Reader's Guide - Discussion Questions
- After witnessing Magda's murder, Rosa shoves the shawl in her own mouth to stifle her scream rather than make a sound and risk being shot by the camp guards. What does this scene reveal about Rosa? How does this scene repeat later in the novella?
- Do you agree with Cynthia Ozick's interpretation that Stella is "an equal victim with Rosa" and that "Stella has become a ghost or a phantom of all of Rosa's fears and terrible traumatic memories?"
- Why is Rosa so upset when she loses her underwear at the laundromat? Do you find the situation humorous? Why or why not?
- Why does Rosa decide to trust Simon Persky? Is his occupation significant to his character?
- What does Rosa mean when she tells Persky, "Your Warsaw isn't my Warsaw." How are their backgrounds different? How are they similar?
- How does Stella's life mirror Rosa's? How is it different? What does this suggest about their relationship?
- What role does Dr. Tree play in the novella? Are there people today who might act like Dr. Tree? Can you sympathize with Rosa's hatred for him?
- Why does Rosa reject labels like "survivor" and "refugee" in favor of "human being?"
- What does the shawl symbolize to Rosa? To Magda? To Stella?
- Discuss some Jewish symbols and imagery in the novella. How might these demonstrate that—even thirty-nine years later—Rosa's thoughts are never far from the concentration camp?
- In your experience, does the book reinforce or shatter stereotypes of Jewish American experience? Why or why not?
- By telling the story of Magda's death and of Rosa's survival, what does the book reveal about Rosa's personality and her will to live?
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