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Collage of images from women's narratives


As many of the chapters in this digital volume note, literacy is inextricably connected to cultural contexts and the languages of contemporary literate lives. In their introduction, “Stories That Speak to Us,” Cynthia Selfe and colleagues (2013) discuss the many ways in which literacy narratives construct identity and argue that they can convey information about linguistic, historical, and cultural contexts and understandings. They state, for example, that “personal narratives . . . serve as ways of constituting the self, for the benefit of ourselves and others, through language” (our emphasis). While considerations of language and place sometimes receive less attention in literacy research than they might, central to our understanding of literacy is the belief that culture and its artifacts are intrinsically linked to the languages and places—homes, cities, and classrooms—in which one grows up. These connections are especially interesting when considered in the context of those who leave their home cultures to experience others, crossing not only national boundaries but linguistic and ethnic boundaries as well.

In this chapter, we focus on the ways in which language and place play a role in the literacy development of three transnational writers. In doing so, we explore the intimate relationships that exist among the languages one speaks, the places one inhabits, and the cultural values that shape emerging literate practices. Throughout the chapter, we regard language and cultural differences as literacy resources rather than as barriers to learning (Horner, et al., 2010) and look carefully at differences as contributions to forming literate, transnational identities. For us, the term transnational signals those of us who speak multiple languages and whose identities are often “spread over multiple geographic territories” (Lam, 2004, p. 79). We agree, too, with Mary Queen (2008) when she argues that a goal of transnational research is “to make visible the ways in which all of our knowledge is mediated—technologically, historically, geopolitically, culturally . . . by our encounters with others, down the block and across the globe” (p. 486). This chapter, then, attempts to take into our field of vision those of us who have crossed national borders, with our focus turned toward local and global influences on literacy narratives.

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