Purdue University Graduate School

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Reason: creative work

All My Mothers

posted on 2020-04-24, 12:10 authored by Tamara J RutledgeTamara J Rutledge
All My Mothers came to me as the story of a child trying to grasp the cruelty of the world through understanding her murdered mother and, later, her extended family of mothers. When I decided to add chapters from the mother’s point of view, I realized that she had the same struggle and so I wanted to parallel their journeys—the journey of a mother and daughter, or two daughters, really—in order to show the way that this family passes on its pain. All this takes place in what J. R. R. Tolkien called a secondary world, a term that we still use to describe fantasy that takes place in a world other than this one. The depth of worldbuilding that comes with this speculative genre places power in the writer’s hands to imagine radically feminist worlds or examine power, structures, and beliefs. I also knew I wanted to create societies and characters that are queer. Science fiction and fantasy are uniquely positioned to explore different relationship structures and ways of loving as depicted in feminist classics like Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness or Octavia Butler’s Dawn. In my novel, all three immortal peoples are ace, agender or genderfluid, and reproduce asexually. While race is not constructed the same way in this world, most of the immortals have shades of dark skin because I think it is powerful to imagine BIPOC as ageless beings with the agency to shape their futures. Given the story’s themes of creation, destruction, and environmental apocalypse, I think it’s important to see queer femmes saving their worlds, healing their families, and building alliances.


Degree Type

  • Master of Fine Arts


  • English

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Terese Mailhot

Additional Committee Member 2

Jennifer Freeman-Marshall

Additional Committee Member 3

Marlo David

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