] To Mother


Leni Zumas

Date of Award

Summer 9-1-2015

Document Type

Closed Thesis

Degree Name

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



Physical Description

1 online resource (iii, 128 pages)


Families -- History -- Fiction, Motherhood -- Fiction, Return migration -- Russia -- Fiction




Four weeks before the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 an eleven-year-old flees the Soviet Union with her young father. As political refugee determined to eventually settle in the United States they hastily abandon the girl's estranged alcoholic mother, future stepmother, their friends and relatives, their collection of books and all but a handful of family photographs. She eventually attempts to seek out and recover the people, ideas and objects lost on that voyage to America by going back to a much changed Russia and stitching together the scattered and forgotten pieces in between her old and new homes through dream-like snapshots.

Two decades after her emigration the author examines the concept of bad luck in one's travels, the significance of the number four, ambivalent attachments, learning to mother from a place of abandonment, the familial legacy of escape and the pursuit of wholeness within inconsolable loss. The un-tellability of the story is considered through the lens of Sappho, Bernadette Mayer, Yoko Ono, Roland Barthes, Doris Lessing, Nico and many other surrogate mothers and fathers brought together as a chorus in a multi-vocal, lyric approach.


This thesis is only available to students, faculty and staff at PSU.

Persistent Identifier