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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

Dreamland

1. A key issue for immigrants has been the struggle to assimilate into their new homeland without sacrificing hallmarks of many different distinct cultures with them. What legacies have the various characters in Dreamland brought with them from their respective Old Worlds? Take Esse's family in particular and highlight how the old and the new clash, and how each member deals with the assimilation process differently.

2. Author Kevin Baker challenges the reader to sniff out various hidden historical figures in Dreamland. How many can you name?

3. Along those same lines, how difficult is it to distinguish between history and Mr. Baker's craft in the novel? Can you separate the fiction from the reality? How fine do you think that line is in your own perception of and involvement in the making of history right now?

4. Violence and beauty are often very closely associated in Dreamland. Why they might share close ties? Cite specific examples from the book.

5. Love is often tested in Dreamland. Whether faced with family disapproval, the threat of physical dangers, divisive politics, or simply the dynamics of a rapidly changing world, many of the book's characters meet the challenge put forth by love in its many different forms. For example, Kid Twist's loyalty to Esse never waned, not even in the face of death; Trick's love for Carlotta was uncompromised by her madness; even power-hungry Big Tim Sullivan's heart opened children everywhere. In light of this, how much do you think that characters' motivations were shaped by love in Dreamland?

Dreamland
by Kevin Baker

  • Publication Date: February 6, 2013
  • : 480 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins
  • ISBN-10: 0060193093
  • ISBN-13: 9780060193096