How to Make a Slave and Other Essays

by Jerald Walker

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Feeding Pigeons Summary and Analysis

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Increasingly, Walker finds that his creative writing students choose to explore issues reflecting the LGBTQ+ community and experience. While some use the course to come out, others reflect on previous painful breakups or offer tribute to current relationships. One student, however, used Walker’s course to compose a “scathing condemnation” of homosexuality. Walker responded by keeping the student after class and failing him for the course. 

Livid, the student’s father contacted Walker, leaving numerous messages. At first, the father asked what Walker’s problem was, and later he scoffed that Walker liked gay people. In actuality, the student had plagiarized the essay, which Walker found on In considering the father’s statement that Walker must have “a thing for them gays,” Walker found himself reflecting upon some particularly meaningful relationships in his past with members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Dr. Jones was a doctor where Walker was a lab assistant nearly three decades earlier. Walker remembered that his twin brother snickered after being introduced to the doctor, referring to him as a “gump.” Walker also remembered Paul, a friend from his childhood, and considers how “the need to not see male homosexuality in [his] community was strong.” Therefore, everyone overlooked Paul’s skintight jeans, his effeminate style of dancing, and the way he twisted locks of his hair. As an adult, Paul is addicted to heroin and alcohol, and Walker surmises that the source of Paul’s addictions lies in his betrayal of his own authenticity.

Later, Walker’s first girlfriend left him for another woman, yet he continued to see her; their relationship following the breakup lacked any romantic involvement, much as it had during their time together. She begged Walker to move with her to a “cool gay neighborhood” when she finished school. Five years later, Walker indeed moved to this exact neighborhood with a different girlfriend. The area was a “gay haven,” and same-sex couples filled the streets hand-in-hand. Rainbow flags flew everywhere, and some condos catered exclusively to gay clientele.

One such condo, owned by Walker’s first creative writing professor, was a meeting place for Walker and a few of his classmates. When Walker mentioned his girlfriend, both his professor and a male classmate noted that this relationship was “very” disappointing. The professor then related a story about two older men who once sat together on a park bench feeding pigeons. When one man confessed his love, the other man began crying; the feeling was mutual, but they had maintained a platonic friendship for sixty years. His professor warned the students to avoid ever sitting on such a metaphorical bench.

Patting Walker’s knee, Walker’s classmate Tony insisted that Walker himself could “be romantic with a man” and that he, Tony, would prove it. Tony thus began pursuing Walker, flirting with him and complimenting him; he even found opportunities to brush his leg against Walker’s when they sat in dark movie theaters. Walker found that Tony exhibited visible jealousy toward other men who approached Walker in gay bars, as if they were indeed in a relationship.

One evening, Walker, Tony, and a friend named Vicky stayed out late drinking, until Walker was long overdue to return to his girlfriend’s apartment. Tony and Vicky begged him to just stay at Vicky’s, but Walker was unwilling; after all, the amount of time he was spending with his friends had already been the subject of several fights. As he turned to leave, Vicky grabbed Walker and kissed him, much as a sister might kiss a baby brother. Tony rose for a goodbye hug, but as he pulled away, Walker pulled him back in, kissing him...

(This entire section contains 792 words.)

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on the mouth.

This kiss came to mind as the angry father of the student who had condemned gay people asked whether Walker “had a thing” for gays. Walker simply responded, “Not all of them,” recalling that he had loved a few in his life.


Though Walker has made it clear in a previous essay that he is not attracted to men, he doesn’t shy away from developing meaningful relationships with members of the LGBTQ+ community. Some, like his former girlfriend, are not interested in Walker romantically; others, like Tony, do express romantic interest. Walker engages with Tony as authentically as possible, understanding that failing to truly see people sometimes creates inner turmoil that is insurmountable; this truth is evidenced by the addictions of his childhood friend Paul. Walker spends time living in a predominately gay neighborhood, socializes in gay bars, and encourages his LGBTQ+ students. As he responds to the angry father, Walker understands that “love” encompasses a wide variety of relationships which are not necessarily bound by the confines of romantic involvement.


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