Date of Award:

12-2009

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

English

Advisor/Chair:

Jennifer Sinor

Abstract

This collection of creative nonfiction essays is a hybrid text of visual and verbal narratives located broadly within the genres of memoir, research-based nonfiction, and history. Women's memoirs, including a number of non-traditional texts, historical narratives, and an archival collection of photographs, provided springboards for the exploration of and reflection on the emotional terrain of loss, the ache of remembrance, and the ultimate desire for peace.

Ultimately, this work is a search for solace amidst emotional upheaval, beginning in childhood, after the deaths of my father, mother, first husband, and beloved aunt. Unable to sit still with my grief, I moved from the Midwest to various western states to pursue a career as a newspaper photographer and writer. My ongoing obsession with the tragic story of the Donner party, trapped in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the winter of 1846-47, connected me to Capt. Charles E. Davis, the first person to retrace the Donner party's western route on the first transcontinental highway. Finding common ground in the collective memory of historical tragedy, my fascination turned toward a man marked by similar childhood trauma, who took to the road to find a place to call home. As I searched for ways to memorialize loved ones, I found peace within the barren landscape of grief.

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