The Rib Cage is a creative dissertation relying on techniques of dramatic narrative, literary criticism and religious exegesis to explore questions regarding faith, gender, community, authorship, language and selfhood. In the religion I grew up in, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, better known as Mormonism, journal-keeping and memoir-writing are not merely worthwhile activities but are essentially commandments. Mormonism depends on testimony, on making public professions of personal faith, on narrating experiences that cultivate communal faith, and Mormons believe that one way a self comes to recognize itself is by writing about the self. This tradition informs both the memoir I have written and the claims I make for its intellectual significance.
At age 21 I volunteered to serve a mission for the Church and was sent to Taiwan. While there, I fell through my neighbor's kitchen roof and broke a rib. This accident was preceded by a crisis of faith which was exacerbated by the fall. Until I came to graduate school, I lacked a vocabulary that allowed me to deconstruct either the mythology I grew up believing or the trauma of my mission. In The Rib Cage I discuss not only the events of my mission, but the process by which I learned to make sense of my departure from the Church.
The work's controlling metaphor is this: I broke my rib and became a woman constructed out of a broken rib. Although I had begun to question the conditions of my faith, the fall seemed to symbolize my expulsion from God's presence, a painful awakening to knowledge of my own sinfulness. The journey I write is the process of learning to make my way in the world: fallen, forgiven, free.