1. The Jews in Cuba are described as going into hiding here by converting to Catholicism, a practice that has occurred in many areas of the world. Do you see this as paralleling/not paralleling the experiences of members of the GLBTQ community who have stayed or gone into hiding i.e., "the closet." What about other cultural variations on the same theme?
2. Many of the characters are 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 lesbianism or bisexuality factor into her identity? What about her lover- how does she respond to Ale's multiple cultural identities?
3. Ytzak both gave up, and took from others, much for his beliefs especially in regard to his relationships to with his family. How do you see this paralleling the queer community? Do you think Ytzak overstepped his rights as grandfather?
4. What is "love"? Have you ever been in love, and how did you know and define it as love?
5. Nena tells Ale that the priest who gives the Last Rites to Enrique is "not for him, not for you," but for her, Nena. Is it proper to perform a religious ceremony on an adult without his consent? Do we ever have the right to decide for another?
6. Linguists often note that the number of words for a concept in a given language indicates the importance of that concept to speakers. Chapter 29 explores the many Spanish equivalents for the English word "love." Based on the relationships in this novel, do you think this proliferation indicates importance, or merely confusion? The queer community in Canada has, in many respects, a language of its own. What is your perception of important love is to our community?
7. Although she celebrates Jewish holidays and has Jewish ancestors, Ale only calls herself a Jew once, and only in a failed attempt to put off proselytizing Christians. Is Ale a Jew? Who gets to make that determination?
8. Ale never says she is lesbian or bi. Who gets to make that determination?
9. What did you think when you were reading the specific passages about the Voyage of the Damned?
10. Celina is 14 years-old and being molested according to our belief system, in order to be driven to see her father who is in prison "for crimes against the state." Her mother is deceased and she is living on her own. The author feels guilty for not having turned Orlando in when she saw what he was doing to Celina. Have you ever had a moment where saw harm happening and turned away?
11. What is the purpose of Celina's appearance in this novel? What is the meaning of Ale's final encounter with her?
12. Do you remember where you were on the day of the Bay of Pigs or when the Berlin Wall fell?
Thanks for these, Alex!