Date of Award

Spring 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA) in English: Teaching English as a Second Language




The Prophet Mohammed lost his parents when he was a child, and because he was an orphan, he believed that anyone caring for an orphan would hold a special place in the hereafter. Often when children in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia lose the father, as the author did, there is a stigma attached to the boy with no father, and a tremendous hardship is placed on the family. Having married at age 11 to her third cousin 10 years her senior and giving birth to three children, and expecting another child, his mother became a widow. He analyzes his own life and "liminal" passages—the thresholds to literacy and academic success while raising seven children of his own. The study is also a rhetorical analysis of the material conditions of his mother’s life from age 18 until the author reached college age. He employs bell hooks’ “marginality as a site of resistance” (p. 276) which can be an effective position for self-advocacy. His mother, a Bedouin, has had the perspectives of an outsider—an illiterate widow—and an insider — a Saudi woman with all the Islamic respect the culture gives their women. In Saudi Arabia, however, it is common for a widow to give up her children to her brothers-in-law and to remarry, but in this autoethnography the author reflects on being raised by a young mother who defied all odds and resisted the expectation to remarry. hooks argues that the "primary means of creating non-dominating alternatives is enactment….that interactions with family members provide an important arena for enactment," (hooks, 2016, p. 282). She also defines non-dominating ways of living, suggesting that "parent-child interactions offer another opportunity to enact non-dominating ways of living” (p. 282). By “speaking in a loving and caring manner” his mother won in court because the judge gave her custody of her four sons when she explained her eldest son’s disability and special needs. At 14, the author became his mother’s guardian but has practiced “nondominating ways” by helping her to raise the siblings and earn a degree.