First Advisor

Michael McGregor

Date of Publication

Spring 5-8-2015

Document Type

Closed Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) in Creative Writing






Family violence -- California, Southern, Families -- California, Southern, Suicide -- California, Southern



Physical Description

1 online resource (iii, 125 pages)


Desolation is Key: Essays is a collection of eight personal essays that revolve around the themes of the redemptive qualities of desolation in nature; the legacy of violence in the family and in the relationship between man and his environment; and the struggle of the speaker to reconcile her adult self to the burdens of inheritance and loss from her childhood. The content is a blending of exterior observation and interior meditation; it straddles the line between narrative journalism and memoir, which allows the narrator both to treat the exterior as an entry point for personal reflection, and to use the personal as a frame to connect with more universal human experience. In addition to thematic connections, the essays share a setting: Southern California, and in particular, the Colorado Desert region in the southeastern corner of the state. Circling back to this desert setting again and again works as a frame for the speaker to contemplate the death of her parents, and her relationship with her father, who died by suicide more than two decades ago. As the essays build upon each other, family lore and personal recollection aggregates and culminates in what eventually becomes a full picture of the situation surrounding the father's death, and the reasons behind its haunting legacy for the speaker.


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Persistent Identifier