Date of Graduation


Document Type

MFA Creative Writing Thesis

Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

Mark Brazaitis

Committee Co-Chair

Glenn Taylor

Committee Member

Marilyn Francus


Paper Children is a novel told from the alternating perspectives of two Korean-American adopted siblings, Vito and Leslie Verranzo. The novel opens on Staten Island in the days before Superstorm Sandy. Vito, fourteen, lives with his grandmother, as both of his adopted parents are dead. He and his grandmother are forced to evacuate when the storm hits and their house is flooded and destroyed. Vito's grandmother calls his older sister, Leslie, 25, who lives in California, to come get him. Vito is doubtful she'll come and decides to start selling paintings in order to raise money to build a tiny house for him, his grandmother, and his best friend Duane. Vito decides to paint traditional Korean folk art, despite not knowing much about Korean culture. He's confronted about this lack of knowledge by a woman at a craft fair and begins to doubt his right to paint these images. Meanwhile, we learn of Leslie's complicated, contentious relationship with their mother whose borderline personality disorder took its toll on all of her relationships. When her mother passed away four years earlier, going off the road in the same spot their father did years before, Leslie, in college at Stanford at the time, refused her grandmother's request to move home and become Vito's primary caretaker. Instead, she went abroad to Madrid. Now, when she gets the call from her grandmother, Leslie, who is now living in Oakland with her boyfriend, decides to comply with her grandmother's request to come, but only because she wants to uncover the truth of her mother's death once and for all, whether it was an accident or a suicide. She finds an RV for sale and decides after she finds her answers, she and Vito will drive around the country together, searching for a suitable home they both agree upon. When she arrives, they spend some time on Staten Island, reacquainting themselves and re-discovering their hometown. Leslie works to get ahold of some letters her mother wrote to her while she was hospitalized. Vito starts to have some success with his paintings while slipping farther away from his understanding of home and his identity. After several days, they depart in search of a place they can both call home. Along the way, they learn more about their parents and each other and work to figure out who they are as adopted children without adopted parents or a place to call home.

Embargo Reason

Permanent Embargo – MFA Creative Writing

Available for download on Sunday, January 01, 2119