Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Chene Heady, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Steven Faulkner, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Susan C. Stinson, M.F.A.


The purpose of this thesis is to conduct an exploration of self through a series of essays. The seven personal essays that make up my thesis, collectively entitled “Finding Home and Other Essays,” have proven to be an examination of self primarily through my relationships with my parents, sister, and “step” family. These relationships focus on the uncertainty associated with unexpected changes, the moments forcing me to analyze the qualities that make up my identity. They also shed light on the mental, physical, and emotional aspects that find their way into and define “home”. With my first essay, I use a near-death accident to dive into my relationship with my dad and the closeness we share, while examining my inability to accept his possible death. “Upholstery Work and a Halo” moves toward the work relationship my dad and I share. Through this essay I return to the theme of death; however, I focus on what defines him as a person in my eyes, which helps define my self. In “Letters From a Stranger,” I begin to examine my relationship with my mom and gain a better understanding of what it means to define yourself in relation to a parent. Building my mom’s character had been a struggle because of the disconnect I have felt with our relationship, but with “Mixing the Personal with the Professional,” I allow the reader to see her as a rounded person. Even though there is chaos in her life there is an odd sense of calmness in her work. “My Sister Tried to Kill Me” is an exploration of how my relationship with my sister has grown over the years, causing me to reevaluate my earlier feelings of being an “only” child. Having built my dad as an almost idyllic man, I had to examine his faults in “Renting My Room” in order to complete his character. In this essay, I also move further into my feelings of displacement within my childhood home and how I overcome feelings of resentment. In my final essay, my sister makes the statement that my new home will replace our Dad’s as her home-away-from-home when she visits, making me re-evaluate and understand the decisions I have made that have formed my self, including my decisions about “home”. What I strive for in my writing is an honest voice that I can use to capture my familial relationships--both the good and the bad. As Mary Karr states in the introduction to her memoir, The Liar’s Club, “a dysfunctional family is any family with more than one person in it.”



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