Below are two sets of discussion questions. Each take a slightly different look at Digging to America.
about the significance of the book’s title.
in the book Connie Donaldson and Maryam Yazdam commiserate about family
gatherings: “All those people who know you so well, they think they can
say just anything” Connie remarks.
“And really they don’t know you so well” adds Maryam. How does the book enlarge this
truism? Have you found it to be
true in the life of your own extended family?
of the book is told from Maryam’s point of view – how does this shape our
experience of the novel?
plot of the book does not turn around a single large event but
incorporates all the trials and pleasures of family life—children’s
milestones, celebrations, illness, death, relationships with friends and
inlaws, courtship. Did you find the
plot engaging? At what point in the
book did you feel the plot culminated – that “ah ha” moment we all look
for in a good novel?
to America offers a look at the difficulties immigrants have in
accommodating their new American identities and also the difficulties
Americans have in accepting and welcoming those from other cultures. How
is this explored in the novel? What
are your family’s stories about immigration?
claims that “Americans are all larger than life. You think that if you keep company with
them you will be larger too, but then you see that they’re making you
shrink; they’re expanding and edging you out.” Talk about this statement in
relationship to the novel. Do you
think, in the context of your experience, there is any truth in this
statement? Why or why not?
is the definition of “an American?”
- Do you think Digging to America
presents an accurate picture of international adoption? Talk about experiences you or those
close to you have had with international adoption.
in Digging to America often incorporate traditions from other
cultures or entirely new “invented” traditions. Maryam is upset when the Donaldsons
borrow Iranian traditions (“Our food, our songs, our holidays. As if he’s
stealing them!). Bitsy embraces
Korean traditions as a way of honoring her child’s birth culture. What do their celebrations, and
reactions to them, tell us about the people in the novel? What is your favorite family
celebration--either invented, traditional or adapted from another culture?
What does that celebration tell us about you?
1. The book’s title has a least two interpretations. What are they and how do they reflect Tyler’s central concerns?
2. How does Tyler’s use of humor illuminate the novel for the reader?
How does the shifting point-of-view allow the reader numerous
opportunities to understand several of the central
characters, adults and children?
4. Maryam contends that
“Americans are larger than life…” and are always “…expanding and edging
you out.” How is this claim relevant to the events of the novel?
5. How important is the role food plays in the world Tyler presents?
6. What does Maryam mean when she refers to the “immigration tango”?
7. How does the idea of “outsiderness” influence the actions of Maryam and other characters?
How would the knowledge of Iranian politics in, say, the third quarter
of the 20th century help a reader understand the attitudes of the
Iranian families featured in the novel?
9. Does the novel
celebrate diversity or does it suggest (with G. K. Chesterton) that
“being good is wearing nose rings where nose rings are worn”?