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Title: The pretenders and why do you want to know? Writing a memoir in the face of intergenerational trauma: A reflective thesis
Authors: Liauw, Franchesca Giselle
Advisors: Lowe, H
Lynch, C
Keywords: Life Writing;Mixed-Race;Creative Writing;Postmemory;Perspective
Issue Date: 2022
Publisher: Brunel University London
Abstract: This thesis consists of a memoir and a critical commentary. The memoir, The Pretenders, follows three generations of my family, from my grandparents’ experiences during the Japanese Occupation, through my father’s childhood amongst the rubber plantations of Indonesia, to my upbringing in modern day Singapore. The memoir examines depression, and the failings of material wealth, while exploring how a family struggles to live up to and accept the success of their forefathers. Using Marianne Hirsch’s theory of postmemory as a basis, the accompanying critical commentary questions how my grandparents’ experiences during the Second World War affected my father’s childhood and how the lingering trauma is continued in our own relationship. By analysing The Pretenders in conjunction with three narratives which are thematically linked through their exploration of familial relations, Alice Pung’s Her Father’s Daughter (2011), Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous (2019), and Irene Vilar’s The Ladies Gallery (1998), the first chapter of my thesis examines the narrative devices used by these writers in order to present the way their identity is impacted by intergenerational trauma. This search for identity follows two stages, (1) an attempt to reconcile their parents’ traumatic past with their own upbringing, and (2) an attempt to understand the differences between the country their parents’ trauma originated from with the country they were raised in. The second chapter considers how the myths that build a nation are echoed in the myths that build a family legacy. The chapter continues by examining the use of phantoms as a writing device and how familial myths can root an otherwise unanchored diasporic history. The third chapter reflects on the choices a memoirist can make in portraying their subjects, and concludes that a balance between artistic licence and ethics is required when presenting ‘truth’.
Description: This thesis was submitted for the award of Doctor of Philosophy and was awarded by Brunel University London
Appears in Collections:English and Creative Writing
Dept of Arts and Humanities Theses

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