Gender studies class
For the first semester, I could choose two classes other than the mandatory English class for international students. I took the Chinese class for one because I hadn’t given up becoming trilingual. The other class I took was Gender Studies. I felt a little guilty for not taking a business-related class, but I didn’t want to torture myself with business studies while already having a hard time getting accustomed to the new environment. I would have to return to business studies at Waseda, so why not try a new thing while in America?
There were about 30 students in the class. The lecturer was an African American professor. She had a grounded presence and listened to and respected each student’s input. The first book we read was Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. Pecola’s desire to be loved was shown in her longing for blue eyes. I felt her excruciating pain as her mother had more fulfillment in bringing up white children and the incestuous rape broke the thin layer in her soul that had kept her in the real world. On the other hand, Claudia and Frida destroyed a white girl doll, but I took it as their self-respect.
We had to write an essay about the novel. I can’t recall what I wrote or what grade I received, but I do remember having a chance to sit with the professor. She told me how unique my perspectives were. For a moment, I was embarrassed that that was the politest way to describe what utter rubbish my essay was. But she looked so sincere when she spoke, and I was again embarrassed to receive positive feedback I wasn’t used to receiving. At Waseda, I almost never talked to professors. They came into the classroom, spoke for 1 hour, and left. They had offices, but I never visited them. I wasn’t trained to discuss things or even to form opinions. I was trained to memorize stuff and trust what they told us were the only truths never to be questioned.
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