David Hirshberg

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Jacobo's Rainbow

Discussion Questions for Jacobo's Rainbow

  1. What does the author mean in the Prologue when he writes, “My guess is that you’re going to believe this is fiction; that would be a delusion”?
  1. How does the opening paragraph in Chapter One–“Until 1960, all of us in Arroyo Grande were ignorant of electricity and automobiles, were unaware of plastic, steel, or homogenization, hadn’t been exposed to vaccines, x-rays, or Freud, weren’t acquainted with Shakespeare or Hemingway, had never listened to Gershwin or Mozart, couldn’t have imagined Les Demoiselles d’Avignon or The Starry Night, didn’t know what JFK, DNA, SOS, IBM, CIA, or RBI stood for, were uninformed of the existence of George or Booker T. Washington and assumed that England, France, Spain, and Portugal were still the most powerful nations on earth. We used sassafras roots as toothpaste, made paper from pulp and colored it with plant dyes, played the lute and the lyre, and used percussion instruments made from animal skins. And we never went to sleep without our parents saying, “Then all shall sit under their vines and under their fig trees and none shall make them afraid.”–manifest itself throughout the book?
  1. Did the opening paragraph give anything away or were you surprised to learn about the origins of Jacobo’s community?
  2. The author drops tells like breadcrumbs to presage later events. Can you identify some of the important ones?
  3. What was the purpose of the Holyman stories?
  4. Were you surprised that Jacobo bonded with Herzl almost immediately? To what do you attribute his feeling of closeness?
  5. Despite Jacobo not being a perfect citizen, do you understand why he kept a central event a secret and if so, how do you think you would have behaved in a similar situation?
  6. The two ‘major’ minor characters are Ben Veniste and Navajo Joe with whom Jacobo has many important interactions. Do you see a similarity in the relationships that Jacobo has with each one? Or not?
  7. Have you ever faced the kind of anti-Semitism that’s featured in the book and if so, how have you dealt with it?
  8. Aside from Jacobo, who is the second most important character in the book and why do you feel that way?
  9. For those of you who lived through the Vietnam War era, what memories did the scene in Vietnam resonate with you? Or the scene afterwards when Jacobo is still in uniform and returns to the University?
  10. Do you see any parallels with what went on in the Free Speech Movement at the University of Taos and what’s going on at college campuses today?
  11. Why do you think the author wrote of Herzl that his “mission was to combat anti-Semites” and not anti-Semitism?
  12. Were you affected (or not) in the same way as Herzl was during the run-up to the Six Day War of 1967?
Copyright 2020 David Hirshberg