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Mountains Beyond Mountains Discussion Questions

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

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

The following questions can help guide your students through a structured discussion on Tracy Kidder's 'Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World'.

Mountains Beyond Mountains

Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World is a 2003 nonfiction book by American journalist Tracy Kidder that follows the life and works of Dr. Paul Farmer in his fight to eradicate tuberculosis from the world. This book can help get students thinking about global health issues, personal goals and perseverance, and the ways that our lives impact each other. This discussion is intended for high school students, but can be easily adapted for other age groups as well.

Questions about Content

  • In one sentence, how would you describe Mountains Beyond Mountains? What is this book about? How does the author describe it in the introduction? What was his purpose for writing this book?
  • Where do we first meet Paul Farmer? Where is he, and what is he doing? What is the author's first impression of him? What was yours? Was there any skepticism on the author's part or yours regarding Farmer? Why?
  • What is Farmer's mission? How do we see the practical dimensions of this crusade as we're introduced to his work in Boston and Haiti? What stood out to you about Farmer's approach to medicine, as well as those of his colleagues?
  • After learning about Farmer's mission in Part 1, did you feel like you understood Farmer pretty well? Was this challenged by the information in Part 2? What do we learn about Farmer in this section? How do we begin to see the personal dimensions of this fight? What sacrifices has Farmer made, and continues to make, in order to fight for the eradication of TB? How is this expanded upon in Part 3?
  • What does Part 3 reveal about Farmer's work in terms of global healthcare? Were you surprised to see the World Health Organization presented as an obstacle to Farmer's work? How does the book describe this?
  • What differences do we see in Farmer's approach to medicine, and the response of people, in different parts of the world? What similarities do we see? Do you feel like there were more similarities or differences between the stories of Boston, Haiti, Russia, and Peru? What does this tell us?
  • What does Farmer mean when he talks about the ''long defeat''? How does that idea unite all of the events and ideas in this book? What does this tell us about the purpose of this book?

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