Thursday, September 24, 2015

Connections Writing Assignment for Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015

Today's lesson is an exercise in drawing connections and articulating them in writing for an online readership. We have discussed the impacts of colonialism in relation to Lois-Ann Yamanaka's novel Heads by Harry, as well as the ways in which gender, sexuality, race, and nationality intersect to forge individual identity. This assignment is open-book and open-notes. You may use any part of any assigned course text, but you may not use other resources for this assignment.

Assignment: In a two-paragraph comment to this post, answer this prompt: How can considering our learning from Yamanaka's novel inform our understanding of Olumide Popoola's story, “Straight to the Matter?” How does the Gibson chapter “Nature, Nurture, and Identity” enhance our understanding of both the novel and the story? What is the value (if any) in considering all three texts together?

Use standard English. Include your name. Your comment may respond to previous comments as long as it otherwise fulfills these assignment criteria. Citation includes in-text citation and a list of Works Cited. See the citation link on this blog for instructions. This assignment counts as one participation grade and is due by midnight on 9/25/15.


  1. Our learnings from Yamanaka's novel helps us with Popoola's story through the use of pidgin, "coming of age" writing, and how colonialism plays into stories. By this, i mean that, there is a relationship in each of how the interactions between characters is.
    Gibson's chapter enhances our understanding by illuminated the fact that sexuality has gone through many different stages throughout history. Also, it shows how distorted the idea of sexuality is and how it has-somewhat-evolved from what it once was. Under this premise, the stories take on a different picture. The importance of considering all three texts together is that, without each one playing off of each other, then there could potentially be spaces where one draws a blank.
    -Kristian (personal opinions)

  2. Yamanaka's novel teaches us about the intersectionality of race and sexuality, which helps us with Popoola's story. Additionally, as Kristian says above, Yamanaka uses Pidgin, which also appears in Popoola's story. Yamanaka also describes how queerness impacts relationships between parents and their children. In Popoola's story, Kara describes how she had tried to come out to her father as carefully as she could, but even then he rejected her (p. 103).

    I think "Nature, Nurture, and Identity" enhances our understanding of LGBT+ issues especially when the author discusses the Storms Sexuality Axis and the criticisms of the Kinsey Scale (and others) that assume that sexuality exists only between a hetero/homo binary (p. 108).

  3. Throughout the reading of Yamanaka's Novel, "Heads by Harry" we gain a more clear understanding of gender identity, sexual identity, and race identity - along with others categories. By having a connection with each character and their differences it really creates a more realistic grasp on each singular identity. What I mean by this is, it’s easy to interpret the differences between each character, for example, Sheldon and Wyatt however, and each character has a deeper layer you have to dig into to really understand them fully.

    In Olumide’s Popoola’s story we get a taste of both gender identity and race identity through the young girl’s story. When the man in the car asked her, “… You are a boy? Or a girl?” my thoughts instantly compared her to Toni in “Heads by Harry” because I started to think of the stereotypical “masculine” characteristics we’ve witnessed through “Antoinette”. However, we didn’t get a detailed analysis of the young girl in this story. Also, when reading the struggle between her family’s un-acceptance of her endeavors it made me reference Billy’s hesitant cultural identity. Furthermore, in Gibson’s chapter “Nature, Nurture, and Identity” he touches on “identity” and “gender nonconformity.” I think the idea of “gender nonconformity” relates directly to Toni in “Heads by Harry” and with a stretch even to the young girl in “Straight to the Matter.”

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  5. Breanna Stewart
    Using our understanding from Yamanaka’s novel is beneficial studying the societal conflicts that many LGBTQ+ individuals face. Even though Yamanaka novel and Popoola story are derived from two different cultures, LGBTQ+ characters encounter similar experiences of disdain from their communities. As Popoola’s writes, “Which decision I had made and that I had taken it without consulting with him on the matter. The matter. As if one could palpate it, as if there was such a thing; break it apart even, find within it free-flowing and binding elements which one could designate certain importance to. Onto one more than others. A matter of decision.”(Popoola pg.101) Both Popoola and Yamanaka’s literature illustrates how society tries to put gender and sexuality into restrictive boxes of heteronomous hyper femininity and masculinity. However, both literary pieces display the reality of human sexuality and gender that is naturally more fluid.

    I personally appreciate how the “Nature, Nurture, and Identity” section displays sexuality and gender as more of a continuum, then saying that gender and sexuality are fixed for life. I appreciated this section of Gibson’s writing because it questioned if gender identification and sexuality orientation is completely are on a strictly person-to-person basis. On the other hand, Gibson asks if is some aspect of gender identification and sexual orientation influenced by our culture and genetics. However, I found parts of the text dated, that many times mentioned many antiquated themes in scientific and sociological thinking. However, I think Gibson can be valued as an appropriate foundation when learning and studying LGBTQ+ studies and literature.

    Work Cited
    1. Gibson, M. (2014). Chapter 5: Nature, Nuture, and Identity. In Finding Out: An Introduction to LGBT Studies (First ed., pp. 102-119). Los Angeles: SAGE Publications.
    2. Yamanaka, L. (1999). Heads by Harry. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux.
    3. Popoola, O. (2013). Straight to the matter- fiction. In Queer African reader (First ed., pp. 95-106). Nairobi: Pambazuuka Press, an imprint of Fahama, Dakar, Nairobi and Oxford.

  6. Ashley Harris
    The intersection of identities is prominent in Lois Yamanaka’s “Heads by Harry” and Olumide Popoola’s “Straight to the Matter?”. Each story conveys how gender, sex, sexuality, and race intersect within colonized lands. These stories also portray how those inside and outside of the LGBT+ community perceive people who are not heterosexual. Both Popoola and Yamanaka’s stories reveal that sexuality is largely believed that one must be heterosexual or homosexual, and those who are homosexual are considered “not normal.” These works display that sexuality is commonly perceived within binaries and that there is nothing in-between and that certain identities cannot overlap. Gibson’s chapter “Nature, Nurture, and Identity” explains how sexuality was [and commonly still is] believed to fit evenly on the Kinsey Scale.
    In Popoola’s “Straight to the Matter,” the protagonist Kara converses with her father over the phone and he asks, “What about your lesbianism?” (Abbas 104). Again this enhances our understanding that there is much ignorance when it comes to people within the LGBT+ community. The value of Popoola and Yamanaka’s texts provide insight on the intersecting identities for People of Colour which is necessary to show that non-heterosexuality is not something white European based and that the stories of non-white LGBT+ people are significant in our understanding of sexuality.

    Works Cited
    Abbas, Hakima. "Straight to the Matter - Fiction." Queer African Reader. 104. Print.
    Meem, Deborah T., and Michelle Gibson. "Nature, Nurture, and Identity." Finding Out: An Introduction to LGBT Studies. Second ed. Print.
    Yamanaka, Lois. Heads by Harry. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1999. Print.

  7. Through Yamanaka’s novel we are able to compare to “Straight to the Matter?” because in Olumide Popoola’s story we are introduced to similarities in colonialism and also the acceptance of sexuality. Through out “Heads by Harry” we saw the use of pidgin which led to a better understanding of what exactly pidgin was and also how it represented colonialism in Hawaii and due to this it was easier to apply this knowledge of pidgin and colonialism while reading Popoola’s story. When it comes to gender identity we are able to see that the character of “Toni” did not fit the norm of today’s society and while reading “Nature, Nurture, and Identity” it reassured us of the fact that gender identity is looked at on more of a spectrum or continuum that allows for change and that we are not stuck to our gender identity for the entire period of our lives but that in fact views and stances can change.

  8. I believe that our learning’s from Yamanaka’s novel informs us and helps us better understand Popoola’s story through immigration/colonization and the relationship between a parent and a homosexual child. In “Heads by Harry” we see how immigrant parents are not one hundred percent accepting of their son Sheldon being openly gay because it is not something that is common in their culture. We see in “Heads by Harry” that parents of a different cultured background other than “American” do not always accept the new “fast world” and advanced societal standards that Americans have, especially the male figure of the family (Yamanaka). This gives us a glimpse into how Popoola characterizes Kara’s father. Kara’s family is from Africa and her father does not accept her being openly gay, just like Harry O. did not accept Sheldon being gay. Kara’s father even goes to the extent of kicking her out of the family and disowning her because in their culture it is not acceptable to be openly gay and it seems that it brings "dishonor" to the family (Popoola 103-104). Yamanaka gives us a glimpse into how different heritages and cultures view homosexuality, which can be seen in both “Heads by Harry” and “Straight to the Matter.”

    Yamanaka also gives us insight into the relationships between parents and children that are openly gay. Harry O., Sheldon’s father, does not accept the fact that his son is gay and he often tries to make his son be someone else or do things he is not interested in—like going pig hunting all the time (Yamanaka). Parents are often not accepting and do not want to believe that their child is “different” then what they wanted he or she to be. We can also see the lack of acceptance in Popoola’s short story. Kara’s father does not accept her being openly gay, and threatened to kick her out of the family. Kara finds out about this and decides to come back home because she already booked her flight—but when Kara informs her father of when she’s coming home, he does not come to pick her up. Kara’s father’s non-acceptance of his daughter and her sexuality goes to the point of leaving her stranded, by herself, without any form of transportation. Also, her father's lack of understanding of who she is is apparent when he asks her "what about your lesbianism" (Popoola 95-106). To me, he acts like it's a disease or problem. Also, we see how parents can drive a child away from home by not accepting them for who they truly are. Kara’s father does not accept her being a lesbian, so she moves to live in London—where it is more acceptable and she can feel free to be who she is (Popoola 102). Sheldon left home to go to UH and get away from his father’s strict standards he knew he could never reach. At UH, he is allowed to be who is truly is and never wants to come back home (Yamanaka). Yamanaka shows us the dynamics of parents with homosexual children and their relationships and how culture affects the acceptance of homosexuality within families.

  9. In the reading, “Nature, Nurture, and Identity” we can relate the themes discussed above because it tells us that over time, homosexuality has become more accepted. The older generations [parents] are not accepting of their children, but their the younger generation [their children], are more accepting and open about their sexuality because it is not as frowned upon among their generation. Also, the textbook talked about how sexuality isn’t necessarily a “choice”—you are born a certain way and are attracted to different people—regardless of gender. This is shown in “Heads by Harry” and “Straight to the Matter” through the characters Sheldon, Kara, and their unaccepting parents (Gibson 102-117). Kara and Sheldon cannot help who they love, regardless of their gender, because that is who they are and who they are supposed to be. Their parent’s cultures and backgrounds do not always agree with the progressive young views of the new upcoming generation, but with time, I believe LGBT issues will become more accepted.

    Yamanaka, Lois-Ann. Heads by Harry. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1999. Print.

    Popoola, Olumide. "Straight to the Matter-fiction." Ed. Hakima Abbas and Sokari Ekine. Queer African Reader. Fahamu Dakar: Pambazuka, 2013. 95-106. Print.

    Gibson, Michelle, Jonathan Alexander, and Deborah T. Meem. "Nature, Nurture, and Identity." Finding Out: An Introduction to LGBT Studies. Los Angeles: Sage, 2014. 102-117. Print.