Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts in Writing

First Advisor

Michael Castro

Second Advisor

James Horstmeier


In a small sitting room of a mortuary in a rural Missouri town, the author considers the life of her recently departed cousin. Having shared a family home early in their childhood, and despite similar upbringing, their lives had ultimately diverged, with him choosing a path that many would consider self-destructive and bound to lead to an early death.

Contemplating the circumstances of her cousin's death, the author falls into ruminations on their childhood, family, and common experiences they shared during those early years. Considering the disparate paths their lives ultimately took, the author questions the influence of nature versus nurture in determining their life choices. She questions common thinking that the life lived most productively is the most successful. The memoir provides no decisive answer to either question; makes no attempt to do so. But the occasion of the memorial service opens a wellspring of memories of her cousin and his brother and sisters, and the early life they shared with the author and her sister in their most formative years.

In this personal memoir, the author recounts experiences of her childhood in a South St. Louis neighborhood where she, her mother, father, and sister shared a two-family flat with her dad's brother and his family. Their home was a bastion of fundamental Protestant Christianity in a neighborhood of Catholic characters who provided social education for the cousins beyond anything they ever learned in Sunday school.

The memoir offers the reader a slice-of-life taste of a more innocent time: an age when children still played outdoors instead of in front of video games; when families - moms, dads, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and the children - all gathered on porches with cool, sweet lemonade on hot summer nights, and passed down stories with language more colorful and entertaining than any television program could have offered. And, remembering these years, the author identifies influences contributing to her love of writing and the role it has played in her life.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License