We Got the Memo That Conformity Was Bad: Stories and Novel Chapters

Document Type



Master of Fine Arts


Creative Writing

Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

John Dalton, MFA


John Dalton

Mary Troy

Minsoo Kang


Tina Shen's M.F.A. thesis, “We Got the Memo That Conformity Was Bad,” includes two short stories and four chapters of a novel-in-progress. The concept story “Smitten Mitten” chronicles the anxieties of a group of sixth-grade girls as they collectively obsess about a heart-shaped designer mitten meant to be worn with a significant other. Its thematic focus is on the social indoctrination of the meaning and practice of romance. The story “Pandora's Box” follows the job burnout of a performance artist who works as a “fantasy attendant” in the sex industry. It examines the cultural encouragement of pursuing one's passion, “thinking outside the box,” and expecting success as well as the difficulty of reconciling oneself to failure. The untitled novel takes place in 19th century China and centers on the coming-of-age of a peasant child who enters the imperial palace and is later taken to Victorian England by British invaders who mistake him for a Pekingese dog breeder. Against a backdrop of selective breeding, racial supremacism, and imperial politics, the novel aims to explore the effects castration and displacement have on the viewpoint character's budding sense of race, gender, sexuality, and self-identity.

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