Every semester, I ask my students to go out into the world to hear a writer, a writer who is working on a or the type of writing that we've been reading and writing about all semester. In my freshman composition classes, they had the option to find a playwright, poet, fiction writer, or screenplay writer.
As with almost all semesters, most everyone waited until the last minute. If you were out there reading in the Bay Area in the last week, you undoubtedly met some of my students. They were the ones with the notebooks, and they likely asked you if they could take your photo (they need proof of the event, and somehow don't know I meant simply a flier or a bookmark).
In my class composed of mainly Korean and Japanese students, this assignment caused much consternation. I spent a great deal of time trying to explain the difference between fiction and nonfiction --and in recent years, this has been a hard thing to define. But once they figured it all out, there they went into the universe.
On the day I collected the essays, I asked my students if anyone had a story to tell about his or her adventure. Now one of the things I've learned about teaching ESL students is that it is hard to know if they are funny. They are struggling behind the language acquisition problem, but after a few months with these folks, I've figured out who has the ability to make fun, tease, joke, and go with the flow of conversation. So I looked around, and one of my students--a funny, tongue in cheek Korean man--raised his hand.
Turns out, he put off the assignment because he always thought people who wrote or talked about books were arrogant. But this was for school, and the night before the due date, he drove wherever he could find a reading. This reading was at A Different Lights bookstore, and the book was Band Fags by Frank Anthony Polito.
As he sat there waiting for the event to begin, he realized that all the audience was made up of men--good looking men. Apparently, a couple of the men asked him where his boyfriend was, and he didn't know what to say.
"I didn't want to tell them I wasn't gay because it would offend them," he said.
The class roared at this, and I laughed along too. But he kept going on, telling us about how much the event moved him. He said he finally understood that this story--about two gay best friends 100 years ago. Well my student thought it was 100 years ago, but actually it is set in 1982--was not just about gay people but everyone.
When my student asked Polito why he wrote about gay people, Polito said, "I wanted to tell everyone out there that we're not different, that we should not be categorized into a certain type of human being because we're just ordinary people."
As the event ended, a few members of the audience asked my student to go out for a beer, and he did.
"Did you have fun?" I asked.
"It was great," he said.
The class roared again.
And then he said that he had the great chance to look at the world from a "difference" point of view.
The class couldn't get enough of this story, and I had the opportunity to talk a little about this corner of the world, this lovely part of California, where we still have to fight for rights but where who you sleep with isn't quite the focus that it might be in, say, Topeka, Kansas. Korea apparently has a much different view of the world in terms of sex and family, more than I have ever imagined. When we were reading Juno, the screenplay by Diablo Cody, one of my students asked if it was legal for a single woman to adopt a baby. Another asked if it was legal to get an abortion. They could not believe that Juno's parents didn't absolutely kill her when they found out she was pregnant. Kill her and then take her to get an abortion.
So with the book Band Fags in our minds, we talked about what "right" sex was, what the laws were, and I was able to ladle out my four rules for sexual interaction.
I thought I would end with sharing them with you today. For sexual relations to be deemed "okay" by me, here are the criteria they must fit into:
- Participants are of the same species.
- Participants are both alive.
- Participants are of age.
- The sex is consensual.
My students seemed to take this in, nodding, and then we went ahead and read poetry for an hour.
Causes Jessica Inclán Supports
Women for Women International Goodwill Industries Lindsey Wildlife Museum Freecycle.org