Book Club Questions

June 7, 2021

  1. How does the theme of empowered and courageous women in Vienna, London, and New York differ from the historical narrative you had in mind before you read this book?
  2. What are all the sources of Irma’s strength? Does Irma show qualities as a woman that are distinct or undervalued?
  3. What role does education play in Irma’s life?
  4. What do you think of the author’s conclusion that Irma’s pride was an asset? Do you think pride can be transformative?
  5. To what extent do you see Jewish values in this narrative? What do you think of the author’s assertion that her family history is adaptation?
  6. Do you think of languages as a figurative passport in life? Discuss.
  7. Consider Grandma Julie and Grandma Irma. Do you see a distinct role for grandparents in building family narratives?
  8. Did you learn anything new or surprising about WWII history? Zionism? Holocaust? How does that change any pre-existing perspective you had?
  9. If you like Paul were expelled from school at 14 — and all your non-Jewish classmates had fought for Hitler — what would it take for you to be open to reconciliation?
  10. Did you find anything unexpected or familiar in the original Zionist manifesto’s statement that immigration is a vicious circle: that a large influx of foreigners is universally disruptive. Are there implications for now?
  11. Jakob as a Zionist understood the threat of anti-Semitism but stood his ground. Many wonder why Jews didn’t leave Europe sooner – why they underestimated Hitler. What do you think of Jakob’s stance? Considering Austria in the 1930s, what conditions would make you decide to leave your homeland? Could a change in leadership make you emigrate?
  12. After Paul died, the author found unexplained diamond earring in his drawer. Do you have such heirlooms with an element of mystery?