Book Club Resources

I totally enjoy working with book clubs, both in person and remotely. I appreciate the feedback and the questions. I have even been given some insights and suggestions that have led to elements in other books. So if you are a book club looking for your next read, here are some starting questions for each book in the series. And please, invite me to your next book club! If it’s local we can probably make it work and I am more than happy to schedule a Zoom session for those not in the Tampa Bay area.

Hunters Point Discussion and Questions

  1. How aware were you of the forced relocation and internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans during the war? Was this something you learned about in school? If no, why do you suppose that is the case?
  2. Kats served during World War 2 with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Like units made up of African Americans, it was a segregated unit that had mostly White officers. Were you aware of this practice during the war? Had you heard of the 442nd and their exceptional record during the war?
  3. The Beat Renaissance was going on in San Francisco from the early 1950’s and lasted into the early 1960’s. How much did you know about this artistic and counter-cultural movement? Had you heard about Allen Ginsberg? Jack Kerouac?
  4. One of the main sources of internal conflict for Kats is his decision to enlist in the army during the war. His father objects, citing the family’s incarceration and their treatment as reasons not to volunteer. Yet Kats does volunteer. What do you suppose was his, and so many others motivation?
  5. When Kats and Molly are out on their first official date, they are confronted by a racist couple in the restaurant. What did you think of Molly’s reaction?
  6. Have you ever smelled or tasted durian? That was the smelly fruit that Kats used to create a diversion in the warehouse. 
  7. Did you know that Jimmy Stewart was an actual general in the air force and had flown bomber missions during World War 2? What did you think of his characterization?

Midnight Climax Discussion and Questions

  1. MKUltra and Midnight Climax were actual CIA operations that ran for years. Were aware of these secret government experiments? The government believed that such methods were necessary at the time because they feared other nations, particularly China and Soviet Union were doing similar experiments. How much does national security justify?
  2. Ken Kesey, the orderly at the mental hospital, will go on to be one of America’s most famous writers with the publication of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in 1962. He volunteered to take psychedelics and claimed they opened his mind and expanded his writing ability. Would you volunteer for such an experiment? Do you think other artists have benefited from their use of consciousness altering substances? 
  3. PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, is not mentioned in the book because the term had not yet been coined. They talked about “battle fatigue” or “shell shock.” Kats suffers from relatively mild form of PTSD. He is hyper alert and he avoids situations that trigger his memories such as losing emotional control and the use of guns. Steven Epps is a much more extreme case. Have you seen behaviors in others that you now realize might be PTSD related?
  4. Lauri Törni, aka Larry Thorn was a real soldier. He was Finnish and fought the Russians during World War 2 and was recruited by the German SS to serve with them on the Eastern Front. After the war, the US recruited former enemies to fill needed positions in the US including rockets scientists such as Werner von Braun and skilled soldiers such as Thorn. Were you aware of these programs? Do you think they were justified?
  5. We learn about the “No No Boys” in this book. They were the small group of nisei young men who refused to sign the loyalty oath the US government required in order for them to enlist in the military. They objected to the fact that men of German or Italian ancestry did not have sign any oath. Most of them wanted to enlist but refused to sign the oath on principle. What do you think about the selective application of a loyalty oath?
  6. The Hong Kong Club in the book is based on the famous Chinese nightclub, Forbidden City. That club opened in 1938 and was owned by Chinese Americans and featured Asian singers, musicians, dancers and service staff. Much like the African American owned jazz clubs in Harlem in the 1920’s and 30’s, Forbidden City and others became famous for their entertainment. They were part of what was known as the “Chop Suey Circuit” for Asian talent. Were you familiar with these types of clubs, either in Harlem or out west in San Francisco? 
  7. What do you think of the friendship between Kats and Shig? Though they are very different types of men, they are steadfast friends. Do difficult times bond people together? Or is it a function of being young? I based this relationship upon the fact that my father’s life long, best friends were men he met and bonded with in camp.