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Gifted Hands by Ben Carson

Carson's autobiography is the inspiring story of an inner-city kid with poor grades and little motivation, who, at age thirty-three became director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University Hospital. Dr. Carson serves as a role model for young people in need of encouragement to attempt the seemingly impossible and succeed.

Questions for Discussion

  1. Ben and Curtis Carson were traumatized by the "deathly silence" of their parents’ disputes. Which evokes more fear, silence or heated verbal arguments? What were the roles of the parents in Ben’s development?

  2. Carson felt an absence of role models in his life. How did role models affect him? Where did he get those models?

  3. What are the psychological effects of "capping" or "playing the dozens" within a culture? Is it specific to the African-American culture? How might it affect intercultural relationships?

  4. Some describe Carson as a "goody-two-shoes." Contrast his autobiography with Malcolm X’s, Claude Brown’s Manchild in a Promised Land, and Nathan McCall’s Makes Me Wanna Holler.

  5. The book explores both teamwork and competition. Which one lends itself to a capitalistic economic system? Or do both?

  6. Carson was plagued throughout his school by the pernicious belief on the part of some teachers that "Blacks are not as smart as Whites." Why is that attitude prevalent today? Do African Americans believe this theory?

  7. Carson calls his temper "pathological." How was he able to deal with it? Is "the young angry Black male" just a myth?

  8. How "relevant" should education be? What arguments can be made for a broad-based education? For a specialized education?

  9. Why is there an overemphasis on clothes and possessions in our society? Is it limited to one particular age, soci-economic, or ethnic group?

  10. Carson faced many difficulties in his life. What part did his inner drive, religious beliefs, and/or lessons from his mother play in helping him overcome each problem?

  11. The concept of "mentoring" is discussed in the book. How does Carson define the mentoring process? How important was it to his success?

  12. Carson experienced many miracles in his life. What part of this is inspiration and what part preparation? Do they have any relevance to ordinary experience?

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