Suburban Mosaic


by Patricia McCormic

High School

Discussion Questions

  1. What is Lakshmi’s life like in her Nepal mountain home? What events create the need for her to go into the city?
  2. Discuss the vignette entitled “Everything I Need to Know Now.” What do you think of the cultural mandates that she must live by? Compare it to the vignette of the same title that appears later when she is in the city. How does it represent all the changes in her life?
  3. Did you suspect bad intentions on the part of the “auntie” and “uncle” who escorted Lakshmi? Why do you think Lakshmi herself was not suspicious? What does this show you about her character?
  4. What things does Lakshmi wonder about on her journey? What ordinary objects fascinate her? How does this innocence help seal her fate?
  5. How does Mumtaz gain control over Lakshmi? What tactics does she use to own her both physically and emotionally? What punishment does she exact on girls who disobey or betray her?
  6. Describe the other girls and women in the brothel. How do they accept or rail against their lives there? What does Lakshmi learn from them? In the end, what happens to them?
  7. For the festival of brothers and sisters, Harish gives Lakshmi a new pencil. This small act of kindness undoes her.Why do you think this “undoes” her? How do others reach out to help one another at the brothel?
  8. What does despair look like? How does Lakshmi prevent her own despair from destroying her hope? Is it destroyed in others? How?
  9. What happens when Monica leaves the brothel to return to the family she has supported? Do you think Lakshmi’s own ama would treat her the same way upon her return? What about her stepfather? What makes you think so or not?
  10. What was the most disturbing part of this story for you? What facts crawled under your skin and continue to haunt you? Do you think there is anything you can do to help? What?

(From Publishers website)