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America for Beginners


A poignant debut that explores unlikely friendships forged in unusual ...
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Why can't Bhim just be out and proud in this new gay-friendly country? How do Jake and Bhim navigate Bhim's deep sense of shame?

Created: 07/26/19

Replies: 14

Posted Jul. 26, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
davinamw

Join Date: 10/15/10

Posts: 3442

Why can't Bhim just be out and proud in this new gay-friendly country? How do Jake and Bhim navigate Bhim's deep sense of shame?

Bhim calls himself "the ice queen" because he is so painfully unaffectionate with Jake in public. Jake "thought that Bhim was determined to live in a way his parents would approve of, despite the fact that they would never know it." Why can't Bhim just be out and proud in this new gay-friendly country? How do Jake and Bhim navigate Bhim's deep sense of shame and keep it from destroying their love?


Posted Jul. 29, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
dianeh

Join Date: 08/01/16

Posts: 70

RE: Why can't Bhim just be out and proud in this new gay-friendly country? How do Jake and Bhim navigate Bhim's deep sense of shame?

Bhim was raised in a society that did not accept homosexuality even though it was always present. He was expected to follow tradition--marry and have a family. There did not appear to be talk of sexuality in his home and Bhim lived with a father who was very domineering and unaccepting of behavior he felt inappropriate or shameful.
In America where he could show affection without fear of reprisal, his upbringing prevented him from doing so. He was led to believe that his life choice was shameful.
Jake was very patient with Bhim and it was apparent that they deeply loved each other. Both of them made compromises in an effort to maintain their relationship


Posted Jul. 29, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
JLPen77

Join Date: 02/05/16

Posts: 381

RE: Why can't Bhim just be out and proud in this new gay-friendly country? How do Jake and Bhim navigate Bhim's deep sense of shame?

I agree, dianeh. Bhim couldn’t just shed all of his upbringing at touchdown on American soil! We internalize much of our parents’ values and those of the culture we grew up in, even if we come to reject some of them. In time, Bhim would have felt freer, no doubt, to some degree, but he didn’t have that time.

At least he had an intelligent, loving and patient partner who was willing to start with small steps and communicate his own feelings while respecting Bhim’s—ironically, their relationship was the exact opposite of Pival’s marriage. No doubt the author’s intention!


Posted Jul. 29, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
rebajane

Join Date: 04/21/11

Posts: 338

RE: Why can't Bhim just be out and proud in this new gay-friendly country? How do Jake and Bhim navigate Bhim's deep sense of shame?

It’s also not as if there is complete acceptance in America. More so than in other countries, certainly. But there still exists a stigma for gay people


Posted Jul. 29, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
josephinej

Join Date: 05/11/15

Posts: 100

RE: Why can't Bhim just be out and proud in this new gay-friendly country? How do Jake and Bhim navigate Bhim's deep sense of shame?

I agree with dianeh. He had so internalized the shame and guilt of his culture (particularly his father) of being gay that he couldn't see outside that.


Posted Jul. 30, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
ritah

Join Date: 05/26/11

Posts: 91

RE: Why can't Bhim just be out and proud in this new gay-friendly country? How do Jake and Bhim navigate Bhim's deep sense of shame?

First of all, I don't think the U.S. is particularly "gay-friendly." There are places like Los Angeles and Berkely in which there may be more acceptance but there are plenty of places and people who look askance at it and even consider it immoral. Bhim had no background for acceptance of being gay and his father's reaction did not help. Bhim was not an activist by nature. He had grown up in a very closed society with very definite expectations for sons. This is an evolving issue everywhere.


Posted Jul. 31, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
carolt

Join Date: 03/25/17

Posts: 190

RE: Why can't Bhim just be out and proud in this new gay-friendly country? How do Jake and Bhim navigate Bhim's deep sense of shame?

I agree with ritah. His background alone was enough to keep him tightly wound.


Posted Aug. 03, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
reene

Join Date: 02/18/15

Posts: 499

RE: Why can't Bhim just be out and proud in this new gay-friendly country? How do Jake and Bhim navigate Bhim's deep sense of shame?

I think it would have been impossible for Bhim to just forget every thing that had been ingrained into him. He was so full of guilt for trying to live the life he wanted. He knew he would never be accepted by his father, or even his homeland. Jake was wonderful with him. He truly loved Bhim and made him feel loved. He moved slowly and accepted Bhim for who he was.


Posted Aug. 05, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
dianes

Join Date: 05/16/11

Posts: 68

RE: Why can't Bhim just be out and proud in this new gay-friendly country? How do Jake and Bhim navigate Bhim's deep sense of shame?

It is hard to throw away the expectations of the culture we are raised in, and knowing your parents have disowned you just magnifies the pain. Made him ashamed and that is a hard feeling it overcome.


Posted Aug. 05, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
acstrine

Join Date: 02/06/17

Posts: 466

RE: Why can't Bhim just be out and proud in this new gay-friendly country? How do Jake and Bhim navigate Bhim's deep sense of shame?

Not only was Bhim raised in asociety where gay people and gay relationships are not accepted, he also had the pressure of high expectations set by his parents-and a cultural norm that pleasing THEM was more important than being true to himself. Long before Bhim even knew what being gay meant, he was ridiculed by his father for behaving in a way that seemed unmanly (dancing at the festival). The message Bhim received from a very early age was that there was something wrong with him. Instead of being set free from these attitudes when his father disowned him, the action only reinforced to Bhim that there was something wrong with him. I think he was not only ashamed because of the messages he received in India, but also full of guilt for not being the son his parents wanted him to be.

Jake was patient, open, and honest. He loved Bhim completely. When a person has been rejected by those who should love him the most, I think it may be difficult to feel worthy of love from another person. I'm sure the power of Jake's emotions felt a little intimidating to Bhim, as he was not used to being the recipient of or expressing such passion.

Rita makes a very valid point. What if the setting of the story had not been the west coast, but in an area where society's views were more in line with those of Bhim's parents?


Posted Aug. 05, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Sooz

Join Date: 07/29/14

Posts: 67

RE: Why can't Bhim just be out and proud in this new gay-friendly country? How do Jake and Bhim navigate Bhim's deep sense of shame?

I agree with so many of the comments above that it's hard for me to come up with any additional comments. Bhim felt so guilty and ashamed of being gay due to his father's rejection of him (along with the Indian culture) that I wasn't surprised that he took so long to be able to accept Jake's love for him. Fortunately Jake tried valiantly to be patient with Bhim and his patience was rewarded.


Posted Aug. 05, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
beckyh

Join Date: 05/08/11

Posts: 113

RE: Why can't Bhim just be out and proud in this new gay-friendly country? How do Jake and Bhim navigate Bhim's deep sense of shame?

I think Rahi's use of of the name Bhim rather than Rahi shows how deeply he feels that his behavior is wrong. It doesn't matter to him that America is welcoming and accepting. It is he himself that cannot change what has been ingrained in him all his life. That is the saddest thing about such vitriolic discrimination and its repercussions.


Posted Aug. 07, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
davinamw

Join Date: 10/15/10

Posts: 3442

RE: Why can't Bhim just be out and proud in this new gay-friendly country? How do Jake and Bhim navigate Bhim's deep sense of shame?

I agree that it would have been very difficult for Rahi/Bhim to accept himself, but if I recollect correctly, wasn't Bhim the nickname his mother gave him? If so, I thought it was rather touching that he would introduce himself to his new friends and acquaintances in America using the name the person he most loved had given him. Or did I miss something in my reading?


Posted Aug. 07, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
acstrine

Join Date: 02/06/17

Posts: 466

RE: Why can't Bhim just be out and proud in this new gay-friendly country? How do Jake and Bhim navigate Bhim's deep sense of shame?

You are correct, Davina. The name belonged to a character in one of the favorite stories Bhim and his mom read together. Jake even named his cat after the princess in the story after Pival told it to him. I thought calling himself Bhim must have been a way to feel closer to his mother. Maybe it even showed that he didn't blame her for not contacting him or hold her responsible for his banishment from the family?


Posted Aug. 08, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
pennyp

Join Date: 03/22/12

Posts: 353

RE: Why can't Bhim just be out and proud in this new gay-friendly country? How do Jake and Bhim navigate Bhim's deep sense of shame?

I agree with all other responses. We are products of our culture. In his society, being gay was really not acceptable. Over the years his father was very critical of what he saw developing in his son. I agree with the others that while America in some areas, is more accepting of homosexuality, in many areas is isn’t. He was lucky to have found Jake.


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