Immigrant stories


I’ve been interested in how immigrant narratives impact on other stories for a while… hence my interest in Emilia Brescani’s comment about the impact of immigrant stories on her own life (in her memoir):

“During our first days in the country, we were bombarded with information about the proper way to behave, and how to avoid hassles: never walk alone after dark; always carry your address in your bag, and always keep important documents safe in the hostel. At night, I tossed and turned in my narrow bed, snuggled under my llama-wool poncho, making plans and pushing melancholic thoughts away. At times, I was besieged by fear, unable to clarify in my mind the real reasons for my trip. Anxiety crept into my heart in the eerie emptiness of the night. It was then that I pictured familiar scenes – the large dining table, and my brothers arguing over soccer clubs as Mama poured ladles of steaming minestrone soup into our bowls. Sometimes I thought of the university cafeteria, where one day, a friend had shown me an ad calling for women to work in Australia. Now, I was here,and my priority was to work, sweat and make it. All work was good work, Mama had told me. And I was prepared for anything. The immigrant stories I had heard as a child were filled with romance, dramas, mishaps, and triumphs. Just like in the soap operas Mama and I listened to. Stories about women beating all the odds to achieve their dreams, help their families, their community and themselves. Mama had been one one of those women. She had not bowed down to tragedy. I would do the same, I thought during my sleepless nights. And, hopefully, one day I would find somebody like Papa, a person with whom to stay forever.” (pp.270-271)

Ref: (emphasis in blue bold, mine) Emilia Brescani (2000) The Raw Scent of Vanilla: A Memoir. Macmillan: Sydney

I am fond of stories – Rothfuss


“‘I am fond of stories,’ I said.
‘A story is like a nut,’ Vashet said. ‘A fool will swallow it whole and choke. A fool will throw it away, thinking it of little worth.’ She smiled,’But a wise woman finds a way to crack the shell and eat the meat inside.'” (p.761)

Ref: Patrick Rothfuss (2011) The Wise Man’s Fear The Kingkiller Chronicle: Day Two. Gollancz: London

Storied identities


identity is a life story.  A life story is a personal myth that an individual begins working on in late adolescence and young adulthood in order to provide his or her life with unity or purpose and in order to articulate a meaningful niche in the psychosocial world.”[1]

“a life story includes many different features and aspects, including a distinctive narrative tone, personal imagery, thematic lines, ideological settings, pivotal scenes, conflicting protagonists, and an anticipation of the ending to come.  Each of these features has its own developmental logic; each arises in salience at a particular point in the human life cycle; and each is fully contextualized in the time, place, and ethos of a given individual’s life.” [2]

“From our very first beginnings, we are fed stories, embraced by stories, nourished by stories.  The only way we come to make sense of the world is through the stories we are told.  They pattern the world we have fallen into, effectively replacing its terrors and inconsistencies with structured images that assure us of its manageability.  And in the process of structuring the world, stories structure us as beings in that world.  we begin to tell our own stories, fashioning a self out of the stories and narrative patterns we have received from our culture.” [3]

[1] 5 Dan McAdams (1993) The stories we live by; personal myths and the making of the self.  The Guilford Press; New York and London.

[2] 6 Dan McAdams (1993) The stories we live by; personal myths and the making of the self.  The Guilford Press; New York and London.

[3] P1 Karen Coats (2004) Looking Glasses and Neverlands; Lacan, Desire, and Subjectivity in Children’s Literature.  University of Iowa Press: Iowa   City

signature stories


P46Certain stories, we like to tell.  These are the tales about ourselves that we trot out at parties when meeting someone new, or in those Hello-my-name-is situations at a workshop or conference, or when trying to create a particular impression in others’ eyes.  Tried and true, practiced and polished …. [-p47]  These stories stand out….  If we were ever to write a formal autobiography, it is around such stories we might well construct our narrative. We can think of them as signature stories, for they are accounts of ourselves that relatively safe to tell, anecdotes with which we are willing to go public. … Whether happy or sad, about good times or bad, they say something about what turns us on or makes us tick; about the turning points in our path; about why our life has taken the course it has.  As such, they are often “origin stories” that say, basically, and that’s why I am the way I am – and am not (Bruner, 1990 [=Acts of Meaning]).

Our signature stories also indicate something about our fundamental beliefs, our convictions and values, habits and idiosyncracies; something about our hopes and fears, and our limits – about how far we can be pushed or how far we will go.  We may be keen to tell them, therefore because, whether we realize it or not, they undergird the personal “myth” which (unconsciously) guides our life [list or refs].  For this reason, our signature stories can have a legendizing impulse running through them, especially the more frequently we tell them or the more positively they are heard.” [1]

[1] Restorying our lives; personal growth through autobiographical reflection. Gary Kenyon and William Randall (Westpor, Connecticut and London, Praeger,1997) [ISBN 0275956636 pp46-47