Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Book Club Discussion Questions - Recommended by Seattle Reads

The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears

Discussion Questions

1. Sepha Stephanos meets regularly with his friends Kenneth and Joseph.
What brings and keeps these three together?
What dominates their conversations?

2. How do these men view Africa and America, their new home?
How do their stories speak to the larger experience of immigrants in America?

3. How does Sepha’s life change once he meets Judith and Naomi?

4. How does the gentrification of Logan’s Circle affect Sepha’s business and his
personal life?

5. Sepha enters his uncle Berhane’s apartment and opens a lockbox containing letters and money.
What is the intention of his visit and what does he discover there?

6. How does the memory of his father and the way he died affect the man that Sepha has become?

7. When Joseph sees the brick that was thrown at the front of Sepha’s store, he holds it aloft and says, “There’s a great metaphor in this.
What do you think of this and other metaphors in the book?

8. Sepha comments, “We were always more comfortable with the world’s tragedies than our own.”
What can we, as readers, learn from the suffering and hardship we encounter in Mengestu’s book?

9. What is the significance of the works of literature, such as Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, V.S. Naipaul’s A Bend in the River, and the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, mentioned in the book?

10. How do you read the book’s ending?
What do you think will happen to Sepha, his store, and the neighborhood?

11. The British title of this book is Children of the Revolution (from a 1972 song by T. Rex), whereas the American title comes from a line in Dante’s Inferno.
How does each title change your perspective on the book?

Saturday, March 8, 2008

First Book Club pick

Starting a new book club to share the joy of reading, share ideas, inspire discussion of different view points, and socialize with other book lovers.

Book Club meeting will be every other month starting in May 2008 to discuss one book.

Book club meeting date, time, and place will be forwarded to club members via e-mail.

Members can bring in book suggestion for next book club meeting.

Your suggestions should include a brief overview of the book that will give other members an idea what the book is about.


Here is the first book club pick for our reading this month, discussion will be in May 2008.

The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears

By Dinaw Mengestu

A literary debut hailed by The New York Times Book Review as "a great American novel."

Awards Include:

Finalist for the Young Lions Fiction Award

Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for

First FictionWinner of the Guardian First Book Prize

New York Times Notable BookWinner of the National Book Foundation's “5 Under 35”

AwardRecipient of a Lannan Literary Fellowship

Winner of the Prix du Premier Roman

Named the Seattle Reads Selection of 2008

Excerpt from the book

"Seventeen years ago, Sepha Stephanos fled the Ethiopian revolution after witnessing soldiers beat his father to the point of certain death, selling off his parents' jewelry to pay for passage out of the country. Now he finds himself running a grocery store In a poor African-American neighborhood in Washington, D.C., where his daytime customers are schoolchildren and his nighttime customers are prostitutes and alcoholics. His only companions are two fellow African immigrants, a Congolese waiter and a Kenyan engineer, who share his feelings of frustration with and bitter nostalgia for their home continent. Years ago, half a world away and still In the embrace of family, he never would have imagined himself living a life of such isolation." "But after a long period of blight, Sepha's neighborhood begins to change. Hope comes In the form of new neighbors - Judith and Naomi, a white woman and her biracial daughter - who restore the grand, dilapidated house next door. They become his friends and remind him for the first time In years of what having a family Is like. But their arrival signals something more profound for the neighborhood's long time residents, and when its newfound calm is disturbed by a series of racial Incidents, Sepha may lose everything all over again."--BOOK JACKET

Reader Review
"This is a painful but quiet and beautiful book, almost more of a fable or parable than a novel; it's the story of a man who is trying for find a way to bear the unbearable and who is also a stranger in a strange land, an immigrant. As he tentatively steps toward the land of the living, he touches down in a Washington, D.C. neighborhood which is going through the same upheavals."