Everybody's Son Discussion Questions

Instructor: Shanna Fox

Shanna has been an educator for 20 years and earned her Master of Education degree in 2017. She enjoys using her experience to provide engaging resources for other teachers.

'Everybody's Son' is the story of a boy who is adopted into an affluent family, but betrayal and deceit lurk beneath the surface of his new life. Use these discussion questions to help your high school-age students unravel the novel's complexities.

Everybody's Son by Thrity Umrigar

In Umrigar's 'Everybody's Son', main character Anton is the subject of a battle between parents, privilege, injustice, and race. Adopted son of a privileged white family, Anton learns to fit the mold but continuously seeks both his own identity and a relationship with his biological mother. Unfortunately, his father's deceitful decisions keep them from being reunited. Use these discussion questions to help your high school-age students unravel this family's complex dynamic. The questions explore the themes of identity, privilege, and parenting.

You may want to use the questions to engage in a one-on-one discussion with a single student or provide a list of questions to partners or teams. Additionally, consider asking students to craft a written response to one or more questions to serve as a summative assessment.

*Note: These questions are designed to be used after students have read the novel.

Questions about Identity

  • Anton Coleman has two families - his mother Mam, and his adoptive parents, David and Delores. They are of different races and socioeconomic classes, as well. How does he reconcile these two identities? Does he identify with one more than the other?
  • Detail Anton's struggle in finding his own identity among the love for his mother and the care that's been provided by David and Delores. Use examples from the text to support your answers.
  • How do you determine your own identity? Is it based on your ethnicity, your personality, your family background, or something else? Is our identity a combination of factors? Is it difficult for everyone to reconcile the different aspects of themselves or is it more difficult for people in Anton's situation? Explain your answers fully.

Questions about Privilege

  • Some may use the term ''white privilege'' to describe the life of David and Delores. What does this term mean? Do you think it describes them accurately? Do you think this privilege is denied to Mam because of her race or are there other factors at play?
  • Do you think Anton can fully take advantage of the ''privilege'' of his adoptive family or will he only experience a portion of it due to his race and/or his history of childhood trauma? Has he led a privileged life under the care of his adoptive family? Use examples from the text to support your answers.
  • Discuss the concept of race, socioeconomic status, and privilege. How are they connected? Are they inextricably and indefinitely linked or are they patterns that can be broken? Is it an individual's responsibility to break free of difficult circumstances or is it a society's responsibility to fix the underlying problems? Be specific in your answers.

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