Escape from Slavery
1. Bok, our hero and narrator, refers to this memoir as ?my own attempt to offer documentation of the existence of slavery in Sudan: my life, my story.? Beyond an expos? of contemporary slavery, discuss what you learned from the book about the geography, politics, culture, and history of Africa?especially Sudan. Revisit the map that begins the book, explaining how each of these points figures into Bok?s account: Nyamlell, Khartoum, Wadi Halfa, Cairo, and the Nile.
2. ?Today,? Bok writes early on, ?about twenty percent of the people of southern Sudan [are] Christians, adopting the version of Christianity of the local missionaries who happened to move to their area.? (The other eighty percent believe in a traditional African religion.) The government of Sudan, by contrast, is (as Bok notes
elsewhere) ?a Taliban-like Islamist regime committed to ruling the entire country according [to] the Koran.? Explain how this conflict manifests itself throughout Bok?s memoir. Why do you think one critic said this book gives us ?a glimpse into what can happen when religion is the impetus in the governing of a nation??
3. The first speech Bok gives about his life as a slave occurs at the Southern Baptist Church in Roxbury, Massachusetts. Why does the pastor introducing Bok tell the children in his congregation that they especially ?need to hear? Bok?s words? If you were to recommend Bok?s account to a certain audience, who would it be? Why?
4. Basketball, expensive sneakers, all sorts of music on the radio: Bok finds much to enjoy in American pop culture. But what about the difficulties of his Americanization? Discuss the problems Bok faced in adjusting to life here. Also discuss what you learned from this book about emigrating to (or gaining citizenship in) the U.S.
5. Many readers of Bok?s memoir will be shocked to learn that slavery still exists today, and that several million people are currently enslaved worldwide. In Sudan, of course, the problem is especially severe, and this brings us to the central question of Bok?s Afterword: ?How could the rest of the world let such terrible things happen to my people?? How does Bok?s friend and mentor Charles Jacobs answer this urgent query? Explain the racist undertones that Charles identifies within the international human rights community. Do you agree with him? Why or why not?
6. Discuss several challenges that Gabriel Bethou described in his storyline escaping from Sudan, becoming a refugee in Kenya, immigrating and adjusting to life in the United States and finally reuniting with his family. How has Francis Bok been influential to Gabe?
7. At what point does oppression and approval from a government, in considering the treatment of its people, turn from pure racism to genocide? What are the historian?s guidelines for genocide and how is Sudan viewed in this situation compared to examples of two other countries?