I would be delighted to join your book club, classroom or interest group discussions in person or via Skype if our schedules are compatible. Elaine joins me for talks about our book (Back to Vietnam) and our work and travel in Southeast Asia.
Discussion Questions for Finding Lien
The story of Lien is a tragic one. Are there passages which particularly evoke pathos?
The author makes the point several times in the novel that the norms of acceptable sexual behaviour differ in south East Asia. What is your opinion about these different norms?
Did Finding Lien add to your knowledge of sex trafficking? Based on what you already knew about this scourge, do you think that the plot and circumstances of Lien’s abduction and her treatment in the hands of her captors ring true?
Girls and young women are sold into slavery, forced marriages and brothels in SE Asia and around the world. Are you aware of child sex trafficking in Canada/USA? Where does this happen and what forces are behind these practices?
Trutch and Catherine’s relationship is tested by the revelation of his affair with Dream. If Catherine were your friend, how would you have advised her to react?
Finding Lien is peopled with strong characters, both good and bad…. which character was the most strongly developed in your opinion?
Would you have preferred to read an academic or journalistic report on the topic of sex trafficking rather than a novel? Why?
What techniques did the author use to build tension throughout the story?
There were a number of clearly despicable characters in the story and some surprising deceits. Shank the driver, Khong Kea the monk. Did you foresee these deceptions?
Discussion Questions for Back to Vietnam: Tours of the Heart
Why do you think the authors chose to use alternating voices? Is it an effective way to tell this story? Does it enhance or detract from the ease of reading the book?
In Chapter 13, Brotherhood, Bruce suggests that “Although warfare reflects mankind at its worse, it sometimes brings out the best in men in the form of teamwork, cohesion, unity and a durable kinship — the soldier’s bond, forged in training and tempered in combat.” Discuss this dichotomy. Can you think of other examples?
Bruce alludes to his feelings of being betrayed by the politicians who sent him, and countless other young Americans, to war in Vietnam. He initially thought he was fighting for just and noble reasons, but later felt duped when he concluded that this was not about saving innocent people from Communism but was for more nefarious purposes.
Do you think that young veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have similar feelings?
There are several very intimate stories of Vietnamese suffering in the book (Ha Thi Quy, Le Ly, Annie, Duc, Uncle Bao and Binh).
Which story impacted you the most and why?
Early in the book, Elaine expresses caution about going to Asia because she fears illness. Ultimately she does become ill while in Vietnam. Do you think it was prescience, coincidence or karma?
How do you think Bruce is different after his two tours there as a young man? Is there also an evident change in his outlook after his return forty years later?
Elaine describes herself and Bruce has having “hazy retirement plans” and being “just regular middle-class folks” (page 177). Do you think Elaine’s values, worldview and personal desires or aims shifted after being in Vietnam? How?
How were your personal views, and/or assumptions, about war and its aftermath challenged by reading this book?
Did reading Back to Vietnam interest you in traveling to Vietnam? What intrigued you about the place or culture? Conversely, why would you not travel to Vietnam?
Parts of the book are unspeakably sad, while other stories are humorous. Which parts were the most moving to you? Why?
Discussion Questions for for As The Lotus Blooms
Why do you think that Logan chose fiction to raise awareness of child trafficking?
Did Logan’s technique using alternating voices (1st person for Lien and 3rd person for the rest of the book) add to or distract from your pleasure in the reading of the book?
Do you know anyone who suffers PTSD? Does the portrayal of Lien’s symptoms ring true? Do you think that her progress and also her regressions add to the tension of the book?
Discuss your opinions about the appropriateness of Lien’s becoming involved with an NGO and the rescue of trafficked girls and women. Did you relate to Catherine and her cautions? Did you agree that this could be Lien’s salvation?
In his first book Finding Lien, Logan reveals some facts and practices surrounding the sex trade in SE Asia. In this second book the reader is also cast into the realities of the trade in Singapore. Were you surprised to learn about the attitudes of the Singapore police?
Descriptive passages are one of Logan’s strengths. Which scene captured the setting most vividly for you?
Comment on the scene where Lien confronts her nemesis Khlot. Did her rage surprise you?
At what point in the novel did you begin to guess the identity of the Pied Piper? Were your assumptions correct?
Nga’s duplicity comes as a shock. Did her reasons for working “both sides” seem plausible to you? Did Pete Trutch “cross the line” in paying off Captain Minh? Discuss the differing norms of behavior in the Western world and those of SE Asia.
Often female characters are portrayed as being more humane. In As the Lotus Blooms which of the male characters if any, showed their softer side? Support your position with evidence from the text.