Award Date

5-1-2014

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in English

Department

English

First Committee Member

Richard Wiley

Second Committee Member

Douglas Unger

Third Committee Member

Maile Chapman

Fourth Committee Member

Miriam Melton-Villanueva

Number of Pages

107

Abstract

My thesis is a collection of short stories titledBefore You Knew Me. The collection centers on people whose lives have been affected by addiction or loneliness. Families attempt to get through adversities and piece together the fragments of a life they once had. Happiness for both the adults and the children depends on their ability to resist the cycle of dysfunction and the pressures of their peers.

The collection begins with a Gothic story about an abduction. My story "Goldfish" was inspired by Joyce Carol Oates's "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been," where a young girl meets a serial killer and is taken from her home. I love the intensity of that story and I tried, also, to infuse that kind of dread within my own version. Joyce Carol Oates says inThe Faith of a Writer, "Your `forbidden' passions are likely to be the fuel for your writing." Despite my concerns in writing such an illicit story, I felt compelled to push past my comfort level in order to create the most "natural" fearful environment.

Sex is a theme throughout many of the stories. Teenage girls try to get a sense of their own sexuality in the face of the examples set by their parents or other outside influences. In "You Don't Like the Way it Sounds" a girl befriends a boy from her track team who seeks consolation after the recent loss of his mother. Despite her own curiosities about sex, she resists what she perceives as the animalistic contortions of sexual intimacy. She feels the boy is ruined by the lack of a mother and the negative influences of his father.

A teenager tries to find stability outside of her home in "So Far From Where They Were" but encounters the unwonted lives of a white family she mistakenly assumes will be better than her own. The girls are affected by the "love" letters that expose their parent's sexual secrets. The runaway girl realizes she must go back home and confront family conflict with the fortitude she had all along.

"Before You Knew Me" is a story titled after the collection. It is about a father, addicted to heroin, who rebuilds a relationship with his daughter during a year-long incarceration. Through their letters, she finds strength to deal with problems at home. Years later, she travels by bus to a prison in Juarez, Mexico, where she finds herself in a compromising situation.

In "Cigarettes" a recently divorced woman tries to nurture a relationship with her cousin who struggles with alcoholism and lives in the same apartment complex. In an attempt to stabilize her cousins living situation, she inadvertently becomes her enabler. The narrator and her aunt form a bond. Her aunt is the key to understanding and breaking away from the effects of co-dependency.

Keywords

Addiction; Coming of age; Fiction; Loneliness in literature; Short stories; Teenagers--Sexual behavior

Disciplines

Arts and Humanities | Latin American Languages and Societies | Latin American Literature

Language

English


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