Hard Feelings: Essays On Being Close to People

Date of Award

Spring 2023

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts

First Advisor

Sue Hertz

Second Advisor

Jaed Coffin

Third Advisor

Robin Hackett


A coming-of-age memoir about the collaborative nature of identity, Hard Feelings reckons with boundaries—and the lackerof—between the social and the self, asking when, where, and how we are determined by those around us.By weaving cultural analysis into nine deeply personal essays, Claire Sasko probes her most formative childhood, adolescent, and early adulthood connections. She questions, in her twenties, autonomy, interdependence, sexuality, gender, and family, particularly after the dissolution of a painful romantic relationship. Turning a curious eye toward topics like ex-lovers and Martian dust storms, mothers and moths, bridesmaids and compulsory monogamy, and grandfathers and nude beaches, she builds a map of the self through a web of cultural history, place, and—most importantly—people. Hard Feelings asks the question: Can we ever really separate ourselves from one another, and what happens when we try? It offers answers and empathy to anyone who has ever sought to understand the self through their company, and it asks how we might find more honesty, joy, and kindness in our closest relationships. In Hard Feelings, Claire tries, desperately, to become better at people’s most important task: loving one another.

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