If narratives are powerful ways of telling our literate selves into being, they also offer a potent means of conveying information about the historical and cultural contexts of literate activities and values. Because stories are based on personal recollection, they are laden with the cultural understandings that help form the matrix of consciousness.

Cultural understandings, then, are bound up with the identity/identification work that happens in and through narratives. In stories, we “set forth a view of what we call our Self and its doings” (Bruner, 2001, p. 26) and the “texts” of our lives (p. 27) against the backdrop of specifically discernable historic periods and cultural settings. As a result, literacy narratives are imbricated with the historical perspectives and cultural codes that accompany the work of “self fashioning” (Brockmeier and Carbaugh, p. 10). The literacy stories of the Laotian Hmong that John Duffy (2008) relates, for example, are “situated in the welter of political, economic, religious, military, and migratory upheavals” that is generally referred to as globalization (p. 4). These specific stories provide rich glimpses into a group’s localized literacy practices within a particular culture and their subsequent transformation within specific U.S. contexts. By reading/listening to these stories, Duffy notes, we can learn a great deal about the “local, historical, and global relationships that govern literacy development” (Duffy, 2008, p. 4-5).

Indeed, this kind of information is difficult to overlook because, as Lieblich et al. (1998) point out, whether or not storytellers mean to do so, they “create stories out of the building blocks of their life histories and culture.” These stories, the authors add, necessarily “construct the lives [of the tellers], provide them with meanings and goals, and tie them to their culture” (p. 168).

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Selves, like cultures, are not so much preserved in stories as they are created, reworked and revised through participation in everyday narrative practices that are embedded in and responsive to shifting interpersonal conditions. Memories of self and other provide a constantly updated resource that narrators exploit in projecting tellable and interpretable selves.

(Miller, 1994, p. 175-176)

Memory seems to be the main place where culture exists, and it is also the locus of interaction between the reality of the individual and the reality outside the individual. Thus, memories are both intensely personal and also reflective of a culture at a given time and place.

(Teski and Clino, 1995, p. 2)