Real Americans by Rachel Khong Book Club Questions

If your book club loves to read multi-generational family sagas, Real Americans by Rachel Khong is a fabulous book club pick! I really enjoyed it, and the story has lots of important themes that are perfect for discussion. Below, I’m sharing a list of book club questions for Real Americans, plus a quick summary of the story!

Real Americans book sitting on a white fireplace mantel with a houseplant beside it

What is Real Americans about?

From the award-winning author of Goodbye, Vitamin comes a multi-generational literary fiction novel about fate, identity, family, and choosing your own path.

This story is told in three parts, each from the point of view of a different member of a Chinese-American family. It’s an interconnecting saga that spans decades, from communist China (during Mao’s regime) to present-day America.

Real Americans is a mix of contemporary and historical fiction, and it’s incredibly compelling. I personally loved it, and I definitely recommend reading it (if you haven’t yet)!

Real Americans book cover

A Quick Summary/Recap of the Novel

If you haven’t read the book (or finished it) yet, beware of spoilers below!

In part one, we’re introduced to Lily, a young Chinese-American woman living and working in New York City. She meets a white man named Matthew, and they fall in love.

Shortly after, she finds out that he’s incredibly rich, and his family owns a giant pharmaceutical company. The two marry and have a child, but Lily discovers a secret that causes her to run away and raise her child alone.

Part two is told from the point of view of Nick (a.k.a Nico), Lily’s son. He’s a teenager now, growing up on a small, remote island off the coast of Washington state.

After a lifetime of never knowing anything about his father, he decides to track him down with the help of his best friend, Timothy.

Part three reveals the background of Lily’s mother, Mei (a.k.a May), from her childhood in Mao’s communist China to her new life in America as a research geneticist.

Each part reveals more about each of the characters, delving into how they’ve become who they are, and the reasons behind their decisions.

This book is on my list of the best 2024 book club books. Not in a book club yet? Here are my best tips for how to start a book club you’ll love!

Real Americans Book Club Questions

And now, here are some book club questions for discussing Real Americans at your book club meeting! (And here are more general discussion-worthy book club questions for any book.)

  • How did you feel about the format of the book? Did you like the way the story was laid out (in three parts, from different points of view)?
  • Which of the main characters did you relate to the most: Lily, Nick, May/Mei, or someone else? Why?
  • Which character was your favorite? Why?
  • Why do you think Lily was so afraid of her early relationship with Matthew?
  • What did you think about the way Lily chose to leave her old life behind and raise her son Nick? What would you have done in that situation?
  • How do you think you would react if you found out you had a long-lost father like Nick did?
  • Which of the story settings was your favorite? Have you been to any of the places mentioned before? (New York City, an island off the Washington coast, Beijing, etc.)
  • Which were the most present themes in this story?
  • What do you think this story was trying to say about wealth?
  • Do you think you would be a different person than you are today if you were raised in an uber-wealthy family like Matthew’s?
  • Consider each of the characters’ family lives growing up (and beyond). What do you think this story was trying to say about the role that family plays in shaping who we are?
  • What did you think about the genetic research May and Otto were involved in? Do you think it would be a good thing if this technology existed?
  • What do you think made Mei/May the way she was?
  • Before reading this book, how much did you know about Mao’s regime in China? Did you learn anything new? Did this book change your perception of that time period?
  • Did your impression of Lily’s father (May’s husband) change after hearing her part of the story? How?
  • What did you think about how the story ended? Did you think it was a fitting ending?
  • Did you read a physical/ebook copy of the book, or listen to the audiobook? Which format do you think is best?
  • What would you rate this book out of 5 stars? Would you recommend it to a friend?

I hope you found this Real Americans book club guide helpful. 🙂 Have you read this novel? What did you think?

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