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Book Club Wed Oct 06 2010

Chicago: A Novel Discussion Questions

I hope you all have enjoyed reading about Alaa al Aswany's band of Egyptian immigrants living and learning in Chicago. Below are the questions we'll use to start our discussion of the novel when we meet on Monday, October 11, at 7:30pm at the Book Cellar. New members are always welcome to show up at the meeting and join us.

  • How are the females portrayed in this novel? What sense do you get of what life is like for females in Egypt? What does the author seem to think about the differences between Egyptian and American women?
  • Did the author's portrayal of Chicago feel true? What impression do you think it gives to Egyptians reading about it for the first time? Conversely, what impression of Egypt did the author give you?
  • At the beginning of the novel, Tariq is very opposed to getting married and is appalled at the thought of possibly marrying Shaymaa. What changed for him? Why did he let the relationship go further? What do you think his final decision will be at the end?
  • Dr. Salah goes through a major crisis throughout the story. What brought him to this point in his life? Would he have been happier staying in Egypt? Why does he go back on his promise to denounce the Egyptian president?
  • Ra'fat Thabit has enormous pride in being able to say that he's an American. How does his distancing himself from Egypt affect his family life? Is his inability to accept his daughter's boyfriend based on the difference between the two cultures or is it something instinctual from the beginning? Why is his American wife more willing to let their daughter move in with her boyfriend?
  • What place does John and Carol's story have in the novel? Were you sympathetic to Carol's plight? Did you find this to be realistic?
  • Could these stories have happened anywhere or are they dependent on Chicago as a setting? Does the title of the represent the stories inside?
  • How did the structure of the novel affect your reading of it? Did the constantly shifting lens enhance or harm your ability to follow the storylines?
  • Does each storyline have a satisfying resolution? Does the conclusion to the novel, as a whole, feel cogent?

 
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