Book Group Reader Guide for Little Boy Lost

I love book groups, because they allow people to examine stories from different angles and perspectives. A book group also adds a very social element to the often individual, introverted endeavor of reading. For the past two years over 100,000 people have purchased copies of Little Boy Lost, and I’ve been repeatedly asked if there is a  “book group guide.” Initially, I was hesitant. I like to let people draw their own conclusions, and I also didn’t want to sound like a pretentious writer. But, the requests continued. So, I’ve been testing one out, and the feedback has been great. I now think it is ready for prime time. 

 

 Book Group Reader Guide for Little Boy Lost

 

This reading group guide for “Little Boy Lost” includes a brief story summary, discussion questions, and supplemental material. Of course your reading group should feel free to go off into new and unplanned directions. These suggested questions are merely intended to help your reading group get started and potentially find new perspectives and issues for your discussion. Similarly, the supplemental materials are suggested because they address some of the book’s underlying themes. The supplemental materials are not intended to promote one point of view or reflect the author’s point of view, but rather are intended to prompt discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of “Little Boy Lost.”

 

Story Summary

Attorney Justin Glass’s practice, housed in a shabby office on the Northside of Saint Louis, isn’t doing so well that he can afford to work for free. But when eight-year-old Tanisha Walker offers him a jar full of change to find her missing brother, he doesn’t have the heart to turn her away.

Justin had hoped to find the boy alive and well. But all that was found of Devon Walker was his brutally murdered body—and the bodies of twelve other African American teenagers, all discarded like trash in a mass grave. Each had been reported missing. And none had been investigated.

As simmering racial tensions explode into violence, Justin finds himself caught in the tide. And as he gives voice to the discontent plaguing the city’s forgotten and ignored, he vows to search for the killer who preys upon them.

 

Questions and Topics for Discussion

  1. The story takes place in Saint Louis, Missouri where North meets South and East meets West. Setting aside political party affiliation, how do people from these four regions view the United States of America and government differently, if at all?

  2. The City of Saint Louis has lost over half of its population over the past seventy-five years. There are over four hundred acres of vacant land in the City of Saint Louis. If you were mayor, what would you do with that land? Is there any way to rebuild the city? How would you attract three hundred thousand people who live in the suburbs or elsewhere to move back into the core city?

  3. Race is a significant issue in the book, and, yet, many of the characters are not identified by race. When you read the story and pictured certain characters---Judge Polansky, Schmitty, Chief MaxWilson, prosecutor Cynthia Curtis--- in your mind, what race were they and why?

  4. The police officer that threw Justin Glass to the ground and kicked him in the ribs was not identified by race, does it matter? As it relates to police shootings that have occurred throughout the United States, does it matter if the police officer involved was a person of color?

  5. The title of the book is “Little Boy Lost,” but there are arguably many boys and men who are physically or emotionally lost in the book. When you think of the title, who is the character that first comes to mind and why? What character is the least “lost” and why?

  6. What do you think of Justin Glass’s grandfather, the Judge? Do you know people in your ownlife who have changed their political views or personality as they have aged? If so, did you find it difficult to accept these changes?

  7. Justin Glass loves his mother, and she is obviously smart. How is she typical of women who graduated college in the 1960s? How is she different?

  8. The Glass family is a political dynasty, and Glass family members are elected to various political offices in Saint Louis. Why do people vote for the sons or daughters of other elected officials? What does that say, if anything, about the health of our democracy? Do you think Justin Glass should not have ultimately run for the state senate being vacated by his brother? What does his decision to seek public office say about his character?

  9. Sammy is bullied at a public school, and, ultimately, Justin Glass moves her to a private school where she is happy. Should her father have kept her at the public school and worked harder to change the culture and prevent bullying? If you were her parent, would you have handled the situation differently and, if so, how?

  10. There are children who run away and there are children, usually teenagers, who are thrown away because their parent or guardian believe that they are “out of control.” What’s the difference and does it matter how schools, the police, churches, or non-profit organizations help or don’t help them?

  11. What was Judge Danny Bryce’s motivation? Do you think there is ever a limit in time, money or resources expended to reform and help people who commit crimes? At what point, should we as a society stop and simply incarcerate them? Does it make a difference if the person is 15 or 25 or 45 years old? How do you reintegrate a person back into society who has been incarcerated for more than ten years?

 

Supplemental Content For Discussion, Analysis, and Critique

Alexia Fernandez Campbell, Do Parts of the Rust Belt Need to “Die Off”?, The Atlantic (July 2016) http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/07/rust-belt-survival/492155/

Molly Knefel, The School To Prison Pipeline: A nationwide problem for equal rights, Rolling Stone (November 2013) http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/the-school-to-prison-pipeline-a-nationwide-problem-fo r-equal-rights-20131107

Stacia L. Brown, How Unwed Mothers Feel About Being Unwed Mothers, The Atlantic (March 23, 2013) http://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2013/03/how-unwed-mothers-feel-about-being-unwed- mothers/274301/

Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Case for Reparations, The Atlantic (June 2014) http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/06/the-case-for-reparations/361631/

JD Trafford