What do you make of the title? What exactly do you think Alexander means by “The Curse?”
How do we see privilege manifesting throughout the story? What forms of privilege do we observe?
The concept of “passing” comes up multiple times throughout the story. Is Alexander’s “passing” in this story considered a privilege?
Throughout the story, Alexander explores his blossoming sexuality. What elements of his story feel familiar, and what elements feel unfamiliar? Does the backdrop of the story occurring in Mexico affect his coming out story?
Two passages to read carefully:
“And there was the story I was living. Whatever I thought I was doing through my experiments in observation, I can see I was a boy losing himself as a way to find himself in the shapes of others. The classmates on this trip were kids I had grown up with since moving tot own in the first grade. I longed to be rid of them, but also to be rid of me, or of the problem of me. This was not possible, but I tried” (pg 13)
“This last evidence of my American constitution was a final reminder, not just that I was leaving, but that I was not from there. I really was only an imposter. I would never have this life. No life but the one I had. American now the exile of me” (pg 16).
The following passages compare the use of Tarot cards and the belief in a God:
“The major Arcena can be thought of as gods; the Minor, as the mortals” (pg 25)
“Of those ten cards in the reading, seven were the same, and five of those were in the exact same places on the table, including the Tetragrammaton, which was starting to feel like the voice of God, if not His name, saying, “Go no farther down this path” (pg 27).
How can we compare Alexander’s use of Tarot cards with our conventional view of religion? What draws Alexander to use Tarot cards? What draws us to religion? What turns people away from religion?
On page 21, Alexander discusses foolishness: “When I took to fortune-telling myself, in any case, I was serious. Too serious, in the way that makes you foolish.” Why do you think Alexander was being foolish? In what ways can religion become foolish?
At the end of the chapter, Alexander asks the question “What can you trust of what you can’t see?” Take a few minutes to mull on this question.
What details of this scene stand out to you? What sounds? What emotions do these descriptions evoke?
What different meanings does the word “girl” take on throughout this story?
What different meanings does the word “passing” take on throughout this story? Is passing as a white person different from passing as a girl? How does he feel about passing as a girl as opposed to how he feels passing as a white person?
What attracts Alexander to cross-dressing?
“She was angry, upset, she felt betrayed by me. There was a line, and I had thought I could go back and forth across it, but it seemed I could not” (pg 69). What line is Alexander referring to?
Week 2 (Zoom meeting on June 10th)
Reflect on this quote: “Why am I telling this story? I am, as I’ve said, a minor character, out of place in this narrative, but the major characters of all these stories from the first ten years of the epidemic have left. The men I wanted to follow into the future are dead. Finding them had made me want to live, and I did. I do. I feel I owe them my survival. The world is not fixed, and the healing is still just past my imagining, though perhaps it is closer than it was. For now, the minor characters are left to introduce themselves, and take the story forward” (pg 79).
What population does Alexander say leads the HIV/AIDS movement?
Why do you think Alexander felt motivated to tell this story?
Does guilt play any role in this story?
“AIDS was not God’s punishment, but the government inaction around it certainly was the government’s punishment” (101). Although the purpose of this story is not necessarily reflected in this quote, I wanted to use this opportunity to consider the historical actions of Christians against the LGBTQ+ community, particularly during the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Mr. and Mrs. B
Read the words of Mr. B or William F. Buckley to give context to this story.
What do you make of the homoerotic last paragraph of the story?
Week 3 (Zoom meeting on June 20th)
Why does Alexander title this story “The Rosary?” Focus particularly on section “4” in which Alexander describes the origin of the word.
How do you feel about Albigensian dissidents teachings? “That the body belonged to the devil, and the soul to God” (pg 159). Would you consider this statement heresy?
Do you think there are similarities between practicing religion and Alexander's way of describing planting a rose garden?
The last paragraph of the story is “But the creature that grew legs and walked away from the garden was me. I was not their gardener. They were mine” (pg 171) Do you see any religious connotations in this paragraph?
How is the concept of family and money integrated in this story? How does Alexander’s family affect his perception of money? Does money connect Alexander’s family or does it break them apart?
Does Alexander’s Korean background affect his concept of money?
How does money affect memories of loved ones? How does inherited money affect memories of the original owner of the inheritance?
Alexander discusses learning how power works at an early age and comments on his family’s privilege in comparison with the poverty around him (pg 179). Does inheritance inherently have a sense of power associated with it? Can one have money without power?
A quote to reflect on: “It is hard to be with someone in the closet, because you are never sure which version of the person you are with – the one who is hidden or the one trying to be free” (pg 224).
Another quote: “Most people misunderstand the crime of sexual abuse. They think of stolen youth, a child tucked under the arm and spirited away. But it isn’t like someone entering your house and stealing something from you. Instead, someone leaves something with you that grows until it replaces you. They themselves were once replaced this way, and what they leave with you they have carried for years within them, like a fire guarded all this time as it burned them alive inside, right under the skin. The burning hidden to protect themselves from being revealed as burned” (pg 232).
On Becoming an American Writer
Although Alexander is not religious, I found his reflection on faith in the final two paragraphs interesting. He uses the word “pusillanimous” almost to describe a lack of faith. Do you associate a lack of faith with a lack of courage?