Before We Were Free RR



    Chapter  1

    95. What do you think of the exchange between the teacher and the students as they discuss Thanksgiving in the first scene of the book?  Is what they are doing historically accurate?  Why or why not? 

    96. What do you think of the statement “Mrs. Brown always gives the not so good parts to those of us in class who are Dominicans”? (p.1)  Have you ever felt like this in school?  How so?  What racial undertones do you see already?

    97. What are the cultural differences between Anita’s family and the typical family in the United States?  Anita discusses what she learned in school: “Overnight, we’ve become what Mrs. Brown calls a nuclear family, just my parents and my sister and brother, instead of a large family of uncles and aunts and cousins and my grandparents who were living in the compound only a few months ago.” (p.9).  What is your family’s living situation like?   Is it more like the nuclear family or the large familia?  Which would you prefer?  What are the benefits to living in a large family?

    Chapter 2

    98. How do we know that the SIM are not good characters?  Think about the imagery and language that Alvarez uses to describe them.  How are they personified?  How are they described?  What are their actions (p.13-18)?

    99. On page 19, Anita learns that El Jefe is a dictator, and in fact realizes that he’s not a good person.  How is this different from what Anita thought at the beginning of the novel?  Re-read pages 4 and 9.  How have Anita’s feelings toward Trujillo changed?

    Chapter 3

    100. How does Chucha influence Anita?  What is her role in the family?  What might she symbolize in this novel?

    Chapter 4

    102. What do you think Anita’s mother means when she says “At first, your father didn’t want to endanger his family…But sometimes, life without freedom is no life at all”?  Do you agree or disagree- is life without freedom really life?  Explain.

    Chapter 5.

    103. Throughout the book, Anita watches her mother to judge the situation in the compound.  Her mother often changes her approach to Anita- sometimes treating her as an adult, sometimes as a child.  Why do you think she does this?  How does Anita react, and how do you think she would like to be treated?  Do you feel she is old enough to be hearing the truth, or should her mother shelter her more?  Why?

    104. What role does American culture play in this novel?  Specifically discuss the quinceanera and the Sweet Sixteen rites of passage and the idea that Anita and her family recognize American holidays, such as Thanksgiving.

    105. Who is Mr. Smith?  Describe the incident that occurs in chapter 5 regarding him and the SIM.  How is the government impacting Anita’s everyday life at this point?

    Chapter 6

    106. Anita is at a stage in her life where questioning authority becomes a common occurrence.  In this book, there are several different authority figures that are forcing her to behave in certain ways, such as the government, the opposition army, and her family.  How does she deal with this authority?  How does she get around some of the rules?

    107. What very real threat does Lucinda face in this chapter?  Respond to this incident.

    Chapter 7

    108. In this chapter, Anita realizes something about Sam- that he is quite different than she is.  She learns this as she listens to him talk about his sister: “All the way to school, he’s been talking about what a great time he’s going to have now that his bossy older sister is leaving.  It makes me feel even sadder that his feelings are so different from mine” (p.78).  How are Sam and Anita different?  Think about the things she has to worry about- what is her life like in comparison to Sam’s?  Who do you think of the more mature of the two? Why?

    Chapter 8

    109. Based on this chapter, do you feel the United States government truly supported the Dominican Republic?  Who is the US really standing up for?  What do you think the statement means “You can’t be brave if you’re not scared”? (p.93)

    Chapter 9

    110. Analyze the relationship between the diary writing and Anita finding her words again.  On page 111, Anita writes, “…Tia Mari told her to let me be, that it’s a good thing that I’m writing, that every since I started keeping this diary, I’m talking a lot more.”  Do you think there’s a connection between the diary and Anita talking more?  Why would the diary affect Anita’s silence?

    Chapter 10

    112. Analyze Anita’s experiences in school- both in the Dominican Republic and the United States.  Think back to her experiences with Mrs. Brown- Thanksgiving and how Mrs. Brown treated Oscar differently.  Now she’s in New York at the Catholic School with Sister Mary Joseph in a class with second graders.  How would you feel about school if you were Anita?

    113. Right before Anita hears about her father, she describes how she is feeling: “My heart is on the edge of a very high place, and I am waiting, breathlessly, for it to either fall down into a thousand pieces or be rescued by good news that the last minute” (p.150).  What does she mean?  How can you relate to her experience?

    114. When Mr. Washburn comes to tell Anita’s family the bad news about her father and uncle, he seems to not want to share the information in front of the entire family. However, the following exchange occurs: “Tell us!” Mami orders.  “I want to know how they died.  I want my children to hear this.  I want my country to hear this.  I want the United States to hear this” (p.151).  What does she mean and what is the underlying message here?  Why does she want her country and the United States to hear this?

    115. At the end of the novel, Anita has lost some of her family to the violence of her native country.  How does she feel about the sacrifice that her family had to make?  Does she truly understand the impact that her family made on her country’s history?