1.  Note the epigraph to the novel, from "The Balcony" by Octavio Paz: "Beyond myself/somewhere/ I wait for my arrival." How does it apply to the problems of self and alienation in each of the three main characters? Who has the clearest sense of his or her identity? What does it mean to have a clear sense of self?
  2.  Describing the success of her recovery program, Kathy says, "I had already stopped wanted what I'd been craving off and on since I was fifteen, for Death to come take me the way the wind does a dried leaf out on its limb" [p. 46]. How does the novel affect your response to the social and psychological issues of addiction, depression, and suicide? Do you find yourself being understanding or judgmental of Kathy as the stress of the conflict increases? Is she actually more of a survivor than she things she is?
  3. Is Behrani's wife, Nadereh, an admirable character? Does her feminine role in a very traditional marriage reduce her importance as an actor in this drama? Does she have qualities that are missing in Behrani, Kathy, and Lester?
  4.  Behrani tells his son, "Remember what I've told you of so many Americans: they are not disciplined and have not the courage to take responsibility for their actions. IF these people paid to us the fair price we are asking, we could leave and she could return. It is that simple. But they are like little children, son. They want things only their way" [p.172]. How accurate is his perception of Americans? How well does it apply to Kathy and Lester?
  5.  How does House of Sand and Fog highlight the conflict between downwardly mobile Americans and upwardly mobile recent immigrants? What role does racism play in the reaction of Americans and foreigners to each other?
  6.  Why has Kathy avoided telling her mother and brother the truth about her situation? Does their meeting at the end of the novel resolve any of Kathy's difficult feelings about her place in her family?
  7.  Should Behrani be held responsible, on some level, for the crimes and excesses of the Shah's regime? Is he responsible for Esmail's fate?
  8.  Why does Behrani put on his military uniform at the climax of the novel?
  9.  What do you find most disturbing about the novel's denouement? Is you find yourself imagining an alternate ending, what would that ending be?


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