progresses?
2. Compare and Contrast Azar’s lifestyle with Soheila’s. Which one seems more desirable?
3. Why was Jake so offended when he discovered the error on the bill? Do you think it was an honest mistake? Explain why or why not.
4. To what extent is the past the main focus of this story?
5. What does Azar realize about herself at the end of the story that she finds to upsetting?
6. What does this story suggest about materialistic things and favorable locations?
"Hickory" by Timothy Ziegenhagen (Vol. 4, No. 1)
1. The cancer in Henry had almost completely destroyed him. What qualities of sanity did he still express? What had the cancer not taken away from him?
2. What does the title “hickory” have to do with the story?
3. What about the casino was so appealing to Henry?
4. Why was Henry so aggressive towards the doctor? Why does he think of him as a fascist?
5. Describe the relationship between Henry and Ronna. What does she represent to him?
6. What does Henry’s interest in books tell us about his character?
7. Why does the theme of blurring between what is real and what is not appear so often in the story?
"Youthful Acts of Charity" by Marylee MacDonald (Vol. 3, No. 1)
1. How does the story portray women in the Turkish culture? How does it portray men?
2. What about Harun attracts Bonnie?
3. Why does Harun ignore Bonnie after their intimacy at the beach?
4. What does this story prove regarding insecurities? How does Bonnie’s insecurity affect her?
5. Why does Harun get so offended by Bonnie’s question regarding his motives for his interests in her?
6. Compare and contrast how beauty is perceived in Harun’s culture versus Bonnie’s.
Sex and sexuality
"The Caves of Lascaux" by Miriam Karmel (Vol. 2, No. 2)
1. Compare Lawr’s feelings towards his wife versus towards Nora.
2. Why doesn’t Lawr like the travel? Why is France an exception?
3. What feelings does Nora provoke Lawr to feel towards his job?
4. Why does Lawr feel the need to ask Jack whether he has ever fallen in love with a patient?
5. How can the last line, “I don’t know,” be tied into the rest of the story?
"The End of the Circle" by Walter Cummins (Vol. 2, No. 1)
1. Compare and Contrast the relationship between Ronny and Julia with that of George and Sheila.
2. What was the root of George’s attraction towards the Ronny’s family?
3. How does the foreign setting help strengthen the story?
4. What internal issue was Sheila was dealing with?
5. How did Sheila and George’s opinion and view of Ronny’s family evolve from beginning to end?
6. What does this story suggest about the Circle of Life?
7. Discuss the change in tone throughout the story.
8. What was the significance of the monolith statue in the story?
9. Discuss Timothy’s position in the story. Why would Sheila’s observation of him being a “sad child” be understandable?
"The Road from Cubabi" by E. Dianne Bechtel (Vol. 8, No. 1)
1. How does Gabriela’s disability (limp) affect her daily life?
2. What is the significance of God and religion in this story.
3. Discuss the author’s descriptions of Gabriela’s pain (word choice, imagery).
4. How did the four men in the Chevy Bel Air treat Gabriela?
5. Characterize the relationship between Gabriela and her husband, Daniel.
6. How does Daniel’s job and consequently, lifestyle affect their marriage?
7. Discuss Gabriela’s view on abortion and how it is influenced by her religious and cultural views.
8. Contrast the grandfather/grandson in the horse and wagon with the four men in the Chevy Bel Air.
9. Why does Gabriela have a miscarriage at the end of the story?
10. The story is set in Cubabi, Mexico, a town close to the US border. How does the setting of the story affect its dramatic arc?
11. Which “cultural” details enrich the story?
12. Discuss Diana’s role in the story and the similarities between mother and daughter when Gabriela was her age.
"Baba" by Kalindi Akolekar Handler (Vol. 9, No. 1)
1. How does Nirmila feel about taking care of her elderly grandfather?
2. Nirmila is caught in the middle between her parents and grandfather. What stress does that place on her?
3. What stress does Baba (an elderly family member with vascular dementia) place on his family?
4. How does Baba’s vascular dementia affect his relationship with his son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter?
5. What is Baba’s opinion of his mental illness?
6. This story highlights the concept of “generation gap”. Discuss the differences in thinking between the three generations (Baba, Nirmila’s parents and Nirmila).
7. Discuss Baba’s character: his way of thinking and life story, in particular. In what ways is it antiquated (“old system”); in what ways is it modern (“new system”)?
8. In South Asian culture, respecting elders is an important value. What does “filial obligation” mean? How does it play out in this story?
9. Discuss Nirmila’s character. What is she expected to do? What does she want to do? Do you think the responsibilities her parents placed on her are reasonable?
10. What is Baba’s opinion of his son and his family? Why does he constantly say negative things about them?
11. Describe Nirmila’s childhood. To what extent is it shaped by her South Asian culture?
12. Discuss the significance of the Bollywood movie, KKKG, in this story.
"Before the Jacaranda Trees Bloom" by Sequoia Nagamatsu (Vol. 9, No. 2)
1. How would you characterize the relationship between Atsuko and Hallie?
2. What brings Atsuko and Hallie to South Africa for the summer?
3. What do Atsuko’s parents think of her relationship with Hallie? How do they react?
4. What do the mochi symbolize?
5. Discuss the impact of HIV/AIDs in South Africa as illustrated in the story.
6. How are Zimbabweans looked upon and treated in South Africa? Describe Effie’s situation.
7. Describe the family (Nohle, Zenzele and Thabiso) that Atsuko and Hallie are assigned to. What makes their family situation difficult?
8. How does Atsuko view HIV and AIDS? How is her viewpoint different from Hallie?
9. Describe the relationship between Zenzele and Atsuko/Hallie.
10. What does being a “grown-up” mean to Atsuko?
11. In what ways is Zenzele a child? An adult?
12. How does Atsuko feel about leaving South Africa and Zenzele at the end of the story?
Coming of age
"Cocido" by Larry Hill (Vol. 10, No. 1)
1. What is the significance of the dish, cocido, in the story?
2. How does the meth affect Tensia?
3. Why was Alex “hiding” from his family after coming back from the war in Iraq?
4. What influences Alex to come back home?
5. How does Alex feel about coming back home?
6. Do you think Alex has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)? Why or why not?
7. Describe Alex’s relationship with his mother.
8. How would you characterize Alex’s relationship with his sister, Tensia?
9. At the end of the story, Alex contemplates taking his life. What makes him change his mind?
10. What does the family restaurant, Villarreal’s, signify?
11. Why did Alex decide to leave his family and go fight in Iraq?
12. What leads to Tensia’s death?
"Katie Ireland" by Hunter Liguore (Vol. 10, No. 2)
1. Discuss the theme of sinning throughout the piece, especially in the beginning and end.
2. Describe how the Irish potato famine sets the background for the piece and adds to the depth and complexity of the story.
3. How does Katie meet “the man”?
4. How does Katie feel about taking care of her three younger siblings?
5. What happened to Katie’s parents?
6. How does Katie feel about exchanging sex for food to feed herself and her siblings?
7. Do you think Katie develops a liking to the lawyer?
8. How does Katie feel about getting pregnant with the lawyer’s baby?
9. Describe the circumstances of the lawyer’s death.
10. What is Katie’s ultimate fate?
11. Do you think Katie is “an innocent or a sinner”?
Coming of age
"Condensed Milk" by Danielle Eigner (Vol. 11, No. 1)
1. Describe the setting of the story—where and when does it take place?
2. What specific details does the author use to paint life in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, after the earthquake?
3. How does the background of the World Cup add to the richness of the story?
4. Describe Maralah’s character.
5. What is a tap-tap?
6. What does it mean to drink bleach? Why did Maralah drink bleach? Why did her niece, Clementine, drink bleach?
7. What is condensed milk used for? How do you think it works?
8. How does the author portray the health care system in Haiti after the earthquake in relation to seeking care for Clementine’s son?
9. How does healthcare in Haiti differ from healthcare in the United States?
10. Describe the last scene in the story. What is its significance?
"Two Countries" by Elisa Fernandez-Arias (Vol. 11, No. 2)
1. Why is Jack so reluctant to have anything to do with the “real world”?
2. How has his father’s death affected Jack?
3. Why is Jack so concerned with keeping his life in the US separate from his life in Uruguay?
4. Discuss the significance of the cat in the story.
5. Why does Jack stop Estela in the middle of their near sexual experience?
6. What is the significance of Jack changing his name from Joaquín to Jack?
7. Why does Jack finally choose to go home?
8. What kind of person do you think Jack is? Is his transgression forgivable because of his emotional turmoil over his father’s death? Why or why not?
9. How does Jack’s character change from the beginning to the end of the piece?
10. What is the difference between Jack’s “old self” and the self he creates in Uruguay? Do you think he returns to his “old self” by the end?
"Third Wife" by Shavonne Wei-Ming Clarke (Vol. 11, No. 2)
1. What feeling does the description of the setting in the first paragraph elicit? How does this set up the tone for the rest of the story?
2. Why does Reumah continue to bind her feet even after the ban against binding is put into effect?
3. How do Reumah’s bound feet affect her day-to-day life as she gets older, and how does this influence her view of life?
4. What is the significance of Tong Sen changing Reumah’s name?
5. How has Reumah’s view of herself changed from her adolescence to the present?
6. Discuss the symbolic use of smells in the story and how each smell reflects the character it is describing.
7. What is the tone of Reumah’s description of hers and the other wives’ sexual encounters with Tong Sen? What does this say about their relationship to their husband?
8. What is the significance of the broken pipe?
9. How does Reumah’s relationship with Zahrin compare to her relationship with Tong Sen?
10. Why does Reumah say she will “never call [Zahrin] a boy again” near the end of the story? Why does she call him a boy in the beginning?
11. Why does Reumah choose to “float away” at the end of the story?
12. What is the significance of Reumah calling herself “the old wife”?
Coming of age
"Torso" by Leslie Absher (Vol. 15, No. 1)
1. Early in the essay, we are introduced to the practice of “‘falanga,’ the treatment that maimed but left no scar.” How does the essay work to construct the “scars,” or markers of violence, produced by the conflict?
2. How does the narrator portray her relationship to the other members of her immediate family besides her father?
3. Why does her father’s “sweet, goofy,” and “playful tone” distress the narrator?
4. Athena discusses testifying at her father’s murderer’s trials. How does this essay operate as a trial of the narrator’s own father? What role does the narrator play?
5. “We accumulate experiences and pain, like layers,” Athena says, explaining the relevance of collage as an art form. Does “Torso” have “layers”? How do the different components of the essay interact and overlap with one another?
6. What is the value of guilt and apology in this essay? Who apologizes and who do you think should?
7. What are the significant buildings in this essay? How do they work as historical memorials, both personal and public?
"Oranges" by Erica Cavanagh (Vol. 14, No. 2)
1. When the car breaks down in the first scene, the narrator makes some observations about the men and women’s reactions and behaviors. How do they act differently?
2. What is the narrator’s tone? How does the author create it?
3. The narrator seems fixated on the fact that there are pregnant women sleeping on the floor. What is her reaction to this and what does it reveal about her character?
4. Compare the narrator and Sejal. How and why are they different?
5. Explain the significance of the woman giving birth. What effect does it have on the narrator?
6. Interpret what the narrator means was she says, “We are alone in sensing what we really mean. We are alone in wondering about mattresses and what will be helpful, or what can be done, despairing when what could have been done needed to have happened long ago.”
7. Why did the author want to work with a midwife? At the end of the story, has this desire changed and why or why not?
8. Explain why the story is titled “Oranges.”
"Double Exposure" by Elisha Waldman (Vol. 14, No. 1)
1. What sort of conclusions can a reader draw about the relationship between war and illness? What sort of effects do both of these have on a child?
2. How does the fact that the doctor is also an army man and thus must go where he is called have an effect on what he can do in this hospital?
3. What power is yielded by the doctor/soldier against war and illness? Is there a parallel?
4. Consider pediatrics and how that might differ from a regular hospital unit. What differences might the doctors feel?
5. In the beginning of the story, the narrator talks about people living in an in-between space. Evaluate how that applies on multiple dimensions in this work.
6. Analyze the last scene, where the doctor sees the damage in Gaza as he sits by the bed of a young boy who is dying of cancer. What parallels are here? Where is the power?
7. Take the example of Musa from the text and analyze how the war is affecting him personally. What obstacles are in his way?
"Forty-One Months" by Will McGrath (Vol. 14, No. 1)
1. The author says that Thato understands more about his situation than any other child in a similar scenario. How does this affect the bond Thato makes with Will?
2. Despite his efforts, there are still language barriers between Thato and Will. At one point, he says “…in a language I cannot understand”. Beyond the physical language barrier, what could this phrase mean?
3. How does Will react to the less-than adequate medical supervision that Thato is receiving? Why does he feel so strongly that it is his responsibility to care for Thato?
4. Consider how taking Mokete out of the nursery for a while helps Will cope with Thato’s death.
5. The American pop song that appears at the end seems to remind both Will and the reader of our origins, the other world that we’ve left to become immersed in this one. Will can’t make out the lyrics—what does this say about the impact that his experiences have left on him?
"Go Out As Clear" by Michelle Sterling (Vol. 13, No. 1)
1. In non-fiction, we are asked to place all of our trust in the narrator. What does the narrator of “Go Out As Clear” do to earn our trust? How do we know that she is observant and trustworthy?
2. What imagery does the author use to convey the setting?
3. Comment on how food is used to denote social standing in this essay.
4. Does the tone of the essay suggest that the narrator is judgmental of how the doctors communicate with their patients, or nonjudgmental? What details from the essay support your conclusion?
5. What are the causes of fear in this essay? How do different people express the fear that they feel?
6. Compare and discuss Sterling’s multiple responses to the question, “Why are you here?”
7. Sterling has a difficult time engaging with the nurse assistants at the hospice in the way she would like. What might be distancing them?
8. Why was her interview with Deepa more successful? Can the success be attributed to Deepa and her unique experiences? Could the tone and content of their conversation also have had an impact?
9. What do you think of India’s practice of “collusion?” And the hospice doctor’s observation about people’s acceptance of death?
10. Discuss Sterling’s own encounters with death on her trip.
"The Road to Kotor Varos" by Diane Lawson Martinez (Vol. 6, No. 1)
1. Ana treats both the “perpetrators” and the “victims” of the Bosnian war. However, she doesn’t see the division as being so black and white. What is her perspective?
2. What cultural shifts has Diane experienced in her life? How do her reflections on her marriage and her “adopted culture” relate to her experience observing the refugees?
3. The question the author poses, “What makes for home, anyway” seems to be quite the appropriate one for this story, on a few fronts. Discuss the multiple applications of this question.
4. The speaker parallels her experience with her ex-husband to the victimization that the Mladics felt. Do you think this is an appropriate comparison?
5. What realization does Diane come to toward the end of the story?
"The City of Light" by Sandy Suminski (Vol. 3, No. 2)
1. What is the significance of Paris to the speaker in the beginning of the piece? Why does she speak of it like a person?
2. Early on, the speaker says, “I sit and look out on the Seine. It is the most real I have ever felt.” Considering how the speaker has described her “reality” prior to this point, how would you interpret this statement?
3. What role does Jesus (or the inner voices the speaker thinks are Jesus) play in influencing the speaker’s thoughts and actions?
4. What do Nikolai and Viktor, together, represent?
5. Describe the speaker’s descent into a progressively more intense paranoid state. What gives it momentum?
"My Blue Cousin" by Itzhak Kronzon (Vol. 3, No. 1)
1. There is significant underlying tension in this piece due to the author’s cousin’s non-traditional marriage. This tension is carried throughout the whole piece, repeated multiple times. How does this seem to affect the family’s (and the speaker’s) perspective of the “bastard” daughter?
2. When the speaker’s uncle’s brother expresses hatred for the speaker’s Israeli wife, she has such a strong reaction, and yet the speaker still feels a strong empathy and flesh connection with Bella when she walks in. Why?
3. As a doctor, what responsibilities and pressures does the speaker feel?
4. Considering that this piece was translated from Hebrew, do you think there could have been any changes in meaning as it was converted to English?
"The Koto Player; by Lyn Halper (Vol. 2, No. 1)
1. What are Lyn’s first impressions of Chieko? How do they reinforce our cultural expectations?
2. How do the token elements that Lyn and Chieko share of their respective cultures serve to characterize them?
3. Why did the author choose to write about the dream she had? What function does it serve? How does it inspire the speaker’s dramatic shift in routine?
4. What do both Chieko and Lyn take away from their interactions with each other?
5. How do our perceptions of Chieko, as portrayed by the author, change over the course of the narrative?
6. Why is the teacup so meaningful to Lyn? What does it represent?
"A Doctor in the Court of the King of Nepal; by Izthak Kronzon (Vol. 1, No. 1)
1. The author admits that he struggled with his transition to living in America. What changes his outlook?
2. Why does the author take comfort in the learned English that he and Mr. Pundi both speak?
3. How does the author’s Hebrew past influence his willingness to help the King?
4. How does the author remember Marcel Tobias? What emotions do you feel in the author’s writing once he reveals that both Tobias and the King died some time after his experience?
"Bones of Jade, Soul of Ice" by Sarah Liu (Vol. 7, No. 1)
1. Discuss Sarah’s definitions of each of the words in Part I.
2. What is the significance of the title, “Bones of Jade, Soul of Ice”?
3. How does Sarah deal with her leukemia?
4. In what ways is Sarah “Chinese?” In what ways is she more American?
5. How would you describe Baba’s views on Chinese culture?
6. How does Sarah feel about taking care of her dying father at home? What stress and strain does it place on her?
7. How does Sarah feel when she finds a half-empty bottle of whiskey in her father’s drawers?
8. Discuss the process of dying. How is it for the loved ones?
9. What is hospice? Discuss the differences between dying at home vs. in the hospital.
10. What is the significant of the vignette at the end of the piece?
Coming of age
"Okahandja Lessons" by Emily Rapp (Vol. 8, No. 1)
1. Where is Namibia? What are its surrounding countries? Where is Okahandja and Windhoek in Namibia?
2. What are the “Okahandja Lessons” that Emily learns on her ten day trip?
3. Discuss the circumstances surrounding Emily’s leg prosthesis.
4. How does her leg prosthesis affect her body image?
5. How does Emily feel when she sees the two amputee beggars while having coffee in Okahandja?
6. Discuss the similarities and differences of being an amputee from a war injury (like a land mine, or dismemberment) vs. a congenital defect.
7. What does Emily have to do to take care of her prosthesis? In what ways is it more difficult in Namibia vs. the US?
8. How does Emily feel when she takes her road test to get her drivers license at the Cheyenne, Wyoming DMV?
9. Describe Emily’s living quarters in Okahandja.
10. Discuss Emily’s feelings on seeing extreme poverty in the rural villages outside of Windhoek.
11. How does Emily react when her prosthesis is revealed in the van on the way to the church?
12. Why does Emily paint her toenails and fingernails after coming back from church?
13. Discuss the significance of the “dark” that Emily describes in Namibia.
14. What is Emily’s revelation at the end of the story?
"The Codeine of Jordan" by J.S. Brown (Vol. 11, No. 2)
1. How does the first paragraph set up the tone for the rest of the story?
2. Why has the author taken up with Mateo while abroad?
3. How are the author and Mateo “misplaced”?
4. Why does the doctor ask about the author’s marital status? Why does he assume she is a virgin?
5. How does the author feel when she is being examined and treated by the doctor?
6. In what ways is it easier for the author to get her prescription in Jordan? In what ways is it more difficult?
7. What does the author’s experience in Jordan say about the status of women in Jordan?
"Found I. From the Testimony of Ramiza Gurdic: Srebrenica, July 1995" by Laura Lauth (Vol. 14, No. 1)
1. The speaker repeats twice that they saw the boy get killed with their “own eyes.” Why might this repetition be important?
2. What sort of effect does placing the boy in his mother’s lap have on the emotions o fthe piece?
3. The speaker specifically mentions that the boy is ten years old- how does this fact affect a reading of this poem?
4. Consider the form of the poem. Only one line ends with a “. . .;” brainstorm why the author might have chosen this form? Does it affect how one reads the poem? In what ways?
"Under the Wild Strawberries" by Monica Wendel (Vol. 12, No. 2)
1. In the first stanza, we’re presented with two identifying characteristics about the speaker and her husband; she is Italian, he is gay. How does that inform us once we read the lines “Boys followed me/to get my rations, I had to face them/on the street”?
2. How does the speaker’s tone when discussing her husband and his lover convey her feelings on the subject? Does it?
3. How does this poem balance the speaker being both ostracized and relating to those around her?
4. The poem is organized in three-line stanzas until the last line, which stands alone. Why is the emphasis placed this way?
5. Hypothesize about where “here” is in the last line. How is this line connected to the speaker’s husband’s “death” in the second stanza?
Sex and sexuality
"Call to Prayer" by Naomi Shihab Nye (Vol. 11, No. 2)
1. Why did the author choose to make the stanzas two lines each? How does that reinforce the theme of prayer and religion in this poem?
2. What are “these melodious sounds” that the speaker hears?
3. How does she turn to other religions of the world as she watches her loved one die?
4. How does the Iranian conflict and militarized atmosphere impact the speaker’s memory of the deceased?
"Physiotherapy" by Karen Alkalay-Gut (Vol. 11, No. 2)
1. Why is the word “diligence” italicized in the first line? How does it aid our visualization as readers of the action in that stanza?
2. We’re told in the beginning that this woman has someone to carry her bags for her, but at the end she’s travelling across the country by hitching on a slow moving cargo train. Where do you think this woman falls on the social and economic hierarchy?
3. How does movement and travel work as a unifying theme in this piece?
4. Looking at the structure, we can see that the poem utilizes complete sentences (broken up into stanzas) until the last two stanzas, where the poem is left to trail off. How does this change the tone of the poem? Does it affect your predictions for the events that occur after the end of the poem?
5. The prefix “physio-” can refer to the natural and natural phenomena. How does this contribute to the double meaning of the word “physiotherapy” in relation to this piece?
"The Order of Mothers: What Friends and Relatives Said" by Claire Kageyama-Ramakrishnan (Vol. 11, No. 2)
1. How does the speaker feel about her mother’s impending death in the beginning of the poem? Do we have enough information to be sure?
2. How do the speaker’s inner thoughts contrast with the comforting statements of her friends and relatives, both tonally and topically?
3. Do you think these “comforting” statements are actually soothing to the speaker?
4. Near the end, the poem deviates from its established structure of alternating between the speaker and the others’ voices. How does this shift distinguish and dramatize the ending line?
5. What is the purpose of highlighting the Indian “Mother”’s close position to God? How does the religious undertone of this poem strengthen our understanding of the speaker’s relationship with her mother?
"Shobo" by Dannie Abse (Vol. 5, No. 2)
1. What is the main struggle facing the speaker of the poem?
2. Consider the idea of rationality as the speaker does. Analyze the speaker’s interpretation of that word and how it does or does not apply to him.
3. What are some parts of the culture of the patient’s world that the speaker is inadequate at understanding or addressing? How does the speaker end up dealing with this culture barrier?
"Shapeshifter" by Hadara Bar-Nadav (Vol. 4, No. 1)
1. Describe the relationship between the speaker and her grandmother. What does the grandmother give to the speaker that is essential?
2. What role do the speaker’s sisters play in this poem?
3. How does the speaker react to the moth idea? Why might she react that way?
"Tea Leaves, Caracoles, Coffee Beans" by Virgil Suarez (Vol. 3, No. 2)
1. What significance does the title of this poem hold?
2. Why does the speaker’s mother read the leaves and the caracoles and the beans? For whose benefit? How does the speaker contribute to this?
3. Consider the mother’s avoidance of the orange beans. What is her motivation?
4. What does the speaker know about death? How does the grandmother’s death affect the speaker?
"Summer Storm in Sarajevo, 1995" by Virgil Suarez (Vol. 3, No. 2)
1. Analyze the use of personification in this poem. What extended metaphors might arise from using this technique?
2. How does the speaker transform these sounds for the reader? What are they in reality? How do the people in Sarajevo react to them?
3. When the speaker says “Was that God or the Devil?” what might the implications be about religion? If the explosion could be attributed to either entity, what could that mean?
4. At the end of the poem, what do the people have?
"Ten O'clock Prayers" by Kent Maynard (Vol. 2, No. 1)
1. How does the place-name-dropping in the first stanza affect the reader for the rest of the poem? What might be the authorial intent here?
2. When describing the road, the speaker says it’s ‘new’ but ‘spoiled.’ How might this be interpreted metaphorically in relation to those who inhabit this camp?
3. When discussing the pastor, what does the speaker make sure to point out? Why might this be important or relevant to the themes present in this work?
"in transit" by Charles Bukowski (Vol. 2, No. 1)
1. When describing the border guard, the speaker makes reference to how his uniform is wrinkled and yet his boots are new and shiny. What metaphorical implications might this distinction have on the process being described here or the people participating in it?
2. Why might it be important to note the differences in temperatures? What sort of tone is provided in describing the atmosphere?
3. All of the guard’s addresses towards the speaker are in capital letters. What does this form say about the guard and about the interaction itself? How is the form following the function here?
4. What might have prompted this poem? How does this poem reflect (accurately or inaccurately) international border relations around the world?
"Brazil, 1968" by Claudia Cortese (Vol. 9, No. 2)
1. What feelings does the poem inspire in the reader?
2. “We’re going to cure you.” What do you think the military regime was trying to cure?
3. What political events were occurring in Brazil in 1968?
4. Discuss the stanzas that describe the surgery of “torture” and the surgery to reverse it.