Reading Group Questions
1.) How do you think Ewa's life would have turned out had Andrezj not been killed? Do you think Ewa would have stayed married to him? Do you think that after Ewa's miscarriage, he was truly being genuine in wanting to turn a new leaf in regards to their marriage/being a better husband and father?
2.) Love is a theme throughout the course of The Tears of Yesteryear-not just the love between Ewa and Lukasz but also the love that Ewa had for Mikolaj, Stefania and Jaroslaw, not to mention, Agata, the girl who became Ewa's sister of sorts. Discuss the significance of that feeling as it is laid out in the book.
3.) Were you at all familiar with Pittsburgh's immigrant history at the turn of the last century? What did you find most surprising/shocking/appalling/ and perhaps even horrifying?
4.) What scene from the book shocked you the most? Alternatively, what scene from the book broke your heart?
5.) Some reviewers have called The Tears of Yesteryear to be a very sad and depressing book. Were you as a reader able to not be consumed by the book's dark moments but rather to appreciate the unimaginable lives and sacrifices the immigrants made on a daily basis, especially the women? And could you take away that "rosey" moments for the immigrants were few and far between, and that tragedy, whether in the form of mill accidents, death in childbirth, death of a child (or two) was tragically common.
6.) Do you think Uncle Josef was truly remorseful in the role he played in bringing Ewa to America, considering that Manya died on the voyage there and Ewa never saw her babcia again even though by the time he left Homestead, Ewa was happily married to Lukasz and expecting a child with him.
7.) What did you think of learning that Ewa was inspired by the life of the author's own great-grandmother? Did that change your perception in any way of the novel?
8.) Eastern and Central European immigrants to America at the turn of the last century rarely "made it." Their lives and often the lives of their children remained bleak and difficult. Knowing what you know about life in 1900s America for immigrants, would you still want to come here and attempt to make a new life, one free of the confines, politics, and unjust realities of the Old World. Or would you stay where you were?
9.) Were you aware of the early labor movement in Homestead and its struggles, specifically the 1892 Strike that Jaroslaw and even Lukasz witnessed first-hand? Do you think the immigrant mill workers were just in their striking/do you think Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick should have been held legally responsible for the workers who were killed by the Pinkertons? Do you believe that Carnegie and Frick essentially got off scot-free?