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Discussion Questions

Common Read Discussion Questions

Questions for The Tortilla Curtain


The Tortilla Curtain is a common phrase for the Mexican Border with the U.S.


  1. The novel is based on the cultural, social, and financial differences between the Mossbachers and the Rincons. It alternates between the two couples’ points of view, allowing the reader to enter the lives of both. Do you feel that you got to know each of the couples? Was the author fair in his portrayal of each couple?
  2. Both couples have their own rendition of the “American Dream.” What are these renditions? What do you think the author is trying to say about the “American Dream.”
  3. The symbol of the coyote appears throughout the novel and represents illegal Mexican immigrants. What does Delaney write about the coyote? How does this reflect his perceptions and fears about illegal immigrants?
  4. Boundaries – both real and imagined – play a large role in the novel, especially the front gate at Arroyo Blanco Estates. In what other instances do boundaries appear and what do they represent? What roles do the different characters play in construction these boundaries?
  5. During an argument with Jack Jardine, Delaney makes the following statement” “Do you realize what you’re saying? Immigrants are the lifeblood of this country – and neither of us would be standing here today if it wasn’t.” In another instance, Jack says to Delaney, “ What do you expect, when bleeding hearts want to invite the whole world in here to feed at our trough without a thought as to who’s going to pay for it, as if the American taxpayer was like Jesus Christ with his loaves and fishes.” How do these two sentiments play out in the novel and in the larger issue of immigration?
  6. What can you say about the issue of gender in The Tortilla Curtain?
  7. What might Boyle have had in mind in naming Candido’s wife America?
  8. How is The Tortilla Curtain a story about transnationalism? Inequality?
  9. What is the significance of the end of the story, in terms of how Candido and Delaney are saved?
  10. Compare the issues in The Tortilla Curtain with the current immigration issues facing Arizona?