Cayuga Faculty Member Tackles Identity & Gender Roles in First Novel

A Cayuga Community College faculty member is seeing her first novel hit bookshelves almost two decades after she penned the book’s final line.

“A Knit of Identity,” by Cayuga Writing and Tutorial Support Coordinator Chris Motto, tackles complex and relevant issues of gender identity and traditional gender roles in telling the story of a truck driver battling guilt and her trauma-ridden past. The novel was released this month by Regal House Publishing.

The novel’s protagonist, Danny Fletcher, is a lady truck driver following in her father’s footsteps on the highway. Fletcher sees her friend killed in a workplace accident, and subsequently battles guilt over the death of her friend and her parents. Struggling to find a place where she feels she belongs, Fletcher stays on the road, hoping the miles will assuage her guilt as she searches for a home.

Some of the challenges Fletcher endures are pulled from the author’s own experiences, including seeing a coworker die in an accident while Motto was working on an oiling crew in college.

“That was very traumatizing, seeing the death of someone I knew. I knew it would come back up at some point, I just didn’t think it would manifest itself in my writing in this way,” she said. “But I think my subconscious pushed it to the forefront of my memory, and it made me wonder how my main character would react to this situation. I knew I needed to explore it.”

After finishing the novel, she grew concerned about her initial unsuccessful efforts to find a publisher. The topics raised in the book — gender identity, traditional gender roles, and workplace trauma — were not discussed as openly two decades ago, and she decided to move on to another book.

However, as gender identity and other topics grew in the current public discourse, Motto and her agent decided the publishing community might be more open to novels that addressed these themes.

“Gender identity isn’t the focal point of the novel, but it is an important part of the story and what the main character experiences,” said Motto. “Two decades ago, I just don’t think many books were published that addressed it. Now, as our society talks more about gender identity and traditional gender roles, I’m just glad I was persistent.”

Before her novel was released, Motto was published in So to Speak Journal and Waxing and Waning Literary & Arts Journal. She earned a Master of Fine Arts from George Mason University, and taught for 22 years in SUNY Oswego’s Department of English and Creative Writing. She previously taught at American University, George Mason University and Syracuse University.

Motto is participating in SUNY Oswego’s Living Writers Series on Nov. 16, and will be one of the presenters in Cayuga’s Cultural and Wellness Series in the Spring 2023 semester.

To read more about her work, visit