Date of Award
Master of Fine Arts
Creative Writing & Environment
"Mothers" is a memoir told in pieces—its fragmentary, lyrical vignettes not only echoing memory, but also the lens through which we often watch our present lives unfold. Each story is a string that can be traced backwards, forwards, and even sideways. Each story is a doll, nested inside the others. With this structure, the author sets forth to discover her identity as both daughter and mother.
Alongside the steady pull of her journey through her first pregnancy, the author’s seemingly side-lying memories and family history slowly begin to weave themselves in. Central to this tapestry is the colliding impact of nature and nurture across six generations of mothers and daughters—a riveting, often sobering web of love, loss, and hope that reveals how inextricable we are from those who came before us.
There is the third great-grandmother, Margaret Angeline, whose birth launches the Texas legacy that will accompany each of the generations to follow.
The second great-grandmother, Minnie Belle, who leaves each of her nine children in the arms of someone else as she battles severe post-partum depression.
The great-grandmother, Abbie Cordelia, who is haunted by the instability of her childhood, her mental illness, and the untimely deaths of loved ones.
The grandmother, Ouida Pearl, who journeys from a glittering youth into the darkness of alcoholism, only to emerge even brighter as a cherished wife, mother, and grandmother.
The mother, Dorette, who grows up worrying and never stops, coping with depression, divorce, and single motherhood by clinging to the words spoken to her by family and scripture.
And finally, there is the author, who grapples with the pain and risks of untreated mental illness, contemplates the fragile line between life and death, excavates meaning from the places and landscapes she inhabits, and fights to stay grounded through her faith in a caring, unshakeable God—all while the next generation grows within her. It is through entangling herself in her roots that the author is able to make peace with the future, finally able to watch with joy instead of fear as the first pages of her son’s story are written by the mistakes, resilience, and love of each of the mothers before him.
Morsman, Riley, "Mothers: A memoir" (2021). Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 18565.
Available for download on Tuesday, June 01, 2027