Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects


“The American Dream” and The Second Wounding: An Exploration of the Institutions of America Through a Millennial Narrative of Self

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Biography and Memoir


Jason Tougaw


American Dream, Wounds, Actress, New York City, Cancer, Prison


AT AGE TWENTY-SEVEN Brittany Vicars wrote a letter to her biological father who had been imprisoned for the entirety of her life due to the Clinton Administration’s “three strikes and you’re out” law. She had never had contact with him before.

Six days after mailing the letter from her New York City apartment, he replied.

Within the month they met for the first time at The Sterling Correctional Facility in Colorado.

Vicars investigates the institutions of America that made it possible for her father to be imprisoned for over 10,000 years and the ramifications of his sentence on her life by exploring the psychosomatic effects meeting him had on her body. Just six months after their intense connection, after almost three decades of absence, they ended their communication. She then grew a rare cancer underneath the pear tree of her arm pit next to her heart. The doctors at the Mayo Clinic ran hundreds of genetic tests and diagnosed it as a one in a million synovial sarcoma. The oncologists in New York City cut it out and radiated her body for seven weeks.

The following pages contain her memories of finding her father and of her cancer treatment.

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