Saturday, March 8, 2008

First Set of Discussion Questions

As I mentioned before, because the library "hold" list for People of the Book is so long, I decided to order the book from and it arrived earlier this week. It's been a busy week, but I got finally got quite a bit read last night and this morning. Here are a few of my thoughts on the first set of discussion questions. (I've skipped question 7 as I've already read past the place in the book where we learn the answer.)

1. We've met two main characters: Dr. Hanna Heath and Dr. Ozren Karaman (Muslim). What do you think of Hanna? What do you think of Dr. Ozren Karaman, "a thin young man in faded blue jeans" (p. 13)?

I like both characters, and I think Brooks did a nice job giving us a good sense of who they are in not too many pages, both from their interaction with each other as well as the description of their relationships with others, Hanna's mother and Ozren's son, specifically.

2. When I reached the words: "And then he handed me the book" (p. 13), I wrote this note: "Oooh, I wonder what that must have felt like, to know you are holding such a treasure!" If you click on Mary Zorro's link, you have the closest we can get here at Book Buddies to having the book in our hands: looking at it page by page. What do you think of those illustrations?

My initial response upon seeing the illustrations was a feeling of connection through time to those who created them and all those who have also seen them.

3. Hanna believes, "Change. That's the enemy. Books do best when temperature, humidity, the whole environment, stay the same" (p. 13). See what change has done to the actual Haggadah by looking at the UN photo Mary Zorro found. Have you ever been dismayed at what's happened to an old book you have seen? Tell us about it.

I have a few books that belonged to my mother when she was a child. Obviously those books are nowhere near as old as the Sarajevo Haggadah, but they are not in good shape, although I still treasure them.

4. I love my books for what they SAY, not for their physical properties. Book collectors value a book for itself, the THING, not the words inside. I can see value in both views. Tell us what you value about books.

I think that I first and foremost value books for what they say, and yet I'm reluctant to abandon "real" books for the new electronic versions because I love how a book "feels" and "looks" - so I guess there is something about the physical aspects that appeal to me too.

5. "Kunta Kinte" (p. 28) ... do you remember (or know about) Alex Haley's 1976 book Roots, which became a 12-hour TV mini-series in 1977? Could we say this novel is about the "roots" of a book?

I was still a child when Roots was on TV and wasn't very interested in watching it. I haven't read the book either. But I certainly am aware of the feelings that Roots generated among many people about genealogical research and finding out who we are from we came from. I like the idea of this novel as being about the "roots" of a book.

6. Hanna believes that "if something can be known, I can't stand not knowing it" (p. 41). Can you understand that feeling? What were you thinking when Hanna implored Ozren to get a second opinion on Alia's condition and he becomes angry, saying, "Not every story has a happy ending" (p. 37)?

I can relate to both feelings - wanting to know and believing that we have to let go and walk into the darkness. The trick, I think, is realizing which is appropriate in a given circumstance.

8. What did you think of Lola's adventures? Did it make sense to you when the young man told Lola, "The only true home for Jews is Eretz Israel" (p. 50)?

I loved the character of Lola and this part of the story, so heart-breaking and yet so filled with hope. I believe in the concept of a "gathering of Israel" so the idea of Eretz Israel being "the only true home for Jews" fits with my worldview.

9. What did you think about Stela and Serif Kamal, the Albanian Muslims Lola met?

The goodness of people is a touching thing. From the first time that Lola met Stela to the later period when they cared for her, I was moved by the nurture by the Kamals for this girl so different from them, so "other."

10. Why do you think the Nazis were intent on destroying Jewish books? Could something like that happen today?

The hatred that the Nazis had for the Jews was so pervasive that they wanted to wipe out the fact of their entire existence. It's so hard for me to understand the depth of that hatred. It's also hard for me to understand the depth of the hatred that some people have even today about certain books, about particular concepts or ideas. I think ultimately both must be based on fear.

I'm on page 145 of the book now. I can no longer find the reading schedule that I thought I saw here previously, but I'm ready for further discussion!

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