We invite you to use the questions and exercises below, or use each of the links to download the discussion guide and drawing exercises.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

What does Alisse’s character mean by “looking to lift the cotton wool and peek at some real things?” (p. 5). Why might that be a painful and difficult endeavor? 

Identify and discuss two major issues of today’s dark times. 

The images in Light in Dark Times are a means to convey the processes of thinking and introspection, of looking, seeing, perceiving and understanding the world, and of searching for a meaningful life in the world. Choose an illustration—a frame, a single page or a two-page spread—that leaps out and explain why it resonates with you. What meaning/s do you “read” in this illustration?

Dare to Dream: Take up Eduardo Galeano’s dare and exercise the right to dream (p. 78). Rave a bit. Set your sights beyond the abominations of today to divine another possible world. In a group of 5-15 people, write down on a slip of paper what one thing you would implement—if you had the power to do so—to make a concrete change in the world as we know it. Place your slip of paper in a container (a jar, a hat, whatever is available). One by one, lift the slips of paper, reading aloud one another’s vision (don’t read your own). Have an open-ended discussion and be attentive to mood and feelings as well as to ideas.

Underlying the book’s storyline are two central questions: What of us in these times? How will we pass the time that is given us on earth? Reflect on your own life and put in writing your response to the two questions.

DRAWING EXERCISES

Use drawing as a way to travel into your thoughts. Don’t worry about what the final piece looks like. A lot of people think they can’t draw, but drawing is an essential tool for thinking. Your drawings do not need to be beautiful and perfectly accurate to be meaningful. To draw well, one does not have to conjure up the perfect depiction; you need only find a good use for why you’re doing the drawing.

In chapter I, the characters talk about illumination. Have a look through the book and choose a page that you feel has brought you a new kind of illumination. Try to draw what your new understanding looks like. You could use abstract marks, symbolic pictures, or even create a small comic strip of what it was like to experience this illumination.

Where do you like to think? Where is your mind at its thinking best, and under what circumstances do you find yourself unable to think? Try to draw one of your favorite thoughts, and then try to draw a thought that you find hard to think about.

In chapter II, the characters speak about confronting their own motivations, beliefs, prejudices, and commitments. We all live in tension with what we’d like to do in and for the world and the constraints under which we live our lives. What does it look like for you to face the contradictions? Try to draw what it means to live and be in this tension of operating “within the logics of the larger system” while trying to do good in the world.

In chapter IV, the characters speak about the dangers around the political facts of lying and truth. Imagine what these dangers look like. How would you illustrate them? How would you draw what it means to conflate opinion with truth? How would you depict in drawing form what radical deception looks like? These are difficult concepts, so don’t think too hard about how to define them. Instead, draw the first thing that comes to mind. Have a look at what you’ve drawn and see if you can learn from it, then try to draw it again. You might be surprised at how quickly you can develop your own visual language to describe very complex ideas.

Eduardo Galeano asks the reader to exercise their “right to dream.” What are your dreams for our world? Take the time to draw what a “livable future” looks like. What sort of things would be happening? Who would be there? How would we realistically live in this world? “How do you want to be human?”

 
 
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“We must explore, uncover, translate, interpret, thereby making the world visible…”

We hope that these questions, designed especially for in-person or virtual classroom or book group discussion, encourage further conversation and exploration of the ideas and issues with which Light in Dark Times grapples.

© 2020 Alisse Waterston and Charlotte Corden

For requests, invitations, and questions, please contact:

lightindarktimesbook@gmail.com

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