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Digging to America Discussion Questions

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

''Digging to America'' explores what it means to be an American and what it means to feel like an outsider. These questions can help facilitate a class discussion on this book and its themes.

Digging to America

Digging to America is a 2006 novel by American author Anne Tyler, which follows two very different families that both adopted daughters from Korea. This story examines what it means to be American and how the notion of being an outsider can come to define a person's sense of self. The following discussion questions are designed for high school students, but they can be easily adapted to slightly younger classrooms, if desired. Use these questions to help guide a class discussion on the characters, plot, and themes of Digging to America.

Questions About Characters and Plot

  • In one sentence, describe the plot of Digging to America. What is this book about? What is the main conflict that drives the plot? How is that conflict established? How does it develop?
  • Who are the two families in Digging to America? How are we introduced to the Yazdans? How are we introduced to the Dickinson-Donaldsons? What were your first impressions of each family? How are they presented at the start of the book? What do they think of each other?
  • What are the main differences in how each family decides to raise their daughters? How do the Dickinson-Donaldsons choose to raise their daughter? How do the Yazdans choose to raise their daughter? Why do you think they take different approaches? What about their respective experiences defines their parenting styles?
  • What are the Arrival Parties? How did this tradition begin? Describe the first Arrival Party. Describe the last Arrival Party. How do the parties change throughout the course of the novel? Why do they change? What other issues become attached to the Arrival Parties?
  • How does the change in the Arrival Parties reflect other changes in the book? How does it reflect the development of the plot? How is the plot developing throughout all of this? What are the main points of tension or conflict? What is the climax of the story? How is that resolved?
  • What did you think of the ending of the novel? How have each of the main parents changed? How have Dave and Maryam changed? How have Jin-Ho and Susan changed? Which character do you think grew the most?

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