How would you feel if you were told that you had to evacuate your home in minutes without any previous warning? What if you didn’t know where you would go once you left your home?
Why do you think Mrs. Cathcart liked Sundara’s poem so much? How was it different from the others? Clearly Sundara cannot speak English as well as most of her peers, how is it that she was still able to write such a compelling poem?
Even though she is horrified at the thought, Sundara is obviously physically attracted to Jonathan, the attractive All-American boy. Do you think this shows that physical attraction goes beyond cultures or rather that Sundara has already unintentionally become assimilated into Western culture?
Jonathan evidently finds it difficult to believe some of the things that Sundara is telling him about her life back in Cambodia. How would you feel if you had one of your peers tell you that they had experienced similar events in their own life?
Sundara does not understand what Jonathan’s friends are saying when they say that they “vote nine” (Crew 44). What does this tell us about Sudara? Her younger brother, Ravy, has assimilated to American culture with his numerous American friends and love for American foods. How does this differ from Sundara and what does this tell us about him?
Why does Sundara want to be younger? If you were in her situation, would you want to forget about your life in Cambodia (unintentionally)?
Why do you think Soka says, “everyone prefers a son (62)”? Are there any other cultures that prefer a son? How does this show what their culture is like?
Would you rather be stuck with a husband you don’t love, or live with the one you love and be disowned by your parents?
How does Sundara feel about the American culture/customs? Is she still resisting against it or is she starting to assimilate into the culture? Why?
Would you have taken the same risks as Sundara did for Jonathan, even if you knew that you would get in a lot of trouble? For example, going to the hospital when she should have been at the grocery store.
How would you have comforted Sundara when she talked about the brutal actions taking place in Phnom Penh?
Cathy is one of the main antagonists in Sundara and Jonathan’s relationship. She is Jonathan’s “girlfriend”. If you were Cathy, how would you react to Jonathan’s change after meeting Sundara? What would you think of your own relationship with Jonathan?
After Sundara and Jonathan declare their love for each other, Jonathan begins to do all the things that he truly wanted to do before. He quits the football team and becomes a more obviously thoughtful and less wild person. However, this causes many people in the school to voice their concerns. If you were Sundara, and you were being blamed for the Jonathan’s change, what would you do?
Why do you think Sundara suddenly recalled the memory of her baby cousin dying? What impact does the baby have on Sundara’s life in America?
Soka was always afraid of what the other Khmers who had moved to America thought of her family. However, she stands up to Pok Sary’s wife when she visits a new Khmer immigrant. What causes her change in attitude?
The author mentions rivers, especially the Mekong river many times in the book. The title of the book is central to rivers as well. What significance do you think that rivers have in this book?