A Small Clean Warm Plastic: Understanding EFL1 Autobiographical Writing and Identity
Keywords: autobiographical writing, identity; EFL, narrative, re authoring
Yunnan Nationalities University, China
Shizhou Yang received his PhD from La Trobe University, Australia. His present research interests include identity, literacies, autobiographical writing and narrative practices in minority educational contexts. He currently lectures at Yunnan University of Nationalities, Kunming, China.
In the past two decades, autobiographical writing has grown into a powerful way of informing Second Language or L2 learners identities, but not yet in the EFL context. Focusing on Anne, the writer of An unforgettable event in childhood to be quoted partially below, this case study as guided by a postmodern framework through a multi-storied approach to narrative analysis explores the impact of EFL autobiographical writing on identity. Anne was an ethnic Bai English major student from a poor family in the countryside of southwest China. Prior tothe study, passing examinations was her primary reason to write in English. As a member of an autobiographically-oriented extracurricular writing group, she wrote, rewrote and shared her stories, especially of poverty and family, with other group members. In this process, Anne re-authored her relationship with her mother by reinventing as creative art her painful childhood poverty experiences in which her mother had played a focal role; and became able to come to terms with / accept her mother and her childhood self. Through autobiographical writing, she also became a more confident and expressive writer in English. These findings suggest that EFL autobiographical writing in an appreciative writing group may position struggling writers as knowers and capable learners and contribute to rich understandings of their social identities.