Yale Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies
Volume 4, Issue 2
spring 2014
Editor, Geetanjali Singh Chanda
Managing Editors, Linda Hase & Craig Canfield
Layout Design, Nick Appleby

Bolstered Transitions

by Nessette Falu, Sarah Pettit Fellow


Transitioning from fieldwork to dissertation writing was indeed the unanticipated. I even ran from my feelings about fieldwork as I watched myself avoid Facebook for months. Looking back, it was a process that awaits and must be dealt with, even engaged. I had returned from Salvador-Bahia excited to shift into my Sarah Pettit Doctoral Fellowship at Yale. Also, I would now be closer to my family and partner in New York City. Only as time moved and life happened would I evolve into truly embracing the fellowship.

Determined to defend in 2014, being part of LGBT Studies and WGSS at Yale became a symbolic bolster providing structural support to help me remain focused and manage the process of learning myself as I transition as a writer. At times, my laptop screen felt like a mirror reflecting my ideas, emotions, insecurities, and ambitions. The more I wrote, read, and wrestled with my fieldwork materials, the more I slowly leaned into owning my potential and joy as an academic. As a visiting graduate student, my professionalization unfolded as I developed an appreciation through observing others, be they faculty or students, in an unfamiliar new setting.

Part of the bolstering was about creating in New Haven the essentials to nurture my sanity such as my cozy apartment in East Rock, hot yoga within walking distance, continuing my jogging in the neighborhood, buying healthy food at Nica’s grocery, coffee shops everywhere, and my trips to Union Station for NYC. Of course, I accessed the resources at Yale such as the graduate writing center tutors, teaching center advisement, and absorbed lectures from visiting scholars such as CherrĂ­e Moraga, Paul Gilroy, and Bruno Latour.

I wrote and life happened. I lost my Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority line sister (sands) to breast cancer in December. We pledged in 1989. She was my cheerleader and courageous light. I took care of her in Brooklyn during her last two weeks. After losing her, Yale’s bolstering became more apparent and necessary. Inderpal Grewal’s ambitious energy kept me inspired; also, the delicious drinks at Craig’s bar with Craig, Katie, and Joe; Linda’s compassionate sharing; coffee moments with Assistant Dean Michelle Nearon, who I’ve known for over 25 years; the Black Feminist Reading Group; and a few undergraduate mentees. Writing the dissertation is about transitioning professionally and personally. Yale, and LGBT Studies in particular, was a steady bolster through it all, three chapters later and moving forward.
Find us on