Topics To Consider (For Reading Groups)
Journey back 250 years, into a world long forgotten, where nature speaks through plants, and song pours forth from cascading waterfalls. A place where the rhythm of a feathered rattle is believed to bring you closer to your Creator. A world where mysticism and innate spirituality conflict with Christianity. Raised in the traditions of the Guarani Indians, then Mission educated by the Jesuits, Avá-Tapé sees the truth and beauty in both worlds, but he can only live in one. Neither the Jesuits, nor his father, the tribe's shaman, will accept less than absolute allegiance, so Avá-Tapé is forced to choose between them. Shamanism, religious bigotry, history, imperialism, coming of age, and a touching love story drive this narrative of the demise and ultimate triumph of an indigenous people and their traditions.
- Culture develops as a result of a people’s response to their environment. What are the ramifications when a dominating foreign culture overruns and undermines an indigenous one at its roots? How does this affect the environment?
- What are the major differences between the Guarani concept of divinity and that of the Jesuits? What are the similarities?
- What is the significance of the feathers on the cover of Land Without Evil and what part do feathers play throughout the novel itself?
- Discuss the Guarani concept of techó-achy, its use as a metaphor and all that it implies.
- What are the differences in the day-to-day activities of the Guarani’s lives in the mission and the way they lived in their villages the way their ancestor’s did?
- Throughout much of the novel, Avá-Tapé is torn between his “earthly” love for Kuná-Mainó and his spiritual path that he knows he cannot turn back from. This dilemma comes to him with the question, “Can I walk with my feet on both paths?” After finishing the novel, how would you answer this question?
- Describe the inner changes that Avá-Tapé went through from the beginning of the story through to the end, then discuss how his transformation changed his relationship to his people.
- One of the major roles of a shaman is to be a bridge between the worlds; physical—spirit, past—present, magic—normal, etc.. How many different bridges did Avá-Tapé and his father act as, and what was the nature of the worlds they connected? What did the joining of different realities accomplish for them and their people?
- How do the events portrayed in Land Without Evil mirror the evolution of culture in the United States?
- Does the ending to Land Without Evil come across as upbeat and positive or downbeat and tragic? Discuss the differences between these two perceptions and why two people can have such opposing feelings.