Life as a source of narrative(27th June

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Feb 2, 2013 (4 years and 5 months ago)

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Life as a source of narrative

:
stories told by
adolescent

girls

in home and
community contexts

Abstract

This article presents instances of oral and written storytelling in a home and in a
youth club setting. The focus is on
the narrative practices of
young teenage
girls in
two settings; one

in a home of British Asian heritage,
and the other

in a youth club
. In
both cases, the focus of the study was on stories. Throug
h an ethnographic
methodology, we

explored with the girls the construction of the stori
es as well as
being an audience for their written and oral stories. In the case of the home project,
some of the stories were
written to re
-
tell to the girl’s

younger sister at
bed time
, and
in the case of the youth club project, one of the stories was tol
d for an event in the
local park. This article explores the links between everyday life and narrative, as
described by Hymes (1996). It concludes that more attention needs to be given to
girls’ out of school storying practices

in relation to identity,
home practices, an
aesthetic sensibility and experience of fear
and racism
in communities
.
This article
addresses the theme of how
an understanding of the construction of
narrative is
relevant to out of school learning contexts

and also consid
ers the links

between
narrative

and
aesthetic sensibilities.

Keywords
: Stories, narrative, out of school literacies, homes, youth work,
ethnography
, everyday aesthetics



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‘Life as a source

of narrative’: stories told by

girls in home and community
contexts

Introduction

In

this article we

explore both oral and written out of school stories in two contexts.
The first context was a home of a British Asian household in South Yorkshire
, and
the second context was a
storytelling group
,

which met weekly in a
youth centre in a
park.
We

describe how events in life
can become
shaped into narratives
, in homes
and in out of school settings,
in particular between siblings and
amongst friendship
groups.
We

look closely at three instances of storytelling, two written, one oral, by 12


13 year old girls in out of school contexts, and explore the crafting of life into
narrative.
We

argue that practitioners need to play attention to the crafting process,
spanning as it did
across
generations and also
the process of
drawing on reading

book
s
, fairy tale
s

and historical knowledge, as a part of how stories are constructed.
We

paint
a picture of out of school storytelling that weaves in and out of life, fairy
tale, popular culture novels and historical and ‘schooled’ knowledge, as well as
inter
generational knowledge and recogni
tion of home literacy practices
.

Stories can
support and encourage a ‘safe space’ from which to explore difficult and perplexing
issues fo
r young teenagers
.

S
torytelling practices engage with life, as a source of
narrative, but
can also be

combined with an aesthetic sensibility.

Theoretical framework

The field of out of school narrative and stories, both written and oral, is a rich one
(Bamberg 2007; Finnegan
1998; Hymes 1996; Langellier and Peterson 2004).
These
authors explore the

intertwining of the everyday, and the role of both performance
and lived meaning in the construction of s
tories.
Gougakopoulu has studied the
storying practices of female

adolescent
s (2007), and
described

small stories as ‘talk
in interaction (p. 149). Small stories as a lens enabled
her to obtain
a close
understanding of the role of re
-
telling and all
usion in everyday conversations
. Stories
are linked to place, and have specific tim
escales connected to family time as well as
community time (Finnegan 1998; Compton
-
Lilly 2010).

Our

framework is derived from Hymes’ insight (1996)
that

life can be seen as a
source of narrative,


one often saw a bit of experience becoming an event to be
told, being told
and being retold until it took shape as a narrative one that might become a
narrative told by others.

Narrative is a piece

of experience becoming an event to be told, and re
-
told until it
takes

shape as a narrative. However, sometimes the ‘experience’ might lie in other
modalities and practices, and then become transferred across to the oral story. The
process of
construction of oral and written texts relies, Hymes argues, on the
process of perf
ormance, and the grounding of performance and text in a narrative
view of life,

…..There is a current movement to go beyond collection and analysis of texts
to observation and analysis of performance. That is essential, but perhaps
only the second moment o
f three. The third is what ….members of cultures
world
-
wide often do, I suspect. Continuous with the others, this third is the
3


process in which performance and text live, the inner substance to which
performance is the cambium, as it were, and crystallized

text the bark. It is the
grounding of performance and text in a narrative view of life


that is to say,
life as a source of narrative. (Hymes 1996 p. 118)

As an out of school literacy practice, storytelling has been explored
with girls with a
focus on di
gital storytelling
(
Pleasants
2008) as well as digital storytelling

with
families

(
AUTHOR
) and storytelling in urban high school contexts (
Morrell 2008
)

and
i
n each of these case, identity wa
s a key aspect of the decisions around the shaping
of a story.
Hu
ll and Nelson describe how narratives

are constructed in interaction
,

At the core of the development of this kind of capacity, we suspect, is artistic
creative practice, which promotes an understanding of textual meaning
-
making as a fluid, context
-
dependen
t, inter textual and fundamentally design
full process. (
Hull and Nelson,
2009: 219)

Home writing practices
are

fluid, context dependent and inter
-
textual. They rely on
shared family meanings and interpretations

and are embedded w
ithin wider
household
practices
.

Study 1: Home literacy practices in a British Asian Household

AUTHOR 1 writes:
The data from this study comes from a two
-
year ethnographic
study of home literacy practices within a British Asian household
.
The family agreed
to become involved i
n a study of home literacy practices in 2009 and since that time,
I have been meeting

with the family
on a regula
r basis
to collect data relating to the
children’s out of school literacies. The family consisted of a father, who worked in a
local factory, A
mina, the mother, who was at home with the children, and three girls,
Lucy (12) Tanya (8
) and Sai
ma (
3). Pseudonyms were
chosen by the children to
protec
t their identities.
The family lived in a central area of the town, in South
Yorkshire, which was home
to a settled community of families, many of whom had
migrated from the Kashmiri regions of Pakistan in the 1950’s and 1960’s. While their
heritage language was Urdu (mostly written) and a variety of Punjabi (mostly
spoken) the younger generation spoke Engl
ish and the language used by the
informants in the study was English. Aspirations for education in the family were
high, and there was a culture of ‘getting on’.

Data sources

Below, I select and discuss examples from the dataset. These examples
include
recordings that were made in the home, by the girls, using FLIP video
cameras and moments when they documented their home writing practices using
disposabl
e cameras. I visited regularly
to discuss the FLIP camera fo
otage and with
a digital camera
. I transc
ribed the
digital

recordings, and collected writing by the girls
in the study together with their oral and written documents. In addition, I wrote
composite ‘field narratives’ (Gregory & Ruby, 2011) that described my encounter
with the home and the writing

within it. These composite texts were placed together
with the writing, oral transcripts and the video data collected from the home.
The
field
narratives were a way of contextualising the writing within oral and written data that
was produced within the h
ome visits. Repeated visits checked for the reliability of
interpretations, and particular pieces of writing were focused on and, with informants,
connections were made across the dataset between different data phenomena
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including videos, handwritten writi
ng, writing on the computer, drawings, orally
recorded stories and observed practice.

Chart 1: dataset of study

Data analysis

In order to understan
d the girls’ writing practices,

I drew on the ethnographic
practice of ‘making the familiar strange’ (Agar,

1996) to unsettle the existing
‘schema’ employed by researchers when they interpret texts, practices and
discourses. I focused on the concept of ‘voice’ and particularly where inequality was
highlighted within voice (Hymes, 1996).
Coding was a recursive,
iterative practice,
and meanings and interpretations were brought back to the field to be checked and
discussed. Transcripts of oral recordings made in the home when
I
was present were
also placed within the dataset and coded, with links made to the writin
g, and to the
videos as well as observed data recorded in fieldnotes from the home visits. From
this coding, a focus on the way in which writing was linked to materially situated
practices emerged. For example stories about ‘seeds’ were linked to the recor
d of
the gardening practices in the home. Patterns and themes in the data emerged, and
these themes were then merged into composite texts that focused on particular
aspects of the dataset.

Garden as text: The oral and the written

In the first set of examples I describe how an everyday experience, gardening, as
conducted by Tanya, aged 8, was transformed into a fairy story by Lucy, (12) which
was then re
-
told to her younger sister Saima (3). The examples show how
storytelling was
em
bedded within family life and
how the practice of gardeni
ng

could
be found sedimented within Lucy’s texts (
AUTHOR
).
This process illustrates the way
in which written and oral texts were given equivalent status within the household
(Finnegan 2002; 2007). I

was able to co
-
construct and re
-
construct the storying
process in the home with the help of the family, as part of a collaborative process of
re
-
construction.

Oral recording

Here is a recording made towards the end of the fieldwork by me at the family’s
kitchen table:

Saima:

Once upon a time, there lived a princess called Saima,

once again there lived far away a princess called Saima who everybody loved
her. One day she was picking flowers for Queen Lucy when the villagers cried

Lucy (older sister aged 1
2): Why did they cry?

Saima: Wa Wa!

Lucy: You took all the flowers didn’t you?

What did you do you went to the /

Saima: /Shop to buy some seeds

Anita (mother): Magic Cloud. She bought some seeds

(audio transcript 5
th

September 2011)


The transcription ab
ove was taken from a recording made round a kitchen table in
the home in September 2011. Lucy had previously described the way in which she
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wrote her stories for her younger sister, Saima to listen to at bedtime.
Saima is
recounting a story that Lucy had w
ritten down and read aloud to her previously. It is
orally recounted in this example, which is one of over four different data examples of
Saima recounting the same story over a three
-
month period. The original story was
written on lined A4 paper, and plac
ed in a pink folder in a plastic wallet a few months
previously by Lucy. Below is a written version of the opening of the same story:

Written story:
Princess Sarah and the Magic Seeds

Once upon a time in a land far away there lived a princess called Sarah. She
was so pretty. Everybody loved her. One summers’ day she was picking
flowers for her bigger sister Queen Lucy (Pseudonym)“Oh Thank you Saima.
They are pretty just like you. But re
member not to pick any more as the
villagers will get angry.”“We hate you Saima” The villagers said. Saima began
crying.

Lucy began crying.

Everyone started crying.

Minutes went by.

“I know
I’ll go to the magic shop to buy some seeds” Saima said. (excerpt

from the
story written by Lucy)


Embedded within the story both written and orally recounted by Saima are
references to particular intergenerational practices, previously observed in the home,
including the purchasing of and the fairy tale genre of the pr
incess which comes from
stories read to the children in school and nursery settings.
The middle daughter,
Tanya, was particularly keen on her garden, and had her own patch of soil. In July
2011 I recorded this discussion:


Discussion

Lucy: Tanya also had h
er very own little green house and tubs where she had
planted seeds. Daffodils and all them kinds of flowers

Researcher: (to Tanya) How did you know which flowers to put?

Tanya: We put them in flower pots, we put one there, we don’t know which
seeds we
planted, we put one there, some there, in there… we cleaned all the
dead plants. (audio recording 11
th

July 2011)


The writing about the ‘seeds’ which was Lucy’s bedtime story to Saima

also had its
origins in the seed planting the family engaged in from January


September 2011. I
interviewed the girls’ aunt about the practice of gardening within the household:

Insight from a relative

Aunt:
The vibrancy of the colour is definitely seen

in the courtyard. Because
he [the girls’ father] worked as a builder in Pakistan, the houses, that’s where
he got it from, the houses (recorded discussion 5
th

September 2011)

The girls’ aunt traced the evolving brightly coloured garden that was created in

the
front of the house back to the courtyards of Pakistan, where the girls’ father had
strong links, as a builder of houses. The buying of seeds and the panting of plants,
often using seeds carried from Pakistan, constituted an aesthetic transplantation o
f
key concepts of heritage that evoked the colours, s
mells and shapes of ‘home’
(Toli
a
-
Kelly, 2004). These seeds and flowers were then the basis for Lucy’s stories
for her sister at bedtime. Lucy commented that, ‘The idea of the seeds came from
my dad and
my sister Tanya as they both love plants and growing them’ (written
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communication January 2012).
The experience of life, as an everyday experience,
was connected through story and re
-
told, as a fairy tale, a tale told by others (Hymes
1996). This story was

embedded in the space of gardening, and in particular, within
Tanya’s ‘r
uling passion’ of buying seeds
to make her own garden (Barton and
Hamilton 1998).


‘How to Drown a Blondie’

Here,

I look at how Lucy, aged 12, drew on a number of sources to make sens
e of
an experience of racism

in her written stories and reports
. She first wrote this up as a
series of reports (below) but then developed these into a story called ‘How to Drown
a Blondie’. After some discussion with Lucy, we identified the way in which she had
put together the story from the books she was reading at

the time, particularly
Meyer’s ‘Breaking Dawn’.

Report on ‘Racism’ by Lucy

I remember in our old area we lived in, we got a lot of racial abuse as one, we
were black and many people were white, because there was us and another
Asian family. We got a lot
of mick taken out of us [teasing] for everything.
Sometimes we couldn’t even leave our house without getting provoked. It was
horrible growing up in an area like that. It was bad for our health and plus it
put us off leaving our house to visit our grandmas

or going town. (from
‘Racism’ by Lucy)

Lucy’s way of coping with the racism she experienced was to take comfort in
language. She wrote about the everyday ‘sayings’ that helped her get through this
period,

Report on ‘Moving House’ by Lucy


in our family w
e have a lot of sayings like “Violence isn’t the answer”.
“Ignore what they say they are not educated well”, to show that they are
missing out on stuff. This means that if someone makes a rude remark or
says something nasty, just ignore them, and they will

leave, you because they
will realise that they are being stupid wasting their time. These sayings have
helped us and they may help you. (from ‘Moving House’ by Lucy)

Lucy also continued to write stories through this period. ‘How to drown a Blondie’
was

in
troduced to me in a discussion recorded on the 31
st

January:

Discussion about Lucy’s story

Lucy: And it is about this blond girl and she thinks she is really pretty and
everything. Looking in the mirror and she takes the mick out of people who
aren’t as pr
etty as her
..

(Excerpt from a
udio recording 31
st

January 2011)

The story, which was later written up focuses on looking and seeing as critical
to the experience of inequality.

Lucy makes the consequence of being blond, death.
In Lucy’s own experience, she was threatened on the street. By articulating this
experience as story, as Toni Morrison does, in
The Bluest Eye
,
(1970) where the
narrator describes her hatred of white girls

who are loved,
Lucy is recontextualising
the experience into a different genre. Here is the opening of her written
-
out story:

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Story:
How to drown a Blondie!

Right
let’s get this straight. I am
writing a story about a selfish, evil, cold
-
hearted girl whose life I took away. Everything in this story is the truth. 100% I
guarantee you. The girl’s name was Lauren. She had beautiful hair. It was
blond and shoulder length with beautiful eyes which wer
e Indigo
-
blue. But if
you looked closer you could see her eyes were raging with fire and jealousy if
she met someone more beautiful than her. Her dad was a very rich man, a
billionaire who not only loved his daughter but was scared of her as well. As
she w
as demanding and can turn anyone around her little ringer with a click
(but not me) as you couldn’t be sure of what she was capable of doing. I’m not
even going to tell you what she did. Because it is too evil. (from
written

text
‘How to drown a Blondie’ u
ndated 2011 by Lucy)

Lucy is exploring a trope of
blond girls who com
e to a bad end
. Often these girls
were also rich and went to private school. Echoing the powerful narrative expressed
by Toni Morrison in
The Bluest Eye

Lucy’s narratives critique the val
orisation of the
blond and blue
-
eyed girl within Western fairy tale narratives.
Lucy’s stories represent
a form of ‘imaginative vigilance’ in harnessing her anger at the racism she
experienced into a series of stories (Nelson & Hull, 2009).

Lucy herself was able to
explain where
her

idea

came

from. When I co
-
analysed the story with Lucy, she
referred me to thi
s section of the popular book
B
reaking Dawn
:

You know how you drown a blonde, Rosalie?” I asked without stopp
ing or
turning to look at

her “
Glue a mirror to the bottom of a p
ool”
(Me
yer
2008
:
271
)

Here, the story of Narcissus is twinned with
current

‘blond’ jokes.
Lucy’s insight was
that she could see the potential of this small sentence, hidden inside a lengthy book,
for her own constru
ction and ideas about blond girls
, as part of creating an
alternative storied space
.

Study 2: Storytelling in a park context

Written by AUTHOR 1 AUTHOR 2 and
Georgia, Ella and Chloe

This article was jointly written and, like the story it describes, is multi
-
voiced.
This
project was part of a research study with

the department of English at (NAME OF
)
University together with the Education Department, a visual artist, a poet and the
You
th Service. The aim of the study was to identify ways in which language provided
a source of resilience, but also, as the study progressed, we focused on the way in
which young people drew on language to create ‘talismans’


these could be internal
sources

of power or modes of inquiry or subversion
,

which offered young people
their own source of empowerment. The research took place in two schools and in the
park setting. AUTHOR 1 had built a relationship with a group of girls through the
youth worker as a l
ink, whereby the girls and AUTHOR 1 met weekly to tell stories

from March


June 2012
.
A
udio data from the storytelling meetings was transcribed
and analysed using literary analysis by Author 2

and co
-
analysed with the girls using
‘reciprocal analysis’ (Ca
mpbell and Lassiter 2010)
.

We describe the stories by Ella, Georgia and Chloe
who were

part of a ‘gifted and
talented’ group in a
local school in year 7.
Our focus was on ghost stories and also
telling stories, real or imaginary.


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Ghost stories in a park

Here, we present a narrative that was told by the girls, over a period of weeks, about
two young girls caught up in a bombing attack on a nearby city. The girls died in the
raid, and their ghosts come back to haunt a modern day woman called Maria. The
stor
y included elements that wer
e realistic, and detail that we here, begin to unpack.
The story was told in the youth centre
orally

to an artist

and then presented
in the
park at a tea party event where the story was heard again

through

speakers
. This is
the
beginning of the story:

G
eorgia
: As the area’s sirens… as the area’s sirens wailed, two girls were
seen sneaking out of the door. They went into the back garden and started
playing, screaming, running and laughing.

Researcher
: What were they wearing? And
what did they look like?

Georgia
: Their red chequered
-

their matching red chequered dresses um,
lifted up as they twirled around in the wind, but their hair went
-

their hair was
neatly plaited into two plaits with red chequered ribbon at the ends matching
their dress. They didn’t have a jacket or any shoes on

Ella
: White socks

Georgia
: Just white socks

Artist:

Who plaited their hair?

Georgia
: Their mum.

Here we explore the textual features of the girls’ story in more detail.

AUTHOR 2 WRITES:

The way the thr
ee girls work

together to create and perform

their World War 2 narrative is

marked by s
everal factors, namely the

negotiation of
narrative control

acted between the girls;

their occasional inclination to problematise
their own narrative’ through disputes o
ver details; and finally
their ability to build a

narrative

‘text
-
world’



with its own consistent internal logic and recurring images


using col
laboration and improvisation

both
within

and without

the

context of received
tropes.

The girls constructed the text
-
world both
as individuals and as collaborators
.

There are instances of ‘full’ collaboration:

Artist: When did they plait it?

Ella
: Befor
e they went out to play.

Georgia: That morning.

Chloe:

After the bath.

There is a
lso much

individual contribution
.

The
individual in the group

who
contributed

story details the most often was Georgia, who used

her turns in the
performance

very

efficiently to

cre
ate detail. Georgia also appeared

to have the
best

grasp of ghost
-
story tropes; she is comfortable using ‘ghost
-
story language’ (“As the
area’s sirens wailed, two girls were seen sneaking out the door”)
. Georgia
contributes the detail of the twins’ appearance
, as well as much of the scene and
milieu


and

these contributions are not challenged by Ella or Chloe.
Ella’s
9


contributions are also
incorporated
by the group,
but

add more minor details than
Georgia’s. She

overtly approves Georgia’s contributions whilst
sometimes
questioning

Chloe’s.

Chloe typically

disputes the details provided by Ella and
Georgia,

either by contributing ‘joke’ details
, such as naming the twins’ pig ‘Porky,’

or
directly questioning some of the narrative logics e
stablished by Ella and Georgia
, as
when:



Ella: It was the
first time the siren went off.

Chloe: Yeah if it had been the first time the woman, the air raid woman, would
have gone round and warned everyone, and th
en their mum would’ve stayed
up.

Ella: Not really.

...

Chloe: To make sure


it could be halfway throu
gh the war, when everyone
like knows what they’re supposed to do when the air raid shelter
-

Georgia and Ell
a feel comfortable using their
schooled knowledge of world war
two

to inform their narrative contributions
.
They

get quest
ioned less when they
introd
uce schooled knowledge
to the
narrative, possibly because of the authority
this
provided
.

Chloe’s ‘Nanan’ (grandmother) had written her own st
ory from life of her
experience

in the nearby city of World War two.
When they challenge Chloe,

whose
contributions

stem from intergenerational ‘life
-
knowledge’ received from her
grandmother, it has

the effect of forcing them to consider
more thoroughly

the ‘logic’
of the whole WW2 narrativ
e. In this sense, dispute becomes a form of collaboration

in

text
-
wor
l
ding.

The details selected by the girls demonstrate an adherence to received tropes
not only of ghost stories but also of a feminine beauty ideal and
a
‘childish
innocence.’ Georgia selects for the wartime twins to wear “matching red chequered
dr
esses,” with “hair neatly plaited into two plaits with red chequered ribbon at the
ends matching their dress.” The twins are only differentiated by “a brown spot which
like a love heart shape” on one’s cheek. This level of neatness and ‘perfection’ is
cont
rasted with the twins’ poverty; they “were lucky to have one [bath] every week,”
Ella wants to say the girls would have bathed in a tin (but doesn’t receive approval
from Georgia for this contribution). They have no shoes.


I read the twins’ ‘perfection’ a
s connoting a sense of structure and ‘kept
-
togetherness’ in a difficult environment, in this case WW2. The characters possess a
standard that does not slip; they act as they ‘should.’ The heart
-
shaped b
rown spot I
read as connoting a ‘Mary
-
Sue’

exceptional
ity to the twins, which befits both their
status as protagonists of part of the narrative, and as the point of identification for the
storytellers, who may wish to think of themselves as ‘marked’ or unique in some way
.


.

The story continued with the twins
, who were playing out, being killed by a bomb.
They disappear inside the warehouse. The girls fast moved the present age with the
introduction of a new character:

10


Ella: And then this girl


she were called Maria. And she went inside to have a
look, and

(
whispering, unintelligible. Laughter)

Ella: She went inside to have a look cos she’d never seen this place before.
And she thought it was like a fun place to be in with all the cardboard boxes
and she thought she’d be able to climb on them all.

Georgia: An
d she thought she might find something there, cos she wasn’t
very rich and like, um her mum and her were on benefits and she didn’t have
no dad or no brothers or sisters
.



Ella: She, um, hears rustling noises coming from the cardboard box. Coming
from the

cardboard box to her right. And she looks around and she thinks its
just the little cute puppy, so she goes to have a look and then

Chloe: She hears laughter, like little girl laughter. And she like went up box lid
just like one
-

when they open like two
ways, like that, one of em’s short and
made like a bang, but um she’d been able to like, she’d seen people (laughs
at something the other girls said) she’d seen people that nobody else had
seen before because they were ghosts, but she never told anybody co
s she
didn’t want like people to think that she were weird and everything, so she
thought that she might see some more ghosts if she carried on looking

Here, analysis revealed how
Chloe

demonstrated

a compensatory capacity for
imaginative, specific descrip
tion:


Chloe: And she like went up box lid just like
one
-

when they open like two ways, like that,
one of em’s short and made like a bang...


This is the most specific piece of non
-
trope
-
oriented visual imager
y in the
entire group narrative. It appears to
come from Chloe’s own memory of her l
ived
experience, in contrast to
details like the “red chequered dress
es,” which come from
tropes.


Chloe established

her own unique

influence over the narrative. H
er primary
role in the text
-
wor
l
ding process seems
to be

one of subversion. As an example, Ella
describes the twins as “skipping round holding hands,” which
ties in with their
‘innocent perfection
.


Chloe then create
s a humorous incongruity by immediately

describi
ng them as “bezzies,” an

ironically modern slang

term

that

briefly

deflates the

‘perfection’

by introduc
ing an element of everyday lived experience
.

Only

Chloe
audibly laughs at this on the recording



possibly because she does not need the
narrative to be ‘serious’ and ‘real’ to enjoy it
. It is not unt
il the end of the fifteen
minutes that Chloe actually contributes any significant ‘re
al’ (as in not a joke, or a
dispute) detail to the narrative.

Chloe’s

‘real’ contributions
,

at the end
, contain
11


several lived
-
experience

elements that don’t appear to
b
e d
erived from received
tropes:

Chloe: And then Maria went to
-

uh
-

she saw her Nanan, like when she were cleaning
out
-

well her gran, when she were cleaning out the house. She saw her gran and her
gran told her that where the girls’ mum were
,

These include

ca
lling the girls’ grandmother ‘Nanan,’ and an awareness of what you

have to

do when a grandparent passes away (“cleaning out the house.”)
Chloe

seems less willing to use received ghost
-
story tropes
in her contributions, preferring

elements from

what is pres
umably her
lived

experience

of her grandmother
. S
he

is
willing to

allow real ghosts into the

story

as well as fictional ones, in a way that
Georgia and Ella, wh
o are more confident using academic literacy to build the
narrative
, don’t seem to feel the need

to do.

In this way
, Chloe

creates linguistic
agency for herself wit
hin the collaborative narrative, despite a contrasting literacy
preference to the other girls.

In sum, t
he girls appeal to different aspects of their
lived
ex
perience in order
to exert inf
luence

and achieve self
-
confidence in a gr
oup narrative
-
creation scenario.
Two of the girls seem

more comfortable
using

tropes they h
ave acquired in the
context of their academic literacy,

whereas

one of the girls
provides

contributions
based

on her own lived experience. These disjunctions manifest themselves in
dis
putes between the girls, which ultimately serve as a form of collaboration through
compromise
. Ultimately, the

different
‘funds of knowledge’ (Gonzalez et al 2005)

possessed by Geor
gia, Ella and Chloe combine
to create a

group
-
authored
narrative
in which all three are able to achieve agency in ways that suit them as individuals.

Conclusion

We have found in our work in homes and community contexts that a detailed
analysis of
young peo
ple’s stories yields
recognition of the complexity of their
responses to narrative based both on lived experience and the genres that surround
them. From Aliya’s use of ‘Breaking Dawn’ to fight racism, to Chloe’s specific lived
detail, we argue that the br
inging in of specific details from ‘life’ can both illuminate
and subvert narrative structures. These moments have talismanic properties


as
moments where young people have agency over their storytelling, they create routes
through language and storytelli
ng that point the way to imagined better futures and
creative possibilities.



12


References


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14


Tables and figures

Chart 1: Dataset for the study

Type of data


Quantity and nature of dataset

Year 1 2009
-

2010

Quantity and nature of
dataset

Year 2 2010
-

2011

Flip camera
videos taken
by
children

60 FLIP videos, taken when
researcher was not present

7 FLIP videos taken when
the researcher was not
present

Photographs by
children

120 photographs taken by the girls
(aged 8 and 12) with a disposable
camera

60 photographs taken by
the resea
rcher, 10 by the
children

Field narratives
drawing on

participant
observation

7 field narratives based on
repeated visits lasting up to one
hour long, every other week.

6 field narratives

based on regular visits,

every other week.

Field visits audio
tape

4 audio files to support field visit
data

36 audio files recording
language in the home

Writing by
children

1 scrap book each, about 10
pages filled with writing.

1 scrap book each plus

40 A4 pages of writing and
a further 12 pages of
notes by Lucy

aged 12.