As I see it, the potential of the DALN . . . is in making visible the everyday life of ordinary people in a manner that shifts the ground of relations among people, institutions, and nation-states . . . When we read “Stories That Speak To Us” . . . we elevate the project and the people who speak through the project. They are no longer unruly individuals; it’s an unruly history of ordinary people. – David Bloome

This Exhibit

In this curated exhibit of literacy narratives, we reflect on the work that we invited five of our students to write, record, and/or compose for submission to the Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives (DALN). We do so because we agree with Cynthia Selfe and the DALN Consortium, who assert that literacy narratives “animate personal and family literacy values . . . [and] illuminate personal perspectives and multiple identifications.” We find tremendous value in close consideration of the culturally-shaped linguistic and social processes that guide the autobiographical telling of literacy narratives. As Jerome Bruner argues, the telling of these stories “achieves the power to structure perceptual experience, to organize memory, to segment and purpose-build the very ‘events’ of a life” (“Life as Narrative” 15).

Indeed, whether they are audio, video, or text, the literacy narratives archived on the DALN offer the public a rich mosaic of stories that reflect cultural experience (Bruner “Self-Making”).  We are particularly drawn to the submissions of students with home or heritage languages other than English, or, at least, we find that the presence of these multilingual students in the DALN, specifically in audio and visual submissions, offers a unique and instructive subset of literacy narratives to explore. As teachers who request literacy narratives and as researchers who analyze them, we are repeatedly surprised by the ways that our multilingual students, heard and seen in addition to being read, offer us rich and complex stories of their literacies.  We are surprised that we most often hear the story of their coming to English (and not their home languages) as marking their literacy.  And, then, we wonder at our own surprise at both of those things, noting that it marks us as aligned with the typical assumptions that undergird literacy and language teaching from positions of linguistic and cultural power in the United States (Horner; Canagarajah; Trimbur).

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