Reading Guide: Gone Missing in Harlem

Gone Missing in Harlem: A Novel by Karla FC Holloway

  1. The book takes place in two distinct settings: Sedalia and Harlem. How does Holloway establish distinctions between the country and the city: the landscape, social life, and the promise they hold for DeLilah, her family, and all those who migrated north?
  1. Holloway recounts the devastating effects of the influenza pandemic of 1918 through Iredell’s illness, and allusions to the terrible toll the illness exacted on Harlem’s working class Black community. How does this context resonate with the time of Covid-19?
  1. Much of chapter seventeen is dedicated to a portrait of Harlem’s women. Revisiting this chapter, how does it offer a frame to understand DeLilah’s decisions to help ensure her family’s survival?
  1. How does Holloway describe the various race and class-based distinctions in the lives of the women of Harlem and Hamilton Heights? 
  1. How would you characterize Officer Weldon’s style of policing?
  1. In numerous places in the book, a character enters an internal reverie, usually distinguished by the author through italicized text. Compare one of Lilah’s reveries with those of another character—for example Enid Thayer, on losing her son, Edward. (157)
  1. What is the relationship between Iredell’s memory and the particular qualities of light in which he appears to Lilah?
  1. In chapter twenty-two the tone of the book shifts. How does Holloway use genre, and the gradual placement of revelations about Chloe’s disappearance throughout the book, to catalyze this discussion between Officer Weldon and LT?
  1. While the Lindbergh connection in the story may not have turned out to be as it first seemed, the contrasts between the local police’s response to Chloe’s kidnapping and the federal response to the Lindbergh baby kidnapping feel truthful. What parallels can be found between the conversations had in the wake of the incident at Chasen’s and contemporary conversations about injustice in America?
  1. In chapter twenty-four we see Weldon and LT attempting to work through the fine details of the case. Follow the course of their dialogue. How does Weldon guide and mentor his cadet, and how does LT help to inspire new thoughts in Weldon?
  1. Speaking to Doris, Lilah describes Nella as having a precious quality of “loving kindness.” What are the moments in the book where we see this quality on display, and how does Holloway present them?

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