A Thousand Sisters now in Paperback: Bookclub Discussion Guide!
When my editor at Seal Press asked me to develop a bookclub discussion guide, I went straight to you- the readers! In celebration of the new PAPERBACK release of A Thousand Sisters, which includes this guide, I’m posting your questions here. Do you have any suggestions for questions or points not included? Share the love and post below, inspiring other readers and bookclubs.
1. Have you ever had a moment or experience that changed your perspective or your life-course in a significant way? A book, a piece of art, a conversation, or like Lisa, an episode of Oprah? Why did it move you like it did? Did it drive you tot the point of being willing to change your own life?
2. Lisa’s journey primarily focused on collecting stories of “the trouble I got from war”. Yet many stories are graphic and difficult, leading to a question of “taste vs. truth”. What stories were too much? Did you ever have to put the book down? Were any stories “unspeakable”? Whose story touched you most, and why? Which stories motivated you? As the stories piled up, or as you got to know Congolese women better, did that set-point change? Did this change with the new questions Lisa asks on her second trip to Congo?
3. Lisa writes, “Now that I’ve stepped out, the pressure is on. I’m expected to work from the exactly perfect, most enlightened and politically correct place in my soul.” What moments did you like Lisa? What moments did you dislike her? How did that affect your desire and confidence in your own ability to make a difference?
4. Kelly dismisses Lisa’s efforts at the beginning as “just pity”. Later Alice Walker says its “okay to cry with them”. When is it okay to cry? Is there a difference between pity and compassion? How does this difference inform the way we relate to Africa? How do you feel it was handled in the book? How did reading the book change your relationship with Congo and Africa in this respect?
5. In the first chapter, Lisa states she is not religious and biblical passages never cross her mind. Yet prayer, God, and faith come up repeatedly. What do you see as role of faith Congo? In the individual lives of Congolese women?
6. In the foreword to A Thousand Sisters, Zainab Salbi tells Lisa, “Congo is one of my favorite places on Earth. You have the worst of humanity, and the best of humanity.” Did you see the worst of humanity? The best? Where and how?
7. Zainab writes in the foreword, “In between the worlds of war and peace, there is a field, and women are meeting in that field.” Has A Thousand Sisters given you any ideas about how to “be a witness” for Congo to your friends and family? Do you feel plan to join other women in that proverbial field? How so? Any specific ideas?
8. What is the significance of death of Lisa’s father? How did it inform her journey?
9. Lisa had to depend on translators to communicate with some of the people she met. How would you feel trusting a translator to get your ideas across and to understand someone else’s life?
10. Have you ever been in a situation where your security has been threatened, when you couldn’t rely on the police or other normal security measures for help? What did that experience feel like? How do you feel when reflecting back on that experience now?
11. Questions of “happiness” and “furaha” come up throughout the book. Do you think there is a difference between “happiness” as we experience it here and “furaha”, as it is experienced in Congo? After everything Congolese women have lived through, how do they still manage to find resilience and “furaha”?
12. Have you ever embarked on a project or journey with the highest hopes only to find the outcome was not exactly as you’d hoped it would be? How did this feel? Does it affect your future dreams, hopes, or journeys?
13. How do you react to the weight of the problem in Congo? Do you feel overwhelmed, driven to action, stunned? Do you relate to the stories of individual women on a personal level, or prefer to keep a distance? How can you strike a balance so you’re not crushed by the magnitude of the problem, but you’re moved by compassion and awareness?
14. The first group of sisters in Bukavu pressured Lisa for more money. When are we playing the “muzungu” versus truly helping? What’s the difference between a handout and sisterhood? As one reader wrote: Not all of us can give up a relationship, home and business. How can stay at home moms, career women, and others be truly deeply involved, beyond cold hard cash?