HIST 525: The Sine Curve Gets Really Low

After Jill Talbot

Professor Dulani (you can call me Professor Dulani)

Contact: Make me cupcakes and write me your message in frosting. (I may forget what it said after eating it.)

Office: Observation Tower of the Sehome Hill Arboretum

Office Hours: Make an appointment and bring cupcakes.

Course Description: Somewhere between an elegy and an ode, this course is my palm lines.

Texts: “We cannot create what we can’t imagine.” – Lucille Clifton



“The ‘night see journey’ is the journey into the parts of ourselves that are split off, disavowed, unknown, unwanted, cast out, and exiled to the various subterranean worlds of consciousness. … Such a homecoming can be surprisingly painful, even brutal. In order to undertake it, we must first agree to exile nothing.” – Stephen Cope

“Our bodies are the texts that carry the memories and therefore remembering is no less than reincarnation.” – Katie Cannon

September 4th

American History X
I am 17. We returned to the States from India a couple years ago. I sit holding my knees on the carpet in front of the t.v.

There is a live police chase for Richard Baumhammers. He was on a killing spree. So far he had killed Anita “Nicki” Gordon, 63, Ji-Ye “Jerry” Sun, 34, Theo “Tony” Pham, 27, and Garry Lee, 22. Now he was at the Indian grocery store where he killed Anil Thakur, 31.

About 30 minutes from the Indian grocery store my parents go to.

September 11th Vijay Prashad, “The Karma of Brown Folk”
When I was 18 years old, I attended a national weeklong political education and community building initiative for young South Asian activists. In one photo, I am stand-cuddling with Yalini, one of the very first South Asian artists I ever met who was political and queer. In the photo, my short hair is vertically tall. I am holding a sign I made that says “Speak Even If Your Voice Shakes.” Future sailing out of my jittery bloodstream.

September 18th

Suheir Hammad, “First Writing Since”
I wrote poems before and after 9-11. are you listening?/ can you hear me? For one piece in particular, I recorded two friends to help me perform. They read from a report that documented 645 incidents of backlash that happened in the first week after 9-11. Voice 1: In today’s news/ Voice 2: A Pakistani woman was pulled out of her car and stabbed twice in the head./ Voice 1: A 69 year old Sikh man was found dead in a canal, with his glasses and turban missing. It being a hate crime was not confirmed b/c police said there didn’t seem to be any foul play./ Voice 2: In Salem, Oregon a hate sign, “Towel Heads Go-Home!” was left outside a convenience store owned by an American citizen from India.

I took this CD of them with me to performances around the country.

The collective haunting needed more than one voice to carry it.

September 25th Audre Lorde, “The Cancer Journals”
Rachel Beverly was the Director of the Multicultural Resource Center (MRC) at Oberlin College. The MRC was a political home that sustained students of color and LGBTQ students.

Rachel was my boss, my mentor, my friend. I gave her peanut m&m’s and pepsi on her long days. We watched E.R. on Thursday nights. Once, I told her that the money I got from the school to help pay for books should go to someone who really needs it. She said, “That person is you.” Once, I told her I wanted to drop out. She looked at me with “shut your mouth” eyes. Once, we went to see John Q in the theater. Denzel was her fave.

She died three years after I met her. She didn’t see me graduate. Her birthday (9.25) is two days before mine.

October 2nd bell hooks, “Bone Black”
Do you remember the first time you finished a book in college?

The counseling center therapist said my struggle was a mix of ADD and depression. An inconvenient cocktail.

I read Bone Black cover to cover. “A memoir of ideas and perceptions.” To swim through a turbulent girlhood and not drown. To let fragments be whole. To finish a book.

Maybe I was ok.

October 9th Leslie Feinberg, “Stone Butch Blues”
My first semester, I fell in love with the butchest of them all – Alex. He was a weed smoking butch who came out as trans, got arrested at a School of the Americas protest in Canada, stood up for a sexual assault survivor in our dorm and didn’t waver under the gutting backlash. He had the language and the guts for everything that mattered.

Alex read “Stone Butch Blues” instead of studying for his Jewish history exam. Resilience masquerading as a novel, no lies about the abuse, the rape that targets the kind of queers we are; generational pain, part mirror, part hammer. We brought Leslie to campus. I was too broke to afford the book but s/he signed my poster.

Stone Butch Blues gave me texture and history, heartache and self-understanding. Like Alex.

When Alex ghosted me, I listened to “Done Wrong” by Ani Difranco.

On repeat.

My roommate asked me to stop.

October 9th Fried Green Tomatoes
My father has this shrill cackle that is as flashy as a pink and white fuzzy bunny onesie. It erupted in the parking lot scene when Kathy Bates takes cackle-filled revenge on two smug young women who took her parking spot. They taunted “Face it lady – we’re younger and faster” and Bates’ retort after pummeling their shiny red car: “Face it girls, I’m older and I have more insurance.” Cackle Cackle.

The on-screen sizzle between Mary Louise Parker and Mary Stuart Masterson was lesbian sustenance for my nine-year-old closeted self.

Their intimacy a revelation for my tart inner world.

Idgie’s butchness, a blanket laid on my sleeping body.

October 16th (A textbook likely called “A History of India”)
In college, I dropped a class that was about the history of India, after the first day. I was deeply jealous of the white professor who visited South Asia frequently. His money. His voyeuristic ease.

A white student said she felt the textbook we were going to use about the history of India (written in prison by freedom fighter and first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru) would be biased.

I couldn’t afford to go back.

October 23rd Class Canceled.

October 30th

William Shakespeare, “The Merchant of Venice”
Me adjusting to rote learning in India:



On repeat.

When my brother saw the 10th grade exam questions I had been given about Shakespeare, he scoffed. An American laugh.

Coming back to school in the States felt like a monkey-bar slip.

November 6th Audre Lorde, “Uses of the Erotic”
When your mother asks you about the condom on your college dorm room floor that your father did not ask you about, you realize why the car ride home with Dad was silent.

When your mother persists and boldly asks, “Are you having sex with boys?” you stumble and say, “Mom, I told you I like girls.”

“Are you having sex with girls?”

November 13th Chrystos, “In Her I Am”
See butch-femme lesbian erotic poetry for the first time. Your hands moonlight on water enter me/ blazing my mouth swollen/ tongue thick between your thighs (Concentration success.)

Devour all work by Chrystos. Repeat.

November 20th June Jordan, “Poem About My Rights”
“I am not wrong: Wrong is not my name
My name is my own my own my own” 

Class Discussion: How long does it take you to believe?

November 27th “Who Killed Vincent Chin?” (documentary screening)
Write about what it feels like to learn about your history. Do the waves knock you down? Do you fight to access a full picture of who we are?
December 4th
Meditate here: “To whom do I owe the symbols of my survival?” – Audre Lorde.
Peel back. Interrogate.
Find. Protect. Listen.
Bring me poetry. Cupcakes.


Q-tips; under-the-tongue thermometers; ear thermometers; once, a meat thermometer; a Neti pot, swiftly rejected; toothpicks; anal beads; lollipops from the doctor’s office; lollipops from the bank drive-thru; upwards of 57,000 pounds of food; 43.5 gallons of alcohol; needles; the lip of a pipe...

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