Aline Ohanesian

Discussion Questions for Book Clubs


1. Setting plays such a significant role in Orhan’s Inheritance. How do the two settings, Karod village in Turkey and the Ararat Home in Los Angeles, affect the characters?

 2. Why do you think Kemal dies the way he does? What is the symbolism of the vat of dye?

 3. Orhan’s early photography was so focused on abstraction that he failed to see the world around him clearly. How does Orhan’s early photography compare with his later work, when he takes up the camera again? In what way does he see the world differently? What role do photography and drawing play in the novel? What is the connection between photography and memory?

4. Do you think words construct meaning differently than visual images do, whether drawn or photographed?

5. Do you think Lucine’s mother, Mairig, is a bad or negligent mother? Why or why not?

6. How are Orhan and Seda similar when it comes to their relationship with their pasts? What is Ani’s perspective on the past? What do you think these characters learn from one another? 

7. Lucine’s father, Hairig, defines strength as adaptability. How would you describe Lucine’s strength? What are the qualities that help her survive this ordeal?

8. At what point does Seda stop speaking?  Why do you think she makes this choice?

9. Do your feelings about Fatma change in the course of the novel? If so, how?

10. Why does Lucine feel that she and Kemal can never be together?

11. There are many instances of individual and collective guilt in the story as exemplified in the war scenes with Kemal and his soldier friends. Do you think there’s such a thing as collective guilt? If so, is it easier to bear and what are its effects?

12. How do Fatma’s parables illustrate or refute her attitude toward words?

13. The novel makes a distinction between change, as symbolized by dyed wool, and transformation, as symbolized by the silkworm. What is the difference between them? Which characters do you think experienced true transformation?

14. Once Orhan knows about his family’s and country’s history, how do you think he should respond? Do you think he’s done enough by the end of the novel?

 15. Much of the novel grapples with the power of words as well as their insufficiency. “There is only what is. What happened. The words come much later, corrupting everything with meaning” (page 305). How important are the words we use to describe someone or something? Why does it matter what Orhan calls Fatma or whether we call what happened in 1915 a genocide?