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Publication Date

Fall 2015

Degree Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)


English and Comparative Literature


Cathleem Miller


1950s, adoption, adversity, childhood, education, Hong Kong

Subject Areas

Creative writing


This memoir is about the two forces that shaped my childhood in Hong Kong. When I was a small infant sick with diarrhea, my biological family gave me up for adoption. My adopted mother, an illiterate woman with few financial means after she was divorced from her husband, held on to her principle of “a person is only worthwhile if she completes what she sets out to do.” Like a kindler, she nursed me back to life when I was gravely sick in my first birth year and continued to nurture me thereafter, even in the worst circumstances of life. My adopted father, whom my mother married when I turned nine, provided me with a stable environment to grow into adulthood. Although he had only had three years of schooling, he was a man with a big heart, who accommodated me, even after I changed back my surname from his to my biological family’s. He was my second kindler. The other force that shaped my childhood was the overwhelming impetus I had acquired since the time I lived by myself when I was eight. At the time, I lived alone in a government housing unit in a new satellite town with no guidance or resources. I felt that “if only someone could tell me the name of a good book or some useful things to do, I would become intelligent and my life meaningful.” The urge to better myself was ingrained in me since then, driving me to fight for every opportunity to attend school, to give up a high paying government job to become a news reporter, and to go abroad for graduate school after overcoming a potentially fatal illness. These forces changed the course of my life and formed the person I am today.