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Telling - or writing - a story about an event in your life is telling a social story. Autobiographical narrations are also, to be sure, personal and unique, but the social nature of narrating is often overlooked in research and education. In particular, to appreciate what young people are doing when we ask them to share their personal experiences in public institutions like school, we need a theory to guide our reading of narratives as conversations.

This chapter focuses on how young narrators juggle the demanding yet potentially rewarding activity of narrating in public settings, and it offers insights for research and educational designs sensitive to the tensions children feel between fitting in and expressing some of their personal diversity. I draw on data from a study of 7- through 10-year-old children's autobiographical and fictional narrating in a multiyear study about discrimination conflicts in the context of a violence prevention program (Walker, 1998). Autobiographical and fictional narrating proved to be valuable developmental media for children's analysis of social issues, and children's narrating practices in this context taught me a lot about the nature of narrating as an adaptive and subversive process. The results of the study suggest that as researchers and educators we should redefine narrating to account for issues of power and creativity.


This work was originally published in "Narrative Analysis: Studying the Development of Individuals in Society," edited by Colette Daiute and Cynthia Lightfoot.

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