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  1. In what sense is Abel Jones, the third, born a prince of the black bourgeoisie?
  2. What are the events that leave Abel understanding the Civil Rights Movement as an unnamed, unacknowledged war?
  3. Food in general, and meals in particular, play an important role in this novel. Which food items do you think are the most important identity markers for Abel? For Hope? For Ajay? 
  4. Parties and other ritualized food exchanges play an important roll in Rebel Yell. Compare and contrast the Thanksgiving Festival at Hope and Waycross’s house, to the winter party Hope’s father would give;  the repass at Sammie’s house and the repass at Grandma’s house; the Martha’s Vineyard barbeque hosted by the Aunt’s and Hope and Abel’s picnic in the snow; and finally, Abel’s thirteenth birthday party and Ajay’s “milk, please’ breakfast debacle.
  5. Throughout Rebel Yell there is both a sense of safe and unsafe places, and a sense that one’s wisdom is in part defined by being able to discern which is which.  As depicted in Rebel Yell who is particularly safe or unsafe in: Birmingham? Rome? Waynesville, North Carolina? The Phillipines? West Virginia? Cambridge, MA., Nashville? Are different places safe for different characters? Name other locations within  the novel that are peculiarly safe havens or unexpectedly dangerous.
  6. Hope has a very complex relation to race, as did her mother, before her, Canary.  Make the argument that Canary was born a princess of the black West Virginia.  Does Canary maintain this identity at Oberlin? In her marriage? In Rome? How does Canary ( inadvertently, or on purpose)  start passing for white? What is a melungeon? 
  7. If we come to understand Canary’s journey at least in part as being a journey of passing from blackness and a national identity to passing into whiteness and an international identity—is it more or less significant to understand  Hope’s journey as one of  passing from whiteness and an international identity  into a black and national identity?
  8. The Flying Horses. The Confederate War Memorial. Discuss the importance of each to Hope and Abel both as locations of love and locations of memorial.
  9. At one time or another, Hope and Abel both function as “secret” agents of the government.  Why does Abel find this secrecy to be sheltering?  Why does Hope find the secrecy to be imperiling?
  10. Both Abel and Hope have a traumatic family secret that they share, with Nicholas Gordon.  Is Nicholas a worthy confidante?  Is Mo Hentry? Why are Abel and Hope drawn to these men?
  11. Waycross, Hope’s second husband, was a protector of young Abel. In what sense can we understand his marriage to Hope to be a continuation of that old role?
  12. Waycross was a young boy in the pre-Civil Rights Era segregated south.  Abel grew up during the Civil Rights Era. Both were the sons of successful professional men. Which of Hope’s two husbands had more confidence in their father’s power?  How did the times in which they were raised influence their understanding of their father’s power?
  13. Hope was raised first by her father, then by her Aunts, after her father dies. What are the  biggest challenges that Hope faces when she goes to live with the Aunts?  How well does she meet them?
  14. Near the end of the novel, why does Hope return to Rome? What does she do at the Vatican?
  15. Photographs appear throughout Rebel Yell: Abu Ghraib photographs, wedding photographs, beach pictures, and finally a set of pictures Abel took of Ajay and of the Senator from Illinois. How do the final photographs Abel took of Ajay change Hope’s understanding of her first husband?
  16. Who’s telling this story? Gossip? Hope? Abel? Nicholas?
  17. Through out the novel Rebel Yell gifts are exchanged: books, pearls, writings, a car, ribbons, a locket, sneakers, and a basketball are some of the most significant.  What else belongs on that list? Which gift exchange did you find most compelling?
  18. In his final minutes we learn that Abel understands himself to be a powerful man whose absence would change the political landscape.  Who does he die trying to make a way for? In what sense can his death be considered the death of a good soldier? If his death can be understood as the death of a good soldier, is he, finally a good soldier for the civil rights movement as well as for the United States of America?
  19. Abel is married to two very different women, Hope and Samantha. What, if anything, do these women have in common? What are their most significant differences?
  20. Randall says that one of her favorite lines in the book is, “The rules of life, unlike the rules of war, cannot be re-written. “ If you had to choose one what was your favorite line in the book?