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Doctoral Dissertation Announcement
Candidate: Marin Heinritz
Doctor of Philosophy
Department: English—Creative Writing
Richard Katrovas, M.F.A., Chair
Jaimy Gordon, D.A.
Jil Larson, Ph.D.
Gail Griffin, Ph.D.
Date: Monday, March 14, 2011 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Bertha Davis Room, Walwood Hall
Cancerland, a memoir about coming of age with cancer, tells the story of one girl’s journey toward subjectivity by navigating gender identity and intimacy through illness. Growing up in Texas during the Reagan era, raised by Yuppie parents who are conflicted by their own Midwestern, working-class roots and recent past as hippies in San Francisco, she endures their painful divorce and must split her time between fending off the drunks in her father’s bar in Dallas, and making her way as an outcast in her suburban high school’s perpetual popularity contest. After the bar shuts down, her poverty-stricken father moves out of state, back to his Michigan hometown. It is at this point, when she is 17, that she is diagnosed with cancer, and her father doesn’t return during her treatment. Legally, she is a child, but physically she appears to be a woman; she is frozen in time by her illness and its terrible treatment. A second narrative thread is woven throughout the text in which an older, wiser narrator speaks from the present about her challenging friendship with a transgendered person who opts to undergo male-to-female sex reassignment surgery that goes terribly wrong. The physical and emotional trauma that ensues parallels the childhood stories from the past that the narrator juxtaposes with the present. It’s a story about gender and sexual identity formation, managing intimacy and achieving personhood through conflict and illness.