Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

M.F.A. in Creative Writing

First Advisor

Tom Franklin

Second Advisor

Kiese Laymon

Third Advisor

Judson Watson


University of Mississippi

Relational Format




Feminine hygiene is a billion-dollar industry and women of color are the largest consumers of feminine hygiene products—particularly vaginal douching; studies link this frequent use of douching to high levels of harmful chemical compounds and adverse health effects. In researching hygiene rituals, the phrase “fresh and clean” came up repeatedly when Black women expressed feelings that came with their use or purchase of tampons, powders, soaps, sprays, douches, wipes, lotions, suppositories, napkins, and creams guaranteed to tame the odorous, fluid draining, and menstruating vagina.

FRESH AND CLEAN is a novel interested in the cultural obsession of vaginal cleanliness. The story is set in the working-class neighborhood of Ojibwe, Michigan. The youngest of two, Imlay leaves home, goes to college, and finds work at a major consumer goods corporation headquartered in Detroit, her father’s hometown. She is part of a brand management internship program charged with the production and marketing of hygiene products. Imlay’s development of a new masculine line of hygiene cleansers and sprays leads to a leadership position where she uncovers an insidious corporate secret tying the chemicals used in feminine hygiene products to birth defects, sterilization, and cancer.

In comparison to her older sister, Sissy, who is laden with four children and an emotionally abusive husband, Imlay is the epitome of success for her family and Ojibwe. Many in the small community presume their father, a foreman at the local cucumber factory, is to blame for their mother’s death. During her time in Detroit, Imlay learns of her father’s past and discovers more about her mother’s death. Reminiscent of Gloria Naylor’s THE WOMEN OF BREWSTER’S PLACE and Alice Walker’s THE TEMPLE OF MY FAMILIAR, the novel explores the hazardous complexities of human desire and hygiene intimacy.

LaToya Faulk is a recent fiction graduate of the University of Mississippi’s MFA program. Her work has been published in Scalawag, Southwest Review, Amherst College’s The Common, and Splinter Magazine’s Think Local series. She received a 2022 Pushcart special mention for the essay “In Search of Homeplace,” and she has a forthcoming essay soon to be published in The Global South called “Love is Wanting you Alive.” She lives with her two children in Oxford, Mississippi.



Available for download on Friday, February 07, 2025