Topics for Further Study

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  • Write a letter to a relative of yours or to your child or a child you envision having one day. For a week write in the letter every day both about memories you have, about what is happening in the immediate moment as you write, and about what you imagine the future holds for yourself and for the person to whom you are writing. You may decide to keep the letter for a child or for a child not yet born. Or you may decide to mail the letter to the relative to whom it is addressed.
  • Get the full names of your parents, your grandparents, and your great-grandparents. For all of these ancestors, see if you can determine the year and place of their births, and if they are deceased, the year and place of their deaths. Now interview family members, asking for stories the family has passed down about these ancestors. When you have the genealogical information and a couple stories, write an essay about what you have learned. If you wish, you may include in the essay some of the stories.
  • Get a blank map of the United States and draw on it the migration route of Grandfather Ames from his birthplace to Gilead. Since Gilead is a fictional town you can choose its location in Iowa, based on what you learn about the narrator's journey into Kansas by horse and on foot and how long that takes. Draw a route the narrator and his father may have taken on their trip into Kansas. Last, locate St. Louis, Missouri, and Lawrence, Kansas, on the map, writing a few words next to each, telling what happens according to the novel in these cities. How does making a map clarify the plot of this novel?
  • Define miscegenation and do some research on this topic in order to better understand the problem Jack Boughton has and what his options are in the 1950s. Then write an essay explaining the term and the legal issues associated with it. Explain any relevant laws of the 1950s or earlier which might affect Jack's situation. Conclude your essay by explaining what you think might have happened to Jack, his wife, and child.
  • Look through old letters, journals, or albums your family has. Select some document or photograph of a time the predates your earliest memories and write a story based on the document or photograph.

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