Rage Is Back (Mansbach) - Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions
1. What was your opinion of graffiti before reading this book? Has your opinion changed in any way?

2. Some artists such as Banksy and Shepard Fairey use the medium of graffiti to create work that is considered “high art” and respected by critics and the public. Fairey’s portrait of Obama, for example, was used in the 2008 presidential campaign. If you’re unfamiliar with their work, take a moment to look it up. What do you think of it? Why is their graffiti treated differently from the type of work described by Mansbach?

3. Dondi strains against the rules of society in ways both large and small. Have you ever broken the law? Challenged authority? Rebelled against the expectations placed on you by parents?

4. Rage Is Back plays with the typical narrative form. The majority of chapter 8 is taken up by Theo Polhemus’s short story, and Cloud 9 narrates chapter 10. How did this affect your engagement with the story? Why did Mansbach do this?

5. Dondi says that “rupture is...hardwired into everything my parents’ generation of New Yorkers built” (page 229). What does he mean?

6. Many of the characters are more sympathetic than one might expect; some are darker than they first seem. Which characters did you respond to in ways that surprised you?

7. Dondi struggles to understand his father. Do you believe that Billy is a good man? Explain.

8. Although Bracken is the dark counterpart to Billy’s hero, he appears very few times in the novel. What were his motives in pursuing graffiti artists in general, and Billy in particular? Was there something otherworldly in the tunnels that influenced his behavior?

9. On page 274, Dondi admits that he wants to be recognized as the kind of person who is “pointed at, whispered about.” How does this play into his feelings toward his father, who is just such a person?

10. Karen is the only prominent female character, but she more than holds her own against all the male graffiti artists. What was your response to her? At one point, Dondi mentions that she had a psychotic break due to exhaustion from worrying about his health. Is the resulting psychological imbalance demonstrated in the course of the book?

11. What if Billy Rage had stayed in New York after the death of Amuse? Would Dondi and Karen have benefited from his presence in their lives?
(Questions issued by publisher.)

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