The second characteristic, “coherence by contemporaneity” refers to a belief that “things happening at the same time must be connected” (p. 19). Although Bruner cautions against extending this understanding of narratives to causality (jumping to the conclusion, for instance, that all events happening during the same time period are somehow causally related), we believe this characteristic can be linked to the concept of literacy stories as tropic “artifacts” that “twice encode culture” (Brodkey, 1987, p. 46) and serve collectively as a narrativized reflection of a culture’s various understandings of literacy (and illiteracy) (Brodkey, 1986). This same basic idea informs Deborah Brandt’s (2001) practice of collecting literacy narratives from “birth cohorts” (p. 11) to investigate literacy learning practices within a particular culture during a certain point in time. It also informs Selfe and Hawisher’s understanding that literacy stories, individually and collectively, reflect a larger “cultural ecology” (Selfe and Hawisher, 2004, p. 31). We do not, however, understand literacy narratives to be simple reflections or recountings of an objectifiable truth. All narratives are, in part, fictional.

We believe it a strength of the DALN that the stories within it are voluntarily contributed, unedited, and personally composed. Narratives submitted to the DALN are screened only to ascertain that they are indeed about literacy, in the broadest possible sense, and not spam submitted by hackers. Thus, each story is, as Brett Smith (2007) might say, “out of control” (p. 392), in that it permits multiple interpretations and for a wide range of reasons. Collectively, we hope, these stories form an unruly collection that escapes the control of our own limited vision.

…[N]arrative does not simply articulate what is known, rather it is through the very process of narration that knowledge, and indeed materiality, takes on meanings in social contexts. The selection and arrangement of words, the inclusion of some words to the exclusion of others, the consequent concepts and associations that these words then carry and convey, far from reflecting or creating replicas of reality, is instead in the business of creating new and multiple realities…. The process of writing, of narrative construction, is the process of creation, of truth claims, of alternative representations.

(Daya and Lau, 2007, p. 4)