Free Man of Color (Hambly)

Discussion Questions
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Also consider these LitLovers talking points to help get a discussion started for A Free Man of Color:

1. What is the significance of the book's title? In what way is it ironic?

2. What does Benjamin January find when he returns to America from Paris? For a man of color, how does Parisian culture differ from New Orleans culture? Has America changed in Benjamin's 16-year absence...or has he been changed by Europe?

3. Why is it important to the novel's plot that Benjamin be an outsider? As a writer, why might Barbara Hambly have placed him in Paris for 16 years prior to the beginning of the story?

4. In what ways do the newly arrived Americans differ from the older residents of New Orleans in their treatment of African-Americans.

5. Talk about the social hierarchy among people of color in New Orleans. What is the terminology used to describe those social distinctions?

6. Are you appalled by the quadroon balls—and the practice, commonplace among wealthy Creole men, of keeping a mistress? How precarious a life is it for the "placee"? How would you feel as the wife left on the plantation?

7. What made Angelique Crozat the most feared—and despised—mistress in New Orleans? What gave her power? What social code does Madame Madeleine violate in attending the quadroon ball to confron Angelique?

8. How and why is the murder evidence manipulated so that it points to Benjamin?

9. In mystery stories, clues are slowly revealed and sometimes lead readers (and characters) astray; twists and turns confound our expectations and serve to build suspense. As a mystery, does this novel deliver? Is it a suspenseful page-turner? Is the ending predictable...or surprising?

10. Are you more intrigued by the historical milieu—social and political—that Barbara Hambly limns for us or by the mystery itself? Which aspect of the novel was more gripping for you—Benjamin's predicament, as a good man caught in an evil world, or bringing Angelique's killer to justice?

11. Does the author do a good job of bringing antebellum New Orleans to life? Has she created a near palpable experience of time and place? What about her characters? Do you find them convincing and well-developed...or shallow and not particularly believable?

12. This is the first installment in the Benjamin January series. Does this book make you want to read the others? Why/why not?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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