Reading guide for The Barbarians Are Coming by David Wong Louie

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The Barbarians Are Coming

By David Wong Louie

The Barbarians Are Coming
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  • Hardcover: Mar 2000,
    384 pages.
    Paperback: Mar 2001,
    384 pages.

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Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. The names of characters have a special significance in The Barbarians Are Coming especially in relation to nationality. Genius and Zsa Zsa are given their American names by Lucy with a sense of ridicule and these names become permanent. Are Genius and Zsa Zsa aware of the mockery implied by these names? If so, why do they choose to accept them as opposed to selecting their own?
  2. Food, eating and cooking are intimately tied to the personalities of the members of the Lung family. What do you learn about Sterling, Genius and Zsa Zsa from their relationships with food?
  3. What qualities does Yuk possess that endear her to Genius and Zsa Zsa and spur their desire to have Sterling marry her? Are these qualities absent in Sterling and, if so, is their absence a result of a conscious effort by Sterling to abandon them? Is there a sense of resentment on Sterling’s part caused by the relationship that Yuk has with Sterling’s parents?
  4. Sterling’s communication with other characters is often marred by difficulties. He and Bliss interact better in writing than in person, there is constant conflict with his parents regarding speaking English, he and Yuk experience confusion concerning the phrase "move the bed". What elements of Sterling’s character contribute to these difficulties?
  5. In addition to being the patriarch of his own family, Morton Sass takes on the role of father figure to Sterling after his marriage to Bliss. However Morton also serves as Sterling’s boss for "The Peeking Duck." How does each relationship influence the other? Does either of these relationships emerge as the dominant one?
  6. Sterling feels a stronger connection to Ira than he does to Moses even though there is a lack of physical resemblance between the father and his younger son. What factors bind Sterling and Ira together? Is the fact that Ira appears "American" a component of Sterling’s affection toward him?
  7. Both Sterling and Genius exhibit tendencies toward unfaithfulness in terms of their significant relationships with women. Is this a sign of their overall attitude toward the gender or an indication of a lack of stability in their lives? To what extent do you imagine the lives of these two men would have be different if they had been married to other women (Genius to Lucy, Sterling to Yuk)?
  8. In Part III of the novel the author changes the concentration of the narrative, focusing on Genius’ past as opposed to the present. What effect is achieved by doing so? Does the reader gain a greater sympathy for the character from knowing his personal


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Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Berkley Books. 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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