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  1. With which character did you most resonate? Why?

  2. The title Trouble the Water comes from an African American spiritual. Were you familiar with this song before reading the novel? You can search for it online. Here is one of the author’s favorites:

  3. What is the role of music in the book? What is the role of music in your own experience?

  4. The novel references scripture, faith, churches, and religions. What is the impact of religion before and during the Civil War? In what ways, if any, has that evolved?

  5. Think about Robert’s relationship with his mother, Lydia. In what ways did she prepare him for the challenges he would face?

  6. What is so important to you that you would risk death? For what would you risk the lives of the people you most love?

  7. The relationships of the characters            change and evolve throughout the        book. Did any of these surprise you? Discuss.


7.  On p. 278, Robert says to Rev. French, “Preacher, let me tell you about something…” about the realities of being black. Discuss.


8.  Trouble the Water explores themes of race, justice, religion, family relationships and more. Which themes did you find particularly interesting? Which challenged you?


9. Did reading Trouble the Water change anything in your understanding of slavery, the Civil War, or Reconstruction ? Did it leave you with new questions?

10. Robert Smalls was an American hero, and yet his story remains widely unknown. Why do you think that is the case?

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