Date of this Version
Published in Reading Research Quarterly, Vol. 37, No. 2 (April/May/June 2002), pp 130–148.
In this article, I examine the multiple uses of religious and secular text at school, home, and in the community. Specifically, I focus on how Yemeni American high school girls employ religious, Arabic, and secular texts as a means for negotiating home and school worlds. The frame of reference—in-betweenness—is a powerful heuristic with which the contextual uses of texts and language among the Yemeni American students can be delineated. In-betweenness signifies the immediate adaptation of one’s performance or identity to one’s textual, social, cultural, and physical surroundings. During 1997–1999, I conducted ethnographic fieldwork in the Yemeni and Arab community in southeastern Michigan. I examined the literacy practices of the Yemeni girls in and out of school by considering more closely both their use of language in the cultural and religious locus and their use of texts. I did this by exploring the hidden texts in their high school, the texts of weddings and parties, the texts of Arabic school, and the texts of muhathara (lecture). Within these spaces, the girls’ identities shifted to reflect their textual interpretations as either Yemeni or American. The texts were manifested in different contexts and served to bridge, subvert, and recreate Yemeni and American social and cultural norms. I argue that in order for researchers and educators to support diversity in public schools, they must be aware not only of its existence but also of its manifestation and acknowledge that diverse literacy practices are part of a larger geopolitical way of life. Awareness is the first step toward schools that not only focus on individual students but that also privilege those students’ communities. Knowing that there are conflicting visions of literacy and that there are multiple ways to enact them is crucial to the development of powerful and engaging social and academic curricula.