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Publication Date

Spring 2018

Degree Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)


English and Comparative Literature


Cathleen Miller


Arranged Marriage, Family, Female Agency, Feminism, Immigrant Experience, India

Subject Areas

Creative writing


According to Sikh teachings, the stories of our ancestors transform children into virtuous children. The tradition of storytelling is an integral part of many cultures and serves to complete the lessons provided during childhood. This collection of ethnographic memoir essays explores the lives of several women in a Punjabi family narrated from my perspective while I am undergoing major life changes. The work consists of sixteen essays that engage a common theme: arranged marriage. In an arranged-marriage culture, I make the mistake of falling in love; this abusive relationship is the focal point of “Falling Love” and “The End.” In “Rajni,” “Moving the Patriarchy,” and “Saaro,” I delve into stories passed onto me by my mother as a means of sharing different forms of female strength as exercised in a male-dominated society. The exploration of female agency continues in “Bibi,” “Raano, The Princess Daughter,” “Naani Ji,” and “Reasons for Perfection,” which focus on my grandmothers’ and mother’s lives and also explore my childhood. In “My Sister, Bhenaa” and “Left Dreamless,” childhood stories combine with stories from my generation to explain pressures faced by my cousins, which become lessons for me as I take steps towards my own arranged marriage. The essays, “Husband Hunting,” “Finding Home,” “Hopeful Eavesdropping,” and “Waiting,” investigate different phases of my betrothal and pre-wedding stages. The lessons learned throughout the essays culminate in “Bhenaa Returns,” when I use them to stitch a breaking family back together and give my cousin strength.