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  1. Book ImageBirds of Paradise: A Novel

    Diana Abu-Jaber

    “A full-course meal, a rich, complex and memorable story that will leave you lingering gratefully at [Abu-Jaber’s] table.”—Ron Charles, Washington Post

Discussion Questions

  1. Avis and Brian show us how the responsibility of children—and in this case, of a runaway child—can transform a marriage. How does the entrance of children change the relationship between parents? How does it change the parents or parent individually?
  2. What kind of a mother is Avis? Is it possible to trace her mothering style to the way she herself was mothered? Could she have been a better mother to each of her kids? Is it fair for anyone to judge?
  3. What did you think of Brian’s comment about not bargaining "with terrorists" in regards to Felice? Are Felice’s parents too strict or too permissive? Did they let her go too easily?
  4. Have you ever witnessed or been in a situation where the behavior of a “problem child” overshadowed the needs of his or her siblings? How might have Avis and Brian better handled their treatment of Stanley in the wake of Felice’s disappearance?
  5. Why do you think Stanley grew up to become so principled? What kind of a father do you think he’ll be?
  6. Did you feel sorry for Felice once you learned why she ran away? How about before? Do you believe that it was entirely out of self-punishment that she left the comforts of her home and family, or was she being selfish?
  7. How does a child’s growing up and leaving home affect his or her parents? And what if they face an extreme case of this departure, as with a runaway or a child who chooses to leave home too soon?
  8. What do you think is the significance of the novel’s focus on food, in terms of both Felice’s baking and Stanley’s organic market? Is it just representative of today’s foodie obsessions, or is there a deeper meaning?
  9. How do you feel about the fact that at least one other street kid in Felice’s crowd comes from a wealthy background? Are these kids just misguided rebels, or did you feel they must have had real reasons for choosing to live on the streets?
  10. How does the author’s fascination with Miami come through in the novel? How might the novel have been different if it took place somewhere else?
  11. How did you feel about the fact that the real-estate scam was revealed right before Brian invested his money? Why do you think the author gave him a second chance? What does his particular situation say about the real-estate landscape in general?
  12. Is there a dark side to America’s reputation as paradise?
  13. What do you make of Avis’s friendship with her Haitian neighbor? Are their situations similar or impossible to compare?
  14. In what ways does the novel show us how we might be creative? Think of how characters like Avis, Emerson, and Stanley demonstrate creativity in their own ways.
  15. Does Felice "grow up" by the end of the novel? What does it mean to grow up, and is one ever finished doing so?
  16. Does Felice’s family really come together at the end? Or does it seem as though Felice is just continuing to run away from her problems?

About Diana Abu-Jaber

Diana Abu-Jaber is the award-winning author of four novels, including Crescent, and two memoirs, Life Without a Recipe and The Language of Baklava. She and her family divide time between Miami, Florida, and Portland, Oregon.

Books by Diana Abu-Jaber

  1. Book CoverArabian Jazz: A Novel

    "This oracular first novel, which unfurls like gossamer [has] characters of a depth seldom found in a debut."—The New YorkerMore

  2. Book CoverBirds of Paradise: A Novel

    “A full-course meal, a rich, complex and memorable story that will leave you lingering gratefully at [Abu-Jaber’s] table.”—Ron Charles, Washington PostMore

  3. Book CoverCrescent: A Novel

    "Abu-Jaber's voluptuous prose features insights into the Arab American community that are wisely, warmly depicted."—San Francisco ChronicleMore