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Days of Aweby Achy Obejas
Reading Group Guide
1. Days of Awe deals with the tensions between public and private identities. What, specifically, are some of the characters' conflicts between their public and private lives--especially in the cases of Alejandra, Enrique, Nena, Ytzak, Sima, Barbarita, Olinsky, Moises, Orlando, Leni, and Celina?
2. Each of the San Joses--Ale, Enrique, and Nena--have their own way of worshipping. How would you describe these ways? How do these characters find balance? What is the role of faith in the story?
3. Much of the story also deals with exile. Many of the characters-- Alejandra and her family, Olinsky and Ytzak--flee in order to change and, sometimes, save their lives. But others--Sima, Moises, Orlando, and especially Deborah--choose to stay where they are, almost in defiance. What does exile mean to the different characters?
4. What is the role of memory in Days of Awe? How does individual memory mesh with collective memory? What happens when memory is confronted by contradictory or conflicting facts?
5. The anusim--the descendants of Jews who survived the Inquisition by pretending to be Catholic--have a mostly hidden history. How does this play out in the story? What is the role or impact of history?
6. Many of the characters are also confronted with the challenge of assimilation and the emergence of multiple identities. Is Alejandra Cuban or American or both? How does Judaism play into her identity? How does Enrique balance being both Cuban and Jewish? How does that compare with Moises or Olinsky? What about Barbaita's affinity for her Chinese lover's culture and language?
7. Alejandra says: "What Leni and I really shared was a certain shame about belonging to oppressed minorities that had their own paradoxical privileges in the world." What does she mean?
8. Language and its mysteries is an integral part of the novel, and several of the characters are either translators or interpreters of some kind. How does the act of translating or interpreting serve as a metaphor for crossing cultural boundaries?
9. When Celina first appears, she's so bored with Alejandra's conversation and so insolent that she leaves the room. But by the story's end, she has established an eerie intimacy with Alejandra. How did this happen? What changed?
10. In the end, both Ale and Enrique return to Cuba, one way or the other. But Nena, Ale's mother, does not. Why not? Why is return possible for some but not for others in the story?
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