Tuesday, May 24, 2016

June 2016: "The Illegal" Discussion Questions and Menu

The Illegal
The June book club will take place on Thursday June 2nd at Sherrie's home in Dundas (address to follow in separate email).  As always, meeting will begin around 7:30 pm, with discussion to begin around 8:00 pm. Discussion questions and menu are as follows:

Discussion questions:
1. Did you enjoy this book?  Why or why not?
2. Which character in "The Illegal" inspired you?  Why?
3. Do you think Keita took unnecessary or foolish risks? Do you think the portrayal of Keita is believable or realistic?
4. Is Lulu a hero or a criminal?
5. What risks would you be prepared to take to save your life?
6. Do you agree that refugees have the right to seek asylum?
7. Do you think racism and xenophobia are a major concern in Canada?
8. What does running represent to Keita? To the children of Zantoroland? To Freedom State? How does this compare with the understanding of running that the children of AfricTown possess?
9.  Illegality in the work refers to illegal entry, illegal residency.  These seem to be collapsed into a category of illegal personhood by people who always possess legal citizenship.  What other ways does the idea of "The Illegal" manifest in the work?
10. In the book, what role/responsibility do international human rights groups have in the lives of Keita and Charity?  Are these roles fulfilled?  What does this book tell the reader about advocacy and human rights?
11. What is/where is home to Keita?  What does citizenship mean in this context?
12.  If you read Hill's other book, "The Book of Negroes," how does this book compare? Did you prefer one over the other?  Why?
13. What did you think of the author's use of true landmarks/locations to create the fictional setting for his story?  Did this help you to better visualize the setting, or make it more difficult?
14.  Would you recommend this book to someone else?  Who?  Why or why not?

Menu (we don't have to make all of these, depending on how many of us are able to attend, but I wanted to add them all in because I just couldn't decide!)
1. Guacamole with lemon, diced tomatoes with a few hot peppers (pg. 36), Lindsay
[from: "Keita knew Charity's favourite foods, so he made them all for their last family supper: guacamole with lemon, diced tomatoes and a few hot pepper...and for dessert, madeleines with jam and vanilla ice cream."]

 2. Poulet Chez Yoyo (page 244-245): recipe can be found at this link, courtesy of the author himself:
https://www.facebook.com/notes/lawrence-hill/poulet-chez-yoyo/1712432515709218 or below. Tessa
 Lawrence Hill suggests serving Poulet Chez Yoyo over rice, with a salad and cornbread, so:
3. Rice
4. Salad (The author suggests a salad of romaine lettuce, goat cheese, avocado, and sliced baby tomatoes, with a light dressing)Erica
5. Cornbread Karen

6. Fried plantains (pg. 34)
[from: "...the women of the street took care of Yoyou when Keita and Charity were at school.  Hardly a night went by without someone bringing...fried plantains."]
7. Madeleines with jam (pg. 36- above) Emily
8. Vanilla ice cream (pg. 36- above) Danielle

9. Larry's Ginger Kick Tea (Lawrence Hill imagines that his character "Keita Ali" could use a drink like this when "he is running through the pages of "The Illegal.") Sherrie
10. Coffee/espresso (pg. 27) Sherrie
[from: "...Keita could not remember a time when his father was not grinding coffee beans in the morning.  He would talk to his espresso maker, spooning coffee into it and patting it down with the back of a spoon..."]

Larry's Ginger Kick Tea Recipe: (from Lawrence Hill)
Clean and thinly slice a palm-sized chunk of fresh ginger.
Squeeze one lemon and set aside the juice.
Set aside 3 tablespoons of honey.

Add ginger to one litre of water.
Bring to a boil and let simmer for ten minutes, or longer if you like more kick.
Remove ginger, place the boiled ginger water in serving container.
Add lemon and honey.
Stir vigorously.

Poulet Chez Yoyo Recipe: (from Lawrence Hill)
"A few readers have asked me to share the recipe for Poulet Chez Yoyo (Chicken at Yoyo’s Place), described on Page 244 – 245 of The Illegal. I have eaten variations of chicken with peanut sauce in Mali, Cameroon and Niger, and have cooked it in Canada and the USA too. But I don’t work from recipes when I cook. I just innovate as I go. But for you, Dear Readers, I am recreating the recipe from memory."
"Served over rice and with salad and/or cornbread, this dish should satisfy five people and perhaps offer leftovers, too. I have a killer cornbread recipe too. But that will have to wait for another FB post."
Preparatory work:
  • Finely dice the following, then mix together and set aside in a bowl:
  • 1 large Spanish onion (who can resist an onion that speaks Spanish?)
  • 1 red pepper
  • 10 fresh ripe tomatoes. I like Roma tomatoes, but any fresh and ripe tomato will do.
  • 3 cloves garlic
Peel and cut into cubes the following, then set aside in a bowl:
  • 3 large white potatoes
  • 1 sweet potato (this adds soul to the dish)
  • 2 large carrots
  • 3 ripe plantains (You may have to scout out your local stores to find good plantains. If you can’t find them, proceed without them. I’m always blown away by how bitter and thoroughly detestable plantains are before cooking, and how they become sweet like bananas once cooked)
Have ready the following liquids:
½ - 1 cup dry white wine (I like Sancerre, but it seems a waste to use good wine for cooking).
1 – 1.5 litres of chicken stock. You can make your own the day before, by simmering the dickens out of a chicken carcass with a diced onion tossed in for flavour. Or you can save yourself some time and buy it at the store.
Mix together modest quantities of these spices:
(Go easy on the chilli powder / cayenne and on the curry, if they are not to your liking.)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • curry
  • herbes de provence
  • rosemary
  • bay leaves
  • a handful of fresh basil, diced
  • smidgeon of chilli powder or cayenne
Set aside four heaping tablespoons of peanut butter
Is your preparatory work all done? Now you are ready to rock ‘n roll.
Use 10 – 12 chicken thighs, bone-in. My late sister, Karen Hill, taught me to cook chicken with the bones in, for flavour. If you don’t like thighs, use 5 – 6 breasts, cut in half. Brown the chicken thoroughly in hot olive oil (or peanut oil, if you prefer) in a very big deep frying pan or in a big, good quality pot. After browning, remove the chicken from the pot and set aside.
In that same good big pot or deep and spacious frying pan:
Sautee the onions in olive oil (or peanut oil)
Add the red pepper and garlic for a minute once the onions are translucent
Then add: the spices, wine, diced tomatoes.
Stir. Bring to a confident simmer.
Stir in the peanut butter. I prefer peanut butter from fresh ground peanuts, no sugar added, but use what you’ve got. Regardless, this dish is going to win you a whole lotta love and you are on your way now.
Continue to stir for a few minutes, adding more olive oil or peanut oil if necessary, until the peanut butter is well dissolved.
Add the chicken back in.
Add some chicken stock as necessary. Enough so the bottom of the pan is covered in at least an inch or two of liquid. No less than an inch at any time. You don’t want to destroy the Poulet Chez Yoyo by burning it, do you? You’d never forgive yourself.
Cook over low, simmering, steady heat for 20 minutes, stirring often and keeping enough liquid in the pan. This is a high maintenance dish. It needs your attention at the stove. If possible, have somebody else make the salad and the rice and set the table. Isn’t that the reason for having children?
Add the cubed potatoes, carrots, sweet potato and plantains. Add more chicken stock as necessary: you want the texture of a bold, thick, confident soup. Not at all watery, so no lid on that pot or frying pan. Keep stirring and cook another 20 – 25 minutes or until the chicken, potatoes and carrots are all done.
Serve over rice, and with salad.
With this meal, I prefer a salad with romaine lettuce, goat cheese and avocado and sliced baby tomatoes. With a light dressing.
If you like this dish, please go looking for my fictional character Hassane Moustafa “Yoyo” Ali in The Illegal (2015) and in my first two novels, Some Great Thing (1992) and Any Known Blood (1997). Yoyo appears in all three novels, and he is the creator of this dish. If you find him doing his thing, send a smile his way. He’s a travelling man: in Some Great Thing he lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba. In Any Known Blood he lives in Baltimore, Maryland. In The Illegal he inhabits the fictional country of Zantoroland in the Indian Ocean. He is like an old friend, and I thank him for inspiring this recipe.
Bon appétit!


  1. I'll bring Guacamole with lemon

  2. I'll bring the tomatoes and hot peppers and vanilla ice cream

  3. I'll make the chicken chez yoyo! Sounds delish!

  4. I will give the Madeleine a try!
    On a side note I believe the guacamole is meant to be 'with lemon, diced tomatoes, and a few hot peppers', though I've always preferred my guac without tomatoes...

    1. That's the way I read it too!

    2. I went back to read it and yes that makes sense. I normally make guacamole with tomatoes and a hot pepper, not always with lemon though! looks like a good menu!

  5. Sorry ladies I won't be making it this month. Looks like a great menu and was a good read, I'm sure you'll all have a great discussion!


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