links home narratives cornelia Lisa methodology conclusions references debleena

Collage of images from women's narratives

Concluding Remarks

Jerome Bruner (1991) reminds us “that autobiography is not only about the past, but is busily about the present as well” (p. 71).  The literacy narratives these women chose to share position these transnational experiences as important for their own literacy development and also their own identities. Each of the women describes a literacy story that is firmly connected to language and place: a girl growing up in Calcutta, the home life of a Croatian immigrant, and an American living in Amsterdam. Yet language and place function differently in all three narratives.  Debleena firmly connects the multicultural and cosmopolitan spaces of Calcutta to her approach to language. Lisa sees her developing language abilities and her children as a way to gain entry into Amsterdam communities, and, for Cornelia, space instead becomes an absence, as her suburban childhood home exists outside of the places she connects to in her Croatian books. And although she hears Croatian every day in her home, she can only guess at the written words she encounters in her books written for Croatian children.

As we think about the literacy narratives presented here, we are reminded again that in her text Geographies of Writing: Inhabiting Places and Encountering Difference, Nedra Reynolds (2004) argues, “places are hugely important to learning processes and to acts of writing because the kinds of spaces we occupy determine, to some extent, the kinds of work we can do or the types of artifacts we can create” (p. 157). In arguing for a greater attention to the materiality of writing, Reynolds describes literate practice as “carving text out of time and space, in particular circumstances that differ for each writer” (p. 3), very much reflecting the kinds of literate activity in which Debleena, Cornelia, and Lisa engaged.  Centering on work from cultural geography and her own fieldwork in England, Reynolds demonstrates how the participants’ literacy narratives elaborate on notions of place that are constructed from experiences with their everyday environment and how these concepts of place play a role in their identities of self as well.  Through her ethnographic work with a geography course in Leeds, Reynolds illustrates how “our spatial practices work in tension with our spatial metaphors” (p. 7) to create notions of space and place, constructed through maps and lived experience, and influenced by our personal histories, including race, class, and gender. And we would, of course, add language as a contributing force. Even notions of home, Reynolds reminds us, are contested and ambiguous spaces, with gender roles determining activity in different areas of the home.

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