Storytelling and Visibility

“I like it when our stories change when we share them with new people. I like that their stories will be different.” (Khor, 239).

Through this page, Khor emphasizes the significance of stories, especially in connection with their Author’s Note where they describe how The Legend of Auntie Po is “a story about who gets to own a myth” (Khor, 285). The utilization of the word “change” reveals the complexities of stories in that they figuratively metamorphize overtime especially because of the audience that they are exposed to, which in turn, impacts the perceived intention behind them. By including Mei as the protagonist of the graphic novel, as a queer Chinese American girl, Khor demonstrates how queer stories, and stories comparable to that of Mei, constantly evolve and through sharing these stories provides a sense of hope that more visibility will be provided to the LGBTQ community. Khor highlights the distinctness associated with the queer experience, by stating that the stories “will be different” and they will take on new forms which coincides with Eve Sedgewick’s explication of the way that queer can be defined and how queerness represents possibility. This sense of possibility can be seen through Mei’s character where, although Auntie Po is a figment of her imagination, Mei has the power and ownership to shape both her fiction and reality. The recognition of Mei’s privilege in being able to own her myth illustrates how Khor is actively promoting the idea that queer people and people of color have voices that deserve to be raised, voices that deserve to be heard, and voices that matter.

On top of highlighting the importance of the queer experience, the imagery featured within this page, including the different individuals gathered around the bonfire, demonstrates how Khor provides visibility to Mei’s Chinese culture and the traditions connected to her culture as well. In this way, Khor is accentuating the intricacies of Mei’s identity as a queer Chinese American girl by bringing to light that her story is distinct from her father’s story as Chinese immigrant. Moreover, the fact that Mei is represented within the group around the bonfire exhibits how her queerness, although not explicitly stated and revealed to the other characters, does not need to isolate her and separate her from experiencing a sense of community.

Mei’s experiences as a queer Chinese American girl can be comparable to that of a character named Aneesa represented in a Netflix series called Never Have I Ever. Although this show had the potential to provide visibility to Indian and Asian communities and the queer experience, it definitely falls very short in terms of promoting this representation in an authentic manner. With that being said, Aneesa, like Mei, needs to grapple with her queer and Asian identity, which at times, seem to conflict with each other which demonstrates the complexities of intersectionality and embracing multiple identities. Even though being queer is one aspect of their identities, they are a lot more than their sexuality and although Aneesa is in high school, both her and Mei are young girls that have a lot more room to grow and in gaining experiences to better understand who they are and what they want in life.

Harper’s Valium Addiction: A form of escapism

In Angels in America, Harper’s addiction to Valium in order to experience her hallucinations is representative of her desire to escape the truth; however, imagination is finite, and no matter how hard she tries, the truth almost always seems to reveal itself.

In the interaction between Harper and Prior within Harper’s hallucination and Prior’s dream within Act 1 Scene 7, Harper comes to the depressing realization that even the construction of her hallucinations has limitations and that they’re “really only the same old ordinariness and falseness rearranged into the appearance of novelty and truth” (Kushner, 33). This underscores the way in which Harper’s hallucinations may appear to be boundless, when in reality, her imagination can only extend so far. Harper describes this as a “depressing hallucination” (Kushner, 33) because that means that even her Valium won’t allow her to run from the truth and the reality that her marriage will never be what she wants it to be, because it was constructed around the repression of Joe’s true identity as a gay man.

It’s ironic that Harper enters the cyclical nature of her hallucinations as a means to escape from the truth, when it’s one of her hallucinations that forces her to confront her reality and the truth that her “husband’s a homo” (Kushner, 33), as unveiled by Prior. Although this truth was characterized within the play as the “[t]hreshold of revelation” (Kushner, 34), in some ways it seems as if Harper was always aware of Joe’s homosexuality, which contributed to her continual usage of popping Valium pills, because that meant that she did not have to confront this reality.

Harper has such a strong desire to escape the truth that Joe is gay, because she confesses that she can “make up anything but I can’t dream that away” (Kushner, 52), where “that” is referring to the love that she has for Joe. In confronting the truth, Harper would have to come to terms with the fact that the love that she has for Joe is not reciprocated, where her hallucinations don’t even have the power to transform or erase the existence of this love that she has for him.

Home and the Queer Community

“In its narrower sense, queer has been home since I became conscious of being a dyke.” (Clare, 31)

In this sentence, Clare constructs queer and the queer identity in relation to his characterization of a home. It’s significant to note that Clare states that “queer has been home.” The usage of “has been” indicates a sense of impermanence associated with the queer identity being home, because while he might currently characterize it as home due to his newfound consciousness of being a “dyke”, this wasn’t always the case and may not continue to be the case. Through the utilization of this language, Clare speaks to the way that being queer and the queer identity is not singular and cannot be defined in one manner, because of its ever-changing nature. The word “home” usually generates feelings of comfort and a sense of belonging, so by associating queer with home, Clare alludes to the fact that he can express and feel more like himself as an identified queer man. However, this idea is contrasted with how Clare, as revealed in other parts of the novel, fails to attain this sense of belonging within the queer community, because of the multiplicity of his identity.

The inclusion of the word “conscious” reflects a state of awareness, and the phrase, “became conscious of being a dyke” highlights the ways in which society attempts to conceal the LGBTQ community through the enforcement of compulsory heterosexuality, which leads to the repression of one’s queer identity. Clare had to discover that he was queer, and by stating that he became “conscious”, suggests that he was unconscious before when it came to understanding what it meant to be queer, which coincides with the themes of queer visibility and invisibility. The fact that he utilizes the word “dyke”, which has a negative connotation and often times used as a form of degradation, shows how Clare is reclaiming the word and demonstrates that being queer is not something he should be ashamed of.

Analysis of Last Call

“kiss. I’ve got more hunger than my body can hold.

Bloated with want, I’m the man who waits”

-Jones (16)

In Last Call Jones highlights his longing and burning desire to be intimate, which serves as a contrast to the dark imagery within the poem; this seems representative of his simultaneous need to conceal himself from the judgmental eyes of society, where the night is the only time he can freely indulge in this intimacy. In this particular stanza, Jones begins by including the word “kiss” followed by a period, where the intentional use of the period provides more emphasis to the word “kiss”, which coincides with Jones’ yearning for physical intimacy. The usage of the word “hunger” soon after can be used to further characterize Jones’ desire. Hunger has this animalistic and raw connotation, and usually is utilized in connection to food, so in this context, the word reinforces Jones’ passion and wish to give in to this temptation. In the next line, “Bloated with want” provides a strong sense of imagery and may allude to the physical representation of Jones’ desire through an erection. Furthermore, Jones’ bloated body demonstrates a physical response and manifestation of his thoughts. The first line and first half of the second line emphasize Jones’ need to succumb to this physical encounter; however, this idea is sharply contrasted with Jones’ description of himself as a “man who waits” where his experienced desire is juxtaposed against the act of waiting. The personification of “moon to drown” in the following stanza in the poem evokes an image of the moon being enveloped by the darkness of the night. This imagery speaks to Jones’ need to hide his acts of intimacy from society which serve as a physical representation of his status as a gay man, which is not something he is unfortunately permitted to freely and openly share with the world.