1. Angela links Melanie’s abandonment with Assata Shakur’s prison break. How are the two women similar? How are they different? Is there anything revolutionary about either woman’s desire and means of escaping the restraints that hold them back?
2. In the first year of Melanie’s absence several historical events occur. Discuss how these cultural reference points influence how Angela deals with her mother’s abandonment. Do they help her grieve? Hinder that process? Both?
3. Melanie talks about the legacy of the women in her family. How does her abandonment of Angela and Teddo echo her family’s history? How does it stand in contrast to what the Brown women would have done? What does it reflect about Melanie, Mona, and Angela? Is there strength in the legacy? Fear? Love?
4. There is strong yearning for both the American Dream and the idealistic goals of the Black Movement. How does this cultural conflict play itself out in the family? What are the consequences and contradictions that arise from their attempts to attain both dreams? How does Melanie and Teddo’s thirst for fame and recognition alienate Angela?
5. Teddo prides himself on being a race man. Discuss how his actions, including his Sammy Davis impression toward the end of the novel, contradict his espoused beliefs.
6. What is the role of magic in the novel? How does illusion and disillusion affect each character? How is magic often linked to freedom?
7. Discuss Angela’s encounters with Edward and Sammy. How is her reaction to each of these men shaped by her relationship with Teddo? By the absence of Melanie?
8. Angela and Teddo achieve a small measure of fame and are further rewarded with a week with Muhammad Ali. What is the significance of the boxer in the novel? How does he help Teddo and Angela come to terms with their circumstances? How does he bring them closer together?
9. Teddo eventually finds a way to send Angela to an upstate prep school. Is this also a form of abandonment? A way for him to escape? Is it a way to also free Angela?
10. Angela achieves success as an adult. Discuss her decision not to find Melanie. Has she truly moved on from the memories and desire for her mother? What does her choice of lifestyle and career say about her development without Melanie? With Teddo?