discussion questions

Discussion questions

These are the questions available at the end of the book (both paperback and e-book). 

We love talking to our readers and would love to join your group discussion by video.

Email us at dhurley@shonacongo.com or call (860) 488-0214 (US number).  


Part I
1. The majority of Part I takes place in the city of Goma. What are some of the positive aspects of life in Goma? What are some of difficulties?

2. The story of Mama Kavira and the bread provides a touchstone throughout the book. What do you think the incident is really about?

3. Argentine and Mapendo both face difficult childhoods. In what ways do they face similar challenges? In what ways do they face different challenges?

4. What do you think are the primary lessons that Argentine and Mapendo might have learned from their experiences in Part I?

5. What do you think are the primary lessons that Dawn has learned in Part I?


Part II
6. This part of the book is dedicated to describing the many ways that Argentine and Mapendo are displaced from their homes (fleeing around the lake, fleeing to Burundi, fleeing to Uganda). In what ways do their experiences of displacement look different than you might have imagined?

7. How does the author’s friendship with Argentine and Mapendo change during this section?

8. It could be said that this is a book about motherhood. Discuss the role of mothers in Part I and Part II.

9. What surprised you about the refugee camps in Burundi and Uganda? What are some of the biggest challenges that Argentine and Mapendo faced in those camps?

10. Before reading Part III, what did you anticipate might be some of the biggest challenges that Argentine and Mapendo and their families would face in Canada.


Part III

11. What are some of the things that Argentine, Mapendo and their families seem to appreciate most about Canada? What are some of the challenges they face?

12. At the end of chapter ninety-three the author writes, “I see Aline, Ziada, and Neema poised with their toes pressed to the edge of this line, trying their best to hold it all together; to make sense of a world that offers vastly different futures to some of its children than to others.” What are some ways that you see this disparity in the world? How do you see it in your own community?

13. What is your favorite story from Part III and why?

14. In what ways do the lives that Argentine and Mapendo build in Canada reflect Congolese culture and values? In what ways do they seem to have changed to adapt to life in Canada?

15. In the end of the book the author writes, “Mapendo once said, ‘In Goma we learned to pull ourselves to-ward each other. We had no other choice.’” Looking at Argentine and Mapendo’s experiences throughout this book, in what ways has their security and safety been tied to community?

16. In reference to the United States, the author concludes, “We have come to believe in the myth of self-built security, as though security can exist apart from community.” In what ways would you say this is true or untrue in the context where you live?

17. What was your biggest take-away from this book?