Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)


English/Creative Writing

First Advisor

John Fulton

Second Advisor

Daphe Kalotay

Third Advisor

Askold Melnyczuk


The stories in STATES OF INSECURITY are based on my experiences living and working in Africa and Southeast Asia. Each takes place in a different country, but they are linked thematically. All of them contain elements of insecurity, whether political or personal, and elements of resilience. This thesis seeks to explore the randomness and insecurity of life; children at risk; the impact of conflict and/or social inequality; the impossible choices faced often by women; the complexity of the moral nature of people; and the soul-enriching resilience of people that I have witnessed time and again in every country I've visited or lived in.

The first story, "Atrophy," introduces Carol, a 50-year-old aid worker in Ethiopia, as she tries to come to terms with getting older, the choices she's made, and her itinerant life while journeying to the south of the country during a green famine. "Atrophy" is followed by "The Jerrycan," the tale of two women in drought-stricken eastern Chad in search of water. Their trip to a nearby village is plagued by fears of possible Janjaweed attacks and by their own desperation even as both are determined to bring back water to their families. The Darfur region continues to be the setting for the next story which takes place in North Sudan. In "The Commander," Wendy is an American aid worker completing an assessment with a team of NGO staff in an isolated, dangerous area. Her nightly satellite-phone conversations with a commander in the rebel army to ensure the safety of herself and her team become more and more personal and disturbing. The fourth story, "International Women's Day," is told from the perspective of an 11-year-old, traumatized Congolese girl playing in her village's soccer game during International Women's Day festivities. As the tale progresses, the soccer game becomes a nightmarish metaphor for the impossible choices faced by women and the chaos of conflict. In the final story, "A Mother's Curse," Cathy is a young Peace Corps volunteer in East Timor struggling to manage both her bipolar disorder and her relationship with her overbearing mother.


Free and open access to this Campus Access Thesis is made available to the UMass Boston community by ScholarWorks at UMass Boston. Those not on campus and those without a UMass Boston campus username and password may gain access to this thesis through resources like Proquest Dissertations & Theses Global or through Interlibrary Loan. If you have a UMass Boston campus username and password and would like to download this work from off-campus, click on the "Off-Campus UMass Boston Users" link above.