1. One of the main conflicts in the book is between Fi and the library proponents versus those who fear the imposition of Western values and the loss of centuries of tradition. Can The Camel Bookmobile be seen as an allegory for what's still taking place elsewhere in the world today? What does the novel say about the experience of being an American overseas?
2. What is gained (or lost) by the use of multiple viewpoints to tell this story? How do the various viewpoints weave together to reinforce the theme of books as instruments of change and growth?
3. Each character is changed in some way by the bookmobile. Discuss those changes. Specifically, Fi goes to Kenya convinced that she is bringing knowledge to the African bush, but in the end she learns at least as much as any other character. What are the most important lessons she learns?
4. The mosquito quotes, though carefully attributed, are actually invented. What do they add to the sections they precede?
5. In some ways, the novel is peopled by outsiders. Fi is an interloper in Kenya, Scar Boy is a recluse, and even Matani, by virtue of having been educated elsewhere, is an outsider. Does the novel suggest that outsiders have a role to play in changing their societies? Do you agree?
6. There is a real camel library that operates out of Garissa. Why do you think the author chose to fictionalize this story as opposed to writing about the real camel bookmobile? What are the advantages and disadvantages of that decision?
7. Many of the people of Mididima make it clear that they do not want to be seen as ignorant simply because they are illiterate. At the novel's end, the traditional values seem to win out. What does the ending say to you?
8. If Mididima had become a settled community, what would have been lost? And do you
think books and modernism will continue to impact the people of Mididima, even beyond the novel's conclusion?
9. “Mididima” means “Those Rooted in Dust” (p. 25). How is this metaphor for the lives of the villagers? In what ways are their lives changing, for the better or for the worse?
10. Mr. Abasi considered Miss Sweeney meddlesome: “These foreigners
couldn’t understand that literacy was not the only path to education. In tribal
settlements, the tradition was an oral one…” (p. 51). What do you think about a
librarian with this attitude?
11. What do you think about Mr. Abasi’s rule that losing even a single book
means that the bookmobile will not return to the village? What was Mr.
Abasi’s ulterior motive for making such a rule?
12. Why do you think educated people are feared by the illiterate? “Mothers
watched with a mixture of envy and resentment as she [Kanika] shared some
mysterious secret with their offspring. They didn’t respect her any more than
ever. But they were afraid of her…afraid of the skill she possessed that they
didn’t have” (p. 16).