The intimacy of the discussions is what I really love. If you are including The Emancipation of Evan Walls in your book club list, I am grateful and will happily show that by joining your meeting via Skype or in person if geographically possible. Reach out to me through the Novel Network. It's free to sign up and I do not charge for book club visits.
1. Discuss Evan’s fear at the birth of his daughter? How does it launch the novel?
2. What is John F. Kennedy’s role in the setup of this novel?
3. Discuss the idea of the porch sessions. Why does Jeffrey Blount use “the porch” so prominently in the novel? Bojack has a different kind of porch for discussions. What is it?
4. In chapter 1, Jeffrey Blount begins character development by giving characters reasons to behave in the way they eventually will. Discuss the characters listed and how the setup eventually pays off in the story.
5. If you understand Taliferro’s background and why he feels about white people the way he does, do you have sympathy for him in the end – as a tragic figure?
6. What does Mama Jennie say in the first chapter that would lead readers to understand Evan’s precociousness? Where else in our society do you find children forced to understand the adult political landscape far earlier than they should?
7. When Zora Neale Hurston tried to publish Barracoon, her publishers wouldn’t go forward with the project unless she eliminated the dialect and present it -“in language rather than dialect”. This was in the 1930s. If it was controversial then, why would Jeffrey Blount choose to use dialect in this book today?
8. Did the session members feelings about Eliza Blizzard seem odd to you, given what she was trying to do in the community? If so, why do you think they felt that way?
9. How might the threat of integration have helped to create the “acting white” phenomenon?
10. What is the importance of Evan’s experience at Hampton Institute and beneath the Emancipation Oak?
11. Many white kids have had issues with bullies. Many have been called a nerd, a bookworm or a geek. Why is Evan’s situation different from theirs?
12. One reader says about page 269, “There’s a whole wealth of truth on that page!” Why does Jeffrey Blount write about Thomas Jefferson in the way he does? What does it tell you about the thought process of some African Americans?
13. What do you think about Bojack’s analogy of the U.S. being a house with a foundation issue?
14. Do you agree with Bojack’s conclusions about why the race problem continues to exist in the United States? Do you think he’s right about why it will continue to be with us? Do you feel as he does about the management of race in this country?
15. In Chapter 7, Evan has an extended conversation with Mama Jennie about her name and her feelings about her situation in Canaan? What do you think Evan took away from that conversation?
16. Who is more important for Evan – Mama Jennie, Bojack, Eliza Blizzard, Patty Cunningham or Izzy?
17. Discuss Evan’s relationship with Patty Cunningham. What are some reasons this relationship is important to Evan?
18. What is the purpose of the character, Lost Boy?
19. Who is Lost Boy’s polar opposite?
20. Discuss Mark’s life and failure?
21. Which character did you dislike the most and why?
22. Who was your favorite character and why?
23. Bojack warns Evan about white women, saying that it will only make it harder for him to find peace within his community. Why then, does Evan choose to marry a white woman?
24. In the end, is Evan Walls fully emancipated?
25. Do you think someone like Evan would be suffering from a kind of PTSD? If so, why?
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