If your class, reading group, or book club is reading These Americans, you might find the discussion questions below useful.
You may also access a PDF copy of the reading group discussion questions by clicking here.
If your class or group would like to host a virtual Q & A session with me, please contact me at [email protected].
General discussion questions for any of the stories
- What do you think of the title of the whole book? How does the title “These Americans” resonate with each story?
- Talk about a favorite scene or moment in the story.
- Ask about something that puzzles or intrigues you in the story.
- Discuss the personalities of one or more characters.
- Discuss any themes or messages that you noticed in the story.
- Discuss something in the story that evoked a strong or unexpected emotion for you.
- Choose a character who is unlike you. Find a point of connection or a way to be empathetic with that character.
- No matter what your ethnic background, you may have connected personally with some aspect of the story. What characters, incidents, or themes resonated personally with you? Perhaps they reminded you of a feeling, person, or incident in your own life.
- Discuss the symbol of the mirror in this story.
- How does Prema’s view of herself change during the story?
- What do you think Prema’s life will be like going forward?
- Amiya is a young child. What are some things about her situation and her family’s situation that she does not understand or is not conscious of?
- Discuss the incidents that cause Amiya to believe that she is not “normal.”
- What do you think of Amiya’s teacher? When, in your opinion, does the teacher do a good job? What mistakes do you think the teacher makes?
- What do you think “home” and feeling “at home” mean for Amiya and other members of her family?
- What do you think of the ending of the story? Were you surprised by it? Do you think Cheryl really wants to look just like Amiya?
- Discuss the meaning of revolution in this story.
- Neel is desperate for male role models. Discuss what he might learn or internalize from the men in his life.
- How do you think Neel’s life will be different (or not) once he returns to his home in the United States?
- Discuss the role of dreams in this story.
- What are some things the family members do not understand about each other?
- The story is told from multiple points of view. Whose point of view is not included? Why do you think this character’s point of view was left out?
- What do you think the father will do after the end of the story? How will he interact with his family in the morning at breakfast?
- How does Nandini (the daughter) seek to be like her mother and to distance herself from her mother at the same time?
- What does Nandini learn from the process of making the sweater?
- How do you think Nandini’s life will be different going forward?
“Mrs. Raghavendra’s Daughter”
- Raghavendra describes herself as a coward. Do you agree or disagree?
- Discuss the “monster” that Mrs. Raghavendra imagines.
- What is the turning point in the relationship for Anjana and for her mother? Is it the same turning point for both?
- Do you agree with Mrs. Raghavendra’s definition of the purpose of life?
“Crystal Vase: Snapshots”
- Discuss the symbol of the crystal vase.
- Revati and Liz used to be best friends as children. Why can’t the women connect with each other anymore? Is it anyone’s fault?
- The story is not told in chronological order. Why not? How does the structure of the story enhance (or not) the story’s meaning for you?
- What do you think Revati and Liz’s relationship will be like going forward?
- Discuss the role of religion and/or spirituality in the story.
- Do you think the main character has a strong marriage or not?
- How do you interpret the ending?
- How are the two main characters, Bhagya and Manisha, alike and different from each other?
- What do you think of Manisha as a teacher? Does she seem like a good teacher or not?
- What did you learn about Bhagya’s career that was especially interesting or surprising to you?
- The school administrator pushes Manisha to include more diversity in the classroom. Do you think Manisha goes too far? What does diversity mean to you?
- Manisha says that in her next teaching job, she will try not to do anything that draws attention to her ethnicity. Do you think this is the right choice?
- Do you think Bhagya makes the right decision for herself at the end of her life?
- What do you think the hawk symbolizes in this story?