I run the book club at my school, and one could say that I’m the president. I like to say that a lot. Every semester we read a book, usually of my choosing, and we meet twice for discussion. Everyone is invited to join Book Club: students, faculty, staff. We eat Little Debbie snack cakes, drink punch, and reveal our personal and political opinions in ways that would never slide in the classroom. I love it.
One semester I agreed on somebody else’s choice for reading material: They Poured Fire On Us From The Sky, a memoir written by several Lost Boys of war-torn Sudan. I didn’t know if I wanted fire poured on me all semester, but I wanted to remain president, so I agreed.
After one particularly harrowing weekend of living vicariously through the Lost Boys (trudging through Africa on our skeletons, plump greedy lice the size of thumbs falling from our hair, all while Russian airplanes dropped bombs on us), I had to come up with a set of discussion questions for Book Club. To start, I simply plagiarized the questions listed on the book’s web site. While some were good, I thought about adding a few of my own:
1. Many people snack when they read. When Benson got his hair cut and wrote, “[Big] lice dropped on my shoulders and crawled away like fat sesame seeds with my blood boiling in their abdomens”, what were you snacking on and why? How long did it take before you vomited?
2. Many of us are single, middle-aged women. (If you aren’t now, there is a great chance that you will be one day.) When Benson’s father killed the lion single-handedly, how many of you wondered, “Why can’t I find a man like that?” Explain.
3. What was your reaction when the driver of the tanker that was carrying the boys to safety turned out be drunk? Did you know that drunk-driving was a problem in Sudan? Do you have a drinking problem? Tell us about it!
4. When Benson describes being so frightened that he “ran up a bare tree trunk, monkey-style”, did that phrase give you pause? Did you have to struggle as racial slurs tried to force themselves into your brain after Benson mentioned his climbing abilities? When Benson went on to describe the jiggers that infested his feet, did this struggle become more intense?
I can’t help the way my mind works. Is that bad of me?