Too much yet not enough – on mothers and daughters

Vision – a multi-ethnic US lit class inspired the idea to teach mothers and daughters because of A Woman Warrior and In the time of the Butterflies in 2012. Dr. Thabiti Lewis unintentionally sparked the great idea because he believed in my work, even though lit is not my theoretical home. Sexuality and how it’s scripted makes me swoon and write, which is what sparked the mothers and daughters concept.

And then, years later, with the greater visibility of gender fluidity and gender nonconformity and transgender marginalization, there was more material I needed to include. SHIT!

I characterize what I learn from these experiences as failures and hiccups. When I use the word failure, I am embracing that the stumble is a reason to get back up and do better. The ‘hiccups’ posted below stem from what I learned from the awareness of potential under the general focus of the course. New to a university whose Gender and Ethnic Studies Programs are in a place of growth, ‘hiccup’ reads like the best way to define the way institutional realities inform what I knew I could not do yet. They may relate to though not be complicit in the ‘failures’ that have emerged throughout teaching.

This is not only my first semester of full time teaching at a four-year institution. It is also my first semester of teaching as a primary profession in FOUR years. So I embrace the concept of failure as well as hiccup as a critical acknowledgement of affirming my potential while simultaneously resisting the fear of internalizing a growth area as a limitation.

Failure 1

New to teaching this semester, with four courses, I did not have time to resist cisnormativity in the construction of the course. I knew of blogs and shows, however, I did not want to tokenize for the sake of representation. I realize, in evening teaching about ciswomen reflecting on mothering cischildren, that ‘mothers and daughters’ would NOT be enough to cover queer parents with queer children or anything along the spectrum. A third of the way through the semester, I realized not only would this need to be its own class, so too would the other major topics discussed.

Hiccup 1

I call this a hiccup instead of a failure. Despite being a Latina Studies scholar, I decided to assign to Asian-American texts. A Woman Warrior and Invisible Asians on transracial adoption. I joked to my Asian-American Studies department colleague that I could teach the whole class using Asian-American writers, especially after he recommended another (Filipina) memoir. He joked that I should. At Mundo Zurdo in TX, I learned of Chicana mothering work articles and books that would be released this April. I primarily framed the course around ‘ethnic’ racial differences, with Invisible Asians being the only non-memoir.

Failure 2

In teaching Park Nelson’s text, I realized I could not give it the credit needed because of how much scaffolding is needed about method. I know it, however, going from Rich’s critical yet dated text to a Korean-American adoptee’s qualitative study about the particularity of her community needed to be ‘set up’ with an anti-racist and anti-colonial text on method to explain why 1) Park Nelson did not talk about her family 2) why that absence was significant. For some of my students, this was their first exposure to the lived reality. Their engagement with the text, unlike more affluent communities, is not based on willful ignorance rather affinity to the struggles of mixed-race families bio-determined or not. Teaching Park Nelson at an MSI in a transient city not used to ethnic diversity that isn’t going anywhere, raised unexpected set of concerns. I will probably use a chapter of her book in feminist methods, framed in the conversation Park Nelson and I had about my experience teaching it.

Hiccup 2

In my second semester, I had learned of the midterm slump. I decided to assign two shows: Jane the Virgin against One Day at a Time. When I first proposed the class, I was working on an abstract on presenting on the teaching experience. I did not begin an IRB for it because, second semester, 4 courses, and Oscar Lopez Rivera research. The two weeks produced more than I could have possibly imagined. We challenged Variety’s discussion of the show and my students gave incredible insight that extended my analysis of the shows’ complex relationship with each other. Not just because Justina Machado is in both of them or because 2 Chicago Latinas (Rican and Mexi-Rican) are starring as characters outside their ethnicity. Politically, I would inherently struggle writing from their claims because their ideas were just…BRILLIANT.

I ended the discussion of these shows with the commitment that I would dedicate an entire class to both of them. One of my students said, what about The Fosters? She also said she would take the future versions of this class.

Lessons

  1. The next time I teach a version of this class, I will propose either a Latina Studies, a queer studies or methodology focused proposal. While a few themes -cis mothers and cis daughters, queer parenting &/or children, transracial/transnational adoption, inter v. intra racial adoption- emerged,  I will need to focus on one. I can propose to do multiple over the course of a year, however, I will do so with the intent of depth over breadth
  2. This course served more as a survey or intro to ‘themes in examining the relationship between mothers and daughters.’ The oral history assignment is my most favorite assignment thus far. I will submit an IRB when I assign it again so that, if students decide they want to publish it, they can. Their questions were moving, inspiring, reminding me that one of my favorite aspects of being an educator is what I learn form others’ growth.
  3. The TV shows I discussed need to be framed in media and family studies. I will talk to the chair about whether or not the course exists on the books. I will then reach out to other departments about cross listing, considering that both shows do so many tropes, the good AND the bad, in ways that warrant greater discussion.
  4. Keep experimenting. I taught one lesson on Hamilton – the mixtape in two courses. I did so because I knew I was going to teach a Hamilton course for my study skills class and because I wanted to teach a class on Lin Manuel Miranda’s work. I’ve learned a lot about how students initially reacted to it and I am looking forward to what I build from it next semester/year.

 

Sharing what we love with students becomes so contagious. I am grateful for the community I have built in my first year. Here’s to making year two stronger and that much more fun!

 

 

I taught the walkers against each other this month, which opened the mic drop conversation – two figures who critiqued each other on page to uplift others but never heal, what does that mean? Framed R. Walker critique with ‘Mothers Gardens,’ and positioned that meditation as interrogating how focusing on recovering the past affects empowering the present. Following up with A

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