IN WILDERNESS is:

  1. Brown vs. the Board of Education was decided late in 1954, ushering in the slow process of school desegregation in the American South and the movement for civil rights. It has been said the civil rights movement would not have come about nearly so early nor so forcefully, had it not been for the advent of rock and roll. Discuss the ways rock and roll music might have hastened the budding civil rights movement of the mid-1950s.
  2. What role does race play in The Year the Music Changed? Why is it an undercurrent rather than a dominant theme?
  3. Discuss incidents of the blurring of racial lines in The Year the Music Changed. What does Penelope symbolize in the story?
  4. The book depicts women in relationships with men as subservient, even abused. Do you believe Achsa will break this mould? Why, or why not? How has her Aunt Mavis ensured that she herself will not fall into this pattern?
  5. What is the author's attitude toward beauty? What attributes does not being beautiful foster in Achsa? Are they gifts, compensations, or detriments?
  6. What is the significance of Colonel Parker entering Elvis's life so soon after his Cadillac burns?
  7. Why is Achsa so drawn to the city of New York?
  8. There are three points in the story where characters experience unusual release – Achsa, when she sees Elvis sing in Mississippi; Jacobson, when he tells Achsa his story; and Achsa, when she finally allows herself to cry. What do these three releases have in common? How do they affect the characters involved?
  9. Compare Achsa's relationship to her "inside voice" with Elvis's relationship to his. How has Achsa's attitude toward her "inside voice" evolved by the story's end? Why was Achsa able to realize her innermost dreams, while Elvis was not?
  10. How does the epigraph from Sara Teasdale's poem, "Those Who Love," apply to the characters in the book? Think particularly of "the fates fighting in somber pride." Which of the characters in the book love most truly and deeply?