Blind Tribute Book Club Questions


(Also, the Author’s Notes are recommended reading.)



Historical Context
  1. Did the Civil War’s influx of cash into the news business help or hinder the direction of the industry in the long run? What about the advancement of telegraph and railroad technologies?
  2. How did the roles and right of women affect the female characters in the story?
  3. Harry is allowed to live at Riverwood by the Union Army after occupation. Was it morally right for him to do so? What about moving the Guignard’s belongings into storage against the wishes of the occupying army?
  4. It was not uncommon for enslaved people to be freed, then captured and sold back into slavery. How do you think Harry’s Riverwood servants felt when they were recaptured and sold the night Harry was injured? Do you think it changed their opinions about Harry?
  5. Was Harry right to keep his blockade runner from bringing medical supplies to either army?
  6. Harry refused to use a fountain pen. How would he have fared with a typewriter? A computer? What about radio, television, and the internet?
  7. What would Harry think about the media today? Would John agree or disagree with him?
  8. Have any of the historical themes in Blind Tribute continued to the present day? Which ones?
  9. Do you think Harry would hire a woman or women in his newsroom? How do you think he would react to the idea before and after the war? What would he think of the idea of a female presidential candidate (or president)?
  10. Harry relied on telegraphs and couriers to transmit the news. Now, we rely on cell phones and the internet. How has the increased speed of transmission changed the news business?
  11. How is the audience for news different now?
  12. Has the advent of “citizen journalists” and bloggers had a positive or negative impact on the media?
  13. Economically, the Civil War destroyed the South and elevated the North. What did it do to the West?
  14. In modern times, there is a fairly firm line between intellectual work, like writing, and manual labor. Was the same true then? Does it benefit a person to engage in manual labor? Does it hurt modern intellectuals that they don’t have to care for horses, weed the garden, or stack newspapers?
  15. In Harry’s time, people walked, rode, or drove a horse and carriage around town. How do transportation options shape an economy?
Political Context
  1. What is the role of the press in a democracy?
  2. Do (and/or should) media ethics change in a time of war?
  3. Lincoln suspended habeas corpus and used his authority to arrest editors, close newspapers, deny the opposition press access to the public mails, and seize telegraph offices. Was this ethical? Why or why not?
  4. Harry is firm in his belief that secession is politically and legislatively defensible (if not morally or militarily). Was he right? Why or why not?
  5. The media industry in the 1800s was strictly partisan, with just about every newspaper advancing one political platform or another? Do you think this influenced the course of the Civil War? If so, how?
  6. Should media outlets be partisan? Should there be laws and/or regulations mandating neutrality?
  7. Should Harry have accepted a cabinet position? If so, which position, with which government, and why?
  8. If Harry hadn’t been injured, would his political positions have changed? To what extent do personal experiences color our political opinions?
  9. For the entirety of Part One, Harry insists he is not an Abolitionist? Is he lying to himself?
  10. Is a passionate belief in a political cause a good or bad thing? Why?
  11. What would mid-19th century conservatives think of today’s political conservatives? What about progressives?
  12. If the South had won the war, would slavery still be practiced in the US (or the CS, as the case might have been)? Why or why not?
  13. How have race relations in the US improved since 1865? How have they worsened? Are there any areas that have simply stayed the same?
  14. How does “meaningful work” influence a person individually? How does it influence the person’s family? How does it influence society? How do you define “meaningful”?
  15. Harry and his family and friends were extremely conscious of class. How did the intersection of race and class play out in these characters lives? What about in society as a whole? Have things changed?
Harry’s Personal Life
  1. How do you think Ruthie and Emily felt about Harry’s move to the South, and about their own choices with respect to Second?
  2. How did Elias’ beating in Harry’s childhood shape them both?
  3. What qualities or experiences divided Fleur and Belle in their adulthood?
  4. How do you feel about the way Harry dealt with his family before he left Philadelphia? How do you feel about him leaving them?
  5. Do you think Anne deserved a settlement? Why or why not?
  6. What do you think Robert’s marriage was like, for Celia and for him? Why?
  7. Was Harry justified in sending Dax to the South to exact retribution? Why or why not?
  8. What do you think Harry’s life was like in Nebraska?
  9. Has Harry ever been in love? Will he be? Is he a lovable person?
  10. How do you think the characters’ lives played out after the end of the book?
  11. Mrs. Boyne is a personification more than a person. What do you think she represents symbolically? What does she represent to Harry? Are any other characters meant to be symbolic? Of what?
  12. How much of Harry’s transformation is motivated by anger and revenge? Does it matter why he changed?
  13. Do you think Harry finished and published his book? Why or why not?
  14. Do you think what Elias says to Harry about the incident in their childhoods can be taken at face value? Why or why not? If you don’t think so, what do you think he really felt?
  15. How do Harry’s opinions affect the rest of his family (on both sides)? What about after he changes his mind?