I know, I know. That title was a terrible pun, but we seem to have a tea theme this month, so I couldn’t resist. We hope you can join us this Saturday at Tea’s Me Café to discuss Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin.
Here are some questions to get you thinking or to help refresh your memory before we meet. These are taken from the publishers’ website for book clubs:
- Relin gives a “warts and all” portrait of Mortenson, showing him as a hero but also as a flawed human being with some exasperating traits. Talk about how Relin chose to write about Mortenson’s character—his choice of details, his perspective, the way he constructs scenes. Is Mortenson someone you’d like to get to know, work with, or have as a neighbor or friend?
- At the heart of the book is a powerful but simple political message: we each as individuals have the power to change the world, one cup of tea at a time. Yet the book powerfully dramatizes the obstacles in the way of this philosophy: bloody wars waged by huge armies, prejudice, religious extremism, cultural barriers. What do you think of the “one cup of tea at a time” philosophy? Do you think Mortenson’s vision can work for lasting and meaningful change?
- Mortenson’s transition from climbing bum to humanitarian hero seems very abrupt. However, looking back, it’s clear that his sense of mission is rooted in his childhood, the values of his parents, and his relationship with his sister Christa. Discuss the various facets of Mortenson’s character—the freewheeling mountain climber, the ER nurse, the devoted son and brother, and the leader of a humanitarian cause. Do you view him as continuing the work his father began?
- The authors write that “the Balti held the key to a kind of uncomplicated happiness that was disappearing in the developing world.” This peaceful simplicity of life seems to be part of what attracts Mortenson to the villagers. Discuss the pros and cons of bringing “civilization” to the mountain community.
- Did the book change your views toward Islam or Muslims? Consider the cleric Syed Abbas, and also the cleric who called a fatwa on Mortenson. Syed Abbas implores Americans to “look into our hearts and see that the great majority of us are not terrorists, but good and simple people.” Discuss this statement. Has the book inspired you to learn more about the region?
- Have you ever known anyone like Mortenson? Have you ever had the experience of making a difference yourself through acts of generosity, aid, or leadership?
- Greg found himself in some pretty dangerous situations in the book. Did any of them make you nervous when reading his story?
- What stood out to you the most about this book?
- Did anything about this book change your views on global politics? Did you learn anything you didn’t know before?
- Greg believes education is the key solution to some very complicated problems. What other problems do you think are in need of some creative solutions?