Volume 18, Issue 2
  • ISSN 1387-6740
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9935
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This article explores how tellers, more specifically life writers, embed small stories within larger narratives of significant episodes in their lives. I analyze the way in which a life writer, Ayun Halliday, embeds two smaller stories about ordinary experiences from her own childhood into a lengthier narrative about her daughter’s first case of head lice. The data set includes two versions of the lice narrative: one version appears in the writer’s motherhood memoir (The Big Rumpus) published by Seal Press in 2002, and a later version appears in the writer’s self-published perzine (The East Village Inky) in 2004. I analyze how the embedded story-worlds are presented differently in each context by focusing on openings and closings and level of detail in referrals and event clauses. Studying changes in retellings is one way of unpacking the role of embedded stories in the construction of larger ones. Ultimately, I make the point that both embedded stories play a role in Ayun’s larger discursive move in the lice narrative to share the burden of her daughter’s stigma by positioning herself both within a set of mother figures from her family biography and against a broader cultural backdrop of big “D” discourses (Gee, 1999) about good (or bad) parenting.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): embedded stories; life stories; life writing; retellings
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