Date of Award


Degree Type

Closed Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dr. John Holman

Second Advisor

Josh Russell

Third Advisor

Dr. Sheri Joseph


This dissertation is a collection of unlinked stories that explores intersectionality from the perspectives of cisgender, heterosexual, American white men who have been heavily influenced by the conservative, Evangelical swirl of Georgia. All but one story is set against the divisive socio-political backdrop of the post-Donald Trump, pre-COVID landscape (although one story is masked, if not vaxxed), while the narrator of the lone outlier relocates from the Peach State to the Big Apple the year before the United States elects its first Black president. The plots remain purposefully mundane—a paraplegic’s chance encounter with a refugee door-to-door salesman (“Man from Ethiopia”); a cancer-ridden man’s “come to Jesus” meeting with his older sister (“In the Sweet By-and-By”); a stormy afternoon conversation at a Waffle House counter (“Home of the Braves”)—in order to focus on the unspoken yet insidious colorized caste system ingrained in the American fabric. The hierarchal dynamics of these interactions heighten the stakes and conflicts between strangers, friends, and family members alike, and, ultimately, the white men in each story must face or be faced with their own privilege. They must then decide to either utilize their elevated status toward effecting change or risk remaining willfully ignorant to their assumed supremacy in the social order. In the eponymous story, “Family Trees,” Luke Hollis wrestles with whether to reveal to his bigoted, racist mother that he is dating a Black woman. Yet, as is the case with most of the white men in the collection, he fears less his mother’s judgment and more the strange new frontier of no longer fitting neatly and comfortably within the “purity” of his idealized white American ancestry.


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