Date of Graduation
Master of Fine Arts in Writing (MFAW)
College of Arts and Sciences
Segments is fictionalized memoir structured as eight short stories, or segments of the central character's life. These autobiographical incidents begin in Redding, California, in 1947, when the central character leaves the family farm on her first day of school only to return to face the loss of her innocence. I find it ironic that boys and girls sexually abused by a parent or other family member are not considered incest victims, but incest survivors. Even if one survives the effects of incest, all subsequent perspectives and decisions are colored by loss of trust.
"Praise Raleigh" is told by a third person narrator for several reasons. First, the experiences of early childhood can be too painful to remember first-hand, necessitating assignation to another person, in this case Sarah Cunningham. Second, the voice of a six year old needs a narrator with some degree of maturity and perspective, but without the emotional charge of reflection and authorial voice. The ·technique of magical realism in the incest scene was chosen for the same reason I think the German and South American originators chose it -because some things, like war, are too painful to look at straight on. The death of Sarah’s innocence is a result of an unjust war between father and daughter.
''New Kid," set in San Francisco in 1957, shows the same character, now sixteen years old, trying to figure out how to fit in with her peers at a new high school. The first person narrator tells the story from a very close, immediate perspective, in present tense. She is insecure, calculating, manipulative, but somewhat successful in what she considers to be important - to make friends as quickly as possible in order to fit in and feel normal.
"Dear Mark" is in epistolary form as an amends to a child the mother gave up for adoption at birth. Here the main character addresses the now young man directly, showing a progression in maturity from the previous two stories. Although the action of this story takes place in San Francisco and Los Angeles from 1959 to 1961, when the narrator is still immature, it is written forty years later and shows some reflection.
In "A Respectable Married Woman," the narrator relates the story of another woman who was sexually abused by her father, but throughout her adult life has tried to do what she thought society expected of her- to be successfully married. Through nine marriages, Andrea tries to escape the destiny her father laid out for her, but when menopause occurs, she looses the battle. In both "A Respectable Married Woman" and "Eight in the Side, Clean," both set in the '70s, the narrator voyeuristically watches other women in an attempt to learn how to be a woman other than the one who raised her, who did not protect her from her father and who took abuse from her husband and then abused her daughter.
"Free Bird" depicts Carol's diminishing control of her life. She looks for heroes as an adolescent might, and even though she is both literally and figuratively "hooked" to the plumbing, she still fights for her freedom. She is handed a stack of cocktail napkins and told to ''write about it," which she ultimately does in this collection. Finally, at the funeral of the abusive father, the narrator's young son is handed a symbol of authority, patriotism and duty- the American Flag from the casket. Mother and child are left with the task of "surviving" the effects of her father's misconduct. It remains uncertain if they will succeed.
Coggin, Carol, "Segments" (2001). Master's Theses. 150.