Book By: Phillion, JoAnn, He, Ming Fang, & Connelly, F. Michael (Eds.)
Review By: Keonya Booker
Assistant Professor, Curry School of Education
University of Virginia

As the field of education becomes increasingly focused on issues of diversity, there is a pronounced need to explore the lived experiences and pertinent realities of different cultural groups. In Narrative & Experience in Multicultural Education, editors Phillion, He, and Connelly contend that new methodologies in qualitative research, namely narrative research, can provide insight and understanding of the multiple realities experienced by students and teachers. This book is a response to a swell of multicultural courses and curricula across the country. The editors encourage the reader to engage the book with an “experiential” as well as an “imaginative eye” (p. 2). In fact, throughout the entire book, the reader is asked to connect their own personal experiences with those found in the narratives.

The book is divided into six major units highlighting critical educational issues in African American, Latino, and Native American communities. Readers are introduced to narratives focusing on a successful school-community partnership, how one professor uses autobiography in her classroom setting, and the ways in which certain ethnic groups must disregard native cultural identities in order to assimilate into mainstream society. There is a great amount of information and perspective offered in the book as readers are offered glimpses into conversations with Latino mothers concerned about schooling effects on their children and culture-based curricula. The editors present thought-provoking papers on bilingual programs, landmark legal cases, tensions between Arabs and Jews, and how narrative methods relate to democracy and equality in education.

 Each chapter is well organized starting with an autobiographical sketch of each author and ending with recommended readings and questions for reflection. The editors do a careful job of presenting the advantages of narrative methodology in the qualitative research process. Through an emphasis on the connection between emic and etic perspectives, the reader is encouraged to step outside of traditional comfort zones and embrace narrative concepts of meaning, experience, and identity. The book has wonderfully descriptive and vivid language that transports the reader directly into conversations, settings, and contexts. One must actively engage with the text. It is difficult to mindlessly read these essays without critically thinking and reflecting on the process.

Because multiculturalism is a largely evolving field with varying disciplinary bases, this book has a heavy focus on social foundations, teacher education (primarily K-12), and philosophy. Most of the papers assume the reader has a background in narrative methodology or at least an understanding of its basic premises. In light of this, one should not read this book for a primer on “doing” narrative research. Rather, this is a compilation of fieldwork completed by several researchers in many domains of education. Although it is not directly applicable in the field of advising, it is a good resource for educators who want to explore how issues of identity, race, economics, and gender are experienced in the classroom setting.

Narrative & Experience in Multicultural Education. Book by Phillion, JoAnn, He, Ming Fang, & Connelly, F. Michael (Eds.). Review by Keonya Booker. California: SAGE Publications. 336 pp.
ISBN #1-4129-0582-6.
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