Topics for Discussion
1. Do the characters' voices seem authentic?
2. What does walking symbolize? How are distances presented literally in the novel? How important is time to plot development?
3. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of living in Montgomery during the bus boycott. Why would African Americans stay there? Did they have a choice?
4. Describe the irony of Alfa experiencing economic woes when the purpose of the bus boycott was to hurt racist transportation owners financially so that they would agree to African Americans' demands for equitable transportation.
5. When do readers realize that Alfa has matured emotionally in the novel?
6. Are relationships between blacks and whites depicted accurately or exaggerated? List each character's prejudices and preconceived stereotypes about other people.
7. Why does almost everyone, including the whites, respect Mama Merryfield?
8. What is the role of addiction in this novel? Is everyone addicted to something in some form, such as money, food, or drugs?
9. How is deception portrayed? Who benefits the most, the deceiver or the deceived?
10. Who are the most resourceful characters? What values do they have which reinforce their characterizations? What flaws diminish them?
11. Compare acts of violence and nonviolence in the book. Who is the most successful in achieving his or her immediate and long-term goals?
12. How do characters reveal such qualities as dignity and self-respect? Why did they continue to believe they could make a difference to society despite the obstacles they faced?
13. What does each character risk by retaining their convictions and beliefs regarding racism, discrimination, and justice? What do they gain or lose as a result of their decisions?
14. Who seemed the most heroic to the characters, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., or Mama Merryfield? Which character had the greatest impact on Alfa's and Zinnia's lives? Designate who served as spiritual, civic, and intellectual mentors to the children.
15. Should Robinet have provided readers more closure about the boycott's outcome and how Alfa was affected by that legal success? Or was being exonerated of accusations that the Merryfields stole money and realization of where the rent money was disappearing an adequate conclusion?