Graduation Date


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Program Name


Program Director

Joan Baranow, PhD

First Reader

Thomas Burke, MFA

Second Reader

Carlos Rodriguez, MA


This thesis is an attempt to heal the wounds of my family’s matrilineal line left behind by the effects of our racialized world. It is a depiction of how life’s twists and turns ultimately created a collision of race and cultures within a single family. My mother, Violeta Estel Garcia Putterman, was born into poverty in the Dominican Republic to a black woman from St. Kitts and a Chinese man. This vivacious, and exotically beautiful girl’s life took a positive turn when an older, married, white American sugar plantation engineer took a romantic interest in her as a 15-year old teenager. That relationship supported her entire family – mother, sisters and sisters’ families – spawned two children, and brought my mother to the United States where I was born; the same United States where the clear distinction between black and white persuaded her to learn the art of passing for white.

This project is a reimagining and reconstruction of certain events in my mother’s young adult life in the Dominican Republic in the 1930s. Interviews from living relatives shape my mother’s story. Memories of my summers as a child and teenager in the Dominican Republic fill in the sights, smells, tastes and feel of the Caribbean.

While the challenges of Violeta’s journey provided a better life to all her family members, they nonetheless hardened her soul by the time this writer came to be. Through the lens of a conceptualized memoir, my presentation reflects upon the secrets that the circumstances of my mother’s life generated. This is my attempt to finally know who my mother really was.