Off-campus SJSU users: To download campus access theses, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your SJSU library user name and PIN.


Two Mothers

Publication Date

Spring 2013

Degree Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)


English and Comparative Literature


Susan Shillinglaw


Adoption, Identity

Subject Areas

American literature


In telling my story--where no one wanted to reveal secrets--I tell the story of many like me who are adopted, subsequently growing up with conflicting feelings of loyalty and identity.

This thesis is about the love of and for two mothers--the story of loving rightly and wrongly, too much, not enough, of loving hard and deep. It is about growing up sensing but not fully knowing:

1. my adopted mother's overwhelming desire to be my "one and only" mother, her personal fears of abandonment and rejection she clung to until her death, and my responses to her fears,

2. my adopted father's protection of his wife as well as his close friend, my biological mother's husband,

3. my biological mother's choice to give me away, her seventh child and the only one farmed out to her husband's friend, and

4. my biological father's choice to remain silent until pressed to tell the truth.

Virginia Woolf once wrote, "I had to look life in the face...and see it for what it is." This thesis depicts my journey through a childhood filled with tension, to the gradual unveiling of the truth and the decision to love all my parents, despite their choices for my life that have plagued me.