Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts




English (MA)

First Advisor/Chairperson

Matthew Gavin Frank





Linda A. H. Sirois

Disaster Salsa is an interrelated collage of essays, poems, letters, recipes, and stories that are juxtaposed to tell a narrative of what it is like to be the mother of a child who struggles with mental disorder. Our oldest son has had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) all his life; at the age of 11 he was struck with a baseball bat, which resulted in a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

Services that address, diagnose, and treat mental disorders have been abysmal for many years in parts of our country, and ten years ago in northern Michigan, “TBI” was not an injury that was commonly considered or discussed by medical practitioners. As a result, it was seven years before our son was correctly diagnosed with a brain injury. During those seven years, one of my coping mechanisms was researching information about various forms of mental disorder, in order to try to identify a true diagnosis. This reliance on research and definition is symbolized by my use of definitions as an organizing structure to contain and narrate emotional chapters of our family life during the time our son’s illness was acute and uncategorized, as well as the aftermath for him.

This collection presents a series of glimpses into the messiness and pain of daily life for those who suffer from mental disorder, their resilience, and the occasional dark humor of those who, through love, are forced to witness.

Access Type

Open Access