Reading Guide Questions
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
- The title story in the collection, "Drifting House," tells of two young brothers attempting to escape from North Korea to China. Why did Lee select that story as the title story? What does the title refer to?
- What concerns and emotions unite the stories in this collection? If you had to describe the book to a friend in a sentence or two, what would you say?
- Certain characters appear in more than one story; identify these stories and characters. How do the narratives influence each other and alter your understanding of those characters? Why did the author choose to connect the stories in this way?
- Drifting House focuses specifically on the Korean and Korean American experience. If this setting is foreign to you, does it make it harder to connect to the stories? If the setting is familiar to you, does Lee's representation strike you as accurate?
- In "The Goose Father," the narrator makes reference (see pp. 83 and 87) to the formalities of interpersonal relationships between older and younger Koreans, formalities that seem to restrict comfort and honesty. Do similar formalities exist in North America?
- The scars of war and deprivation mark the older characters and influence their behavior. Find two examples of this in the stories.
- Many of the stories are challenging, even disturbing, because of the various types of domestic violence exhibited and their casual acceptance by the characters. How did you respond to this?
- In "A Temporary Marriage," Mrs. Shin says, "I prefer a world without men" (p. 3), a comment that could easily be echoed by other women in the book. Which of the stories best illustrates the limitations and frustrations of being female in Korean culture? Do you believe that similar issues challenge American women?
- How has this collection of stories altered your perceptions of Korean culture specifically and immigrants in general? Was there one particular character whose experience struck a chord with you?
- Thinking of your own racial, religious, or cultural history, what similarities can you find with the characters in the stories? What have you overcome and what do you value? What has been troubling to you and what makes you proud?
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Penguin Books.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.