English, Department of


First Advisor

Dr. Joy Castro

Date of this Version

Summer 7-2021


Steele, Cameron S. "Critical Introduction: Beyond Transformation and Critique." No Easy Way Out: A Memoir of Interruption. 2021. U of Nebraska, PhD dissertation.


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: English (Creative Writing, Women’s & Gender Studies), Under the Supervision of Professor Joy Castro. Lincoln, Nebraska: July, 2021

Copyright © 2021 Cameron Steele


No Easy Way Out: A Memoir of Interruption is a collection of personal essays examining themes of race, the body, violence and desire as it seeks to examine and interrupt inherited, normative understandings of work, art, beauty, love, and belonging. An illness narrative that follows my experiences as a girl born into a family of white Southern wealth, as a young crime reporter in the Deep South, and as a mother, scholar, and writer in the Midwest, No Easy Way Out raises questions about the entanglement of privilege, illness, and access to care. The book considers the stories I covered as a crime reporter at two daily newspapers—one in small-town Alabama where the homicide rate far outpaced that of much larger cities and another amidst the steel-and-glass-tower skyline of Charlotte, North Carolina—alongside my own history of mental ill health and psychiatric institutionalization. In doing so, it critiques how long-standing institutions—the nuclear family, psychiatric healthcare, and higher education, to name a few—are inextricably intertwined with and productive of our contemporary understandings of seemingly opposed binaries like “body” and “mind,” “crazy” and “sane,” “self” and “other.” The memoir moves between longform and flash essays, the former drawing from my careers as a journalist and academic and the latter from spiritual insights arising from my work as a Tarot reader and astrologer. The flash essays act as lyrical interstices, spaces of dream, myth, and occult imagery that provide new insights, but slant. Together, these essays, based in logic, intuition, and something in-between, offer a reparative way of thinking about difficulty, in the brain, in the body, in the world.

Advisor: Joy Castro