Reading Group Guide for Border Crossings

Reading Group Guide for Border Crossings

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          Border Crossings: Coming of Age in                                 in  the Czech Resistance                      

A Memoir by Charles Novacek

Tips for the Reading Group Leader

  1. Read the entire book.
  2. Mark important pages to reference during discussion.
  3. Select eight to ten questions about the book for discussion.
  4. Facilitate discussion by letting others speak first.
  5. Make connections between comments and questions.
  6. Try to draw out quiet group members.
  7. Rein in off topic conversation.
  8. Don’t feel obligated to answer all of the questions.
  9. Summarize the discussion.

Reading Group Discussion Questions

1. For the person who chose this book: What made you want to read it? What made you    suggest it to the group for discussion? Did it live up to your expectations? Why or why not?

2. What do you think motivated Charles to share his life story? How did you respond to      his  voice?

3. Discuss the book’s structure and the author’s use of language and writing style. How     does he draw the reader in and keep the reader engaged? Does the author convey this with comedy, self-pity, or something else?

4. Discuss the title Border Crossings and what it signifies to Charles. How does it keep recurring throughout the course of the book? What does the title mean to you?

5. Describe Charles’ relationships with his family members and how they compare with relationships of today’s families.

6.What is the author’s most admirable quality? Is he like someone you would want to know or have known? Why or why not?

7.Think back to your childhood. What were the major world events that influenced your own world view? Did you have an adult in your life who shaped your opinion of the people of another country, ethnicity or racial group? How were you influenced?

8. Contrast your childhood to Charles’ childhood. What was different and what was similar?

9. Compare this book to other memoirs you have read. Is it similar to any of them? Did you like it more or less than other books you’ve read? What do you think will be your lasting impression of the book? Do you want to read more books on this topic?

10. What do you think Charles meant when he said “I think something went wrong along the way; somehow we misguaged freedom, and the nation abuses it.” What are your thoughts on this?

11. Which scenes in Border Crossings were most memorable for you? Which were the most inspiring? Which were the funniest?

12. What did you find surprising about the facts introduced in this book?

13. How has reading this memoir changed your opinion of a certain topic?

14. Do you think Border Crossings changed your views on the primary subject of the story? If so, explain why.

15. How has Border Crossings increased your interest in the subject matter?

16. What did you like or dislike about the book that hasn’t been discussed already? Were you glad you read this book? Would you recommend it to a friend?

17. What role did women play in Charles’ survival?

18.  Do you think persons involved in World War II and Cold War resistance suffered from undiagnosed post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)? You may have experienced it or know someone who has. How do you think Charles was affected by PTSD and how do you think he tried to live with it?

19. Charles Novacek completed three college degrees after retirement and finished writing his memoir at the age of seventy-nine; what are your dreams for the future and how does Charles inspire you to reach for them?

20. Have you ever experienced living in a divided community, like the towns Charles lived in as a child and an adult? Reflect on the ethnic, religious, class, or racial separations you have encountered both outwardly and self-imposed.

21. Who do you most admire in Border Crossings? Why? Is there someone you know who is like this person?

22. Many are people are shocked that Charles’ parents would allow their son to be involved in the resistance movement at such a young age. Why do you think they did this and what are your thoughts on their decision?

23. Discuss whether you feel that ordinary Czecho-Slovak citizens during World War II and the Cold War could have a part of the political decisions and events of which they could have become either beneficiaries or victims. How much influence do you think your own personal politics has on the public and foreign policy decisions of your own local and national government?

24. The most important message of Border Crossings is. . .

25.Border Crossings made me realize. . .

26. If you could talk to Charles Novacek what would you ask or tell him? Why?

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