Congratulations to History PhD Candidate Erin Gallagher-Cohoon, who recently received First Prize in the Prairefire: A Canadian Magazine of New Writing’s Creative Non-Fiction Competition for her piece “Dads in Dust.”
Erin describes her essay as “an intimate portrayal of [the] grief” she felt after the loss of one of her fathers following his battle with cancer. As she explains, “because of COVID, [my dad’s] memorial was delayed for months, leaving me with none of the modern rituals of mourning that we typically rely on … [W]riting became one of the rituals that I could turn to.”
“Dads in Dust” details Erin’s experience dusting her father’s apartment after his death and coming to the realization that the dust in the apartment was her father: his skin, his eyelashes, pieces of his body.
“The connection between dust, bodies, and death sparked a deeper meditation on my experience of grief,” she explains. “I began to research dust in its multiple forms - as industrial risk, art material, [or] metaphor in poetry.”
The resulting essay oscillates between academic research and personal reflection. This is an approach she takes in her PhD research as well. Erin’s dissertation, supervised by Dr. Karen Dubinsky, explores the history of queer parenting and queer family formation in Canada, with a specific interest in the legal histories of divorce, child custody/access, and adoption.
The full essay will be published soon. You can read an excerpt of “Dads in Dust” here.