Reading guide for Sightseeing by Rattawut Lapcharoensap

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Sightseeing

Short Stories

By Rattawut Lapcharoensap

Sightseeing
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  • Hardcover: Dec 2004,
    250 pages.
    Paperback: Jan 2005,
    272 pages.

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Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. In the story 'Farangs,' the narrator is caught between his fascination with Westerners and his elders' resentment of them. To what do you attribute his interest in these farangs who inevitably disappoint him?

  2. Americans are often criticized for being ignorant and indifferent to cultures that exist beyond their own. To what extent do you believe this is true? How is this idea reflected in Lapcharoensap's stories?

  3. In 'At the Café Lovely,' the narrator is looking back on the events of his childhood with 'tardy regrets' (29). What are his regrets? What does this story say about the ways in which children deal with grief? Is Anek a good guardian to his brother? Why do you think the narrator dreams of his brother's face on fire?

  4. 'Draft Day' is a coming-of-age story in which young men's fates are literally decided by luck of the draw. Why does the narrator feel shame that his parents have arranged for him to be exempt from military service? Do you think his shame outweighs his relief? Where does the tension in this story lie? Did you guess the outcome? What does it suggest about the notions of duty and serving one's country?

  5. How do the novel experiences of a vacation enable the characters in 'Sightseeing' to accept the changes in their lives? How do you interpret the final scene of this story?

  6. In 'Priscilla the Cambodian,' are the narrator and his friend Dong reacting to their parents' disapproval of the refugees when they pelt Priscilla's shack with rocks? What makes them ultimately befriend her? Does their attitude toward her change after the men in town burn down the shantytown? Why do you think the narrator flushed Priscilla's gold tooth at the end? What is the significance of the final scene between the narrator and the shop owner?

  7. The adults in 'Priscilla the Cambodian' resist the arrival of refugees because they believe it will bring ruin to their community. Is their fear valid or does the refugees' presence underscore an existing problem? Have you ever witnessed or participated in a similar kind of aggression against a group of people in your community? Have you ever received such treatment? What was the outcome?

  8. When Perry tells his son the signature line in the story 'Don't Let Me Die in This Place,' what is it about 'this place' that bothers him? Do you think Perry is prejudiced against his son's family? By the end, Perry has allowed himself to have a good time on the bumper cars. What changes his attitude about being in Thailand with his son's family?

  9. In 'Cockfighter,' how are Ladda's impressions of the world affected by her father's gambling? What other disturbing behavior does Ladda witness in her parents? Consider the final scene. Do you think she has learned from her family's mistakes, or is she becoming mixed up in her own?
  10. 'Cockfighter' is as much a story about men and women and the different ways they handle diversity as it is about cockfighting. What symbols of masculinity and femininity does Lapcharoensap use to underscore this theme? How do Ladda and her mother's attitudes about dignity and redemption differ from her father's? What role does sexuality play in this story, and how is it conveyed?

  11. In many of the stories in Sightseeing, a son or daughter is called upon to nurture a parent. Identify these characters and discuss how this reversal of the typical parent-child relationship is characterized in each story. Is it a positive relationship or is there resentment? Are the adults made weak by character or circumstance?

  12. In what ways do the characters in these stories reject Western ideas and culture? In what ways do they buy into the American ideal? Lapcharoensap's stories are also rich with evidence of a common human experience. What elements of his fiction most effectively illustrate the universality of the human experience?
  13. What images in these stories create the most vivid impression of Thailand? Is the setting essential to these stories, or could they have taken place anywhere? In what story is the Thai setting most crucial?

  14. Discuss the ways in which the author uses humor. How does it serve the story? How is it similar to or different from the humor in most books you've read by young writers?
  15. What role does politics play in these stories, whether on a national or community level? What insights into Thai society does it offer?

Further Reading:
Drown by Junot Díaz
Ten Little Indians by Sherman Alexie
The Beach by Alex Garland
The Middleman & Other Stories by Bharati Mukherjee
Bangkok 8 by John Burdett
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
Platform by Michel Houellebecq
Twelve by Nick McDonell
In Cuba I Was a German Shepherd by Ana Menéndez
All That Is Gone by Pramoedya Ananta Toer
The Question of Bruno by Aleksandar Hemon
You Shall Know Our Velocity by Dave Eggers
My Life in Heavy Metal by Steve Almond
Siam, or the Woman Who Shot a Man by Lily Tuck
Pangs of Love by David Wong Louie
Yellow by Don Lee
Lost in the City by Edward P. Jones
Native Speaker by Chang-rae Lee
Bone by Fae Myenne Ng
The Ugliest House in the World by Peter Ho Davies
For the Relief of Unbearable Urges by Nathan Englander
Krik? Krak! by Edwidge Danticat
Lucky Girls by Nell Freudenberger
In the Mirror: Literature and Politics in Siam in the American Era edited by Benedict R. Anderson and Ruchira Mendiones
The Tourist: A New Theory of the Leisure Class by Dean MacCannell
Thailand: A Short History by David K. Wyatt
Bananas, Beaches, and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics by Cynthia Enloe

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Grove Press. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

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