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Unfitting Stories

Narrative Approaches to Disease, Disability, and Trauma

Valerie Raoul, Connie Canam, Angela D. Henderson, and Carla Paterson, editors

Hardcover 376 pp.

ISBN13: 978-0-88920-509-3

Release Date: March 2007

Online discount: 25%

$85.00  $63.75


eBook availability

Unfitting Stories: Narrative Approaches to Disease, Disability, and Trauma illustrates how stories about ill health and suffering have been produced and received from a variety of perspectives. Bringing together the work of Canadian researchers, health professionals, and people with lived experiences of disease, disability, or trauma, it addresses central issues about authority in medical and personal narratives and the value of cross- or interdisciplinary research in understanding such experiences.

The book considers the aesthetic dimensions of health-related stories with literary readings that look at how personal accounts of disease, disability, and trauma are crafted by writers and filmmakers into published works. Topics range from psychiatric hospitalization and aestheticizing cancer, to father-daughter incest in film. The collection also deals with the therapeutic or transformative effect of stories with essays about men, sport, and spinal cord injury; narrative teaching at L’Arche (a faith-based network of communities inclusive of people with developmental disabilities); and the construction of a “schizophrenic” identity. A final section examines the polemical functions of narrative, directing attention to the professional and political contexts within which stories are constructed and exchanged. Topics include ableist limits on self-narration; drug addiction and the disease model; and narratives of trauma and Aboriginal post-secondary students.

Unfitting Stories is essential reading for researchers using narrative methods or materials, for teachers, students, and professionals working in the field of health services, and for concerned consumers of the health care system. It deals with practical problems relevant to policy-makers as well as theoretical issues of interest to specialists in bioethics, gender analysis, and narrative theory.

Read the chapter “Social Trauma and Serial Autobiography: Healing and Beyond” by Bina Freiwald on the Concordia University Library Spectrum Research Repository website.

Valerie Raoul is a professor of women’s studies and French and the director of the SAGA Centre for Studies in Autobiography, Gender, and Age; Connie Canam and Angela D. Henderson are faculty members in the School of Nursing; Carla Paterson teaches in the interdisciplinary Arts Foundations program, all at the University of British Columbia. Funded by the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies at UBC, the editors were involved in the interdisciplinary project on narratives of disease, disability, and trauma on which this book is based.


Unfitting Stories is a thoughtful gathering of approaches to understanding the relationship between narrative structures and the myriad personal, social, and political meanings of trauma, illness, and disability. In this age of memoir, such a collection is both timely and new.... Readers will have much to choose from.”

— Susannah B. Mintz, Biography

Unfitting Stories is an extraordinary book. The remarkable ability of the authors to effectively highlight the illuminating and unifying ability of narrative, while bridging the gap between academic knowledge and personal experience, makes this book essential reading. The interested read not only gains a sense of the authority inherent in narrative, but, importantly, gains a realization that narrative is much more than the re-telling of one’s life story.”

— Richard A. Meckel, Brown University, Sexuality and Disability

“The individual essays in Unfitting Stories provide useful examples of possible approaches to the study of disease, disability, and trauma narratives, including the acknowledgement of both the potentials of and problems with research focused on narrative. (The latter are addressed most directly by James Overboe’s challenge to the way narrative has become synonymous with personhood.) The strength of this book is its interdisciplinary and its expressed awareness of the possibilities and obstacles of an interdisplinary project. The overarching message of the volume is that no single disciplinary approach can be comprehensive—that cross-disciplinary conversations need to happen in order to help us better understand the role of narrative in relation to the destabilizing forces of disease, disability, and trauma.”

— Sheila Bock, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Western Folklore