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Not the Whole Story

Challenging the Single Mother Narrative

Edited by Lea Caragata & Judit Alcalde
Subjects Social Science, Women’s Studies, Biography & Autobiography, Sociology
Series Life Writing Hide Details
Paperback : 9781554586240, 176 pages, April 2014
Ebook (EPUB) : 9781554586370, 176 pages, April 2014

Table of contents

Table of Contents for Not the Whole Story: Challenging the Single Mother Narrative edited by Lea Caragata and Judit Alcalde


Introduction | Lea Caragata

Workfare and Precarious Work

The Making of This Book


Issues Shaping Poverty, Single Motherhood, and Social Status

Format of the Volume

On the Process of Creating This Book and on the Stories That Needed Telling | Robin

The Individual Stories

Sara's Story

Martha's Story

Mary's Story

Anne's Story

Madison's Story

Stacey's Story

Robin's Story

Emily's Story

Catrina's Story

Lucy's Story

Christina's Story

Susan's Story

Miriam's Story

Victoria's Story

Izabela's Story

Jenna's Story

Making Meaning | Lea Caragata and Judit Alcalde

Story Summaries

Pulling It Together

Conclusion | Lea Caragata



Not the Whole Story is a compilation of sixteen stories narrated by single mothers in their own way and about their own lives. Each story is unique, but the same issues appear again and again. Abuse, parenting as single mothers, challenges in the labour market, mental health and addictions issues, a scarcity of quality childcare, immigration and status vulnerability, struggles with custody, and poverty—these factors, combined with a lack of support, contribute to their continued struggles.

The themes that recur across stories illustrate that the issues the women face are not just about individual struggle; they demonstrate that major issues in Canada’s social system have been neglected in public policy. In order for these issues to be addressed we need to challenge the flawed public policies and the negative discourse that continue to marginalize single mothers—in terms of the opportunities in their own lives and in terms of how they are understood by other Canadians.

The first-person narratives of the struggles and issues faced by low-income single mothers provide narrative richness and are augmented by introductory and concluding chapters that draw the narrative themes together and offer overarching discussion and analysis.


``The stories of the lone mothers depicted in the book are often horrifying, but the women are not defeated. They are realistic about the so-called choices available to them, but all can see a future. Caragata's text vividly captures the violence and poverty that shape these women's lives. She counterpoints participants' words to academic language. The result is not discordance but rather a wonderful analytic balance wherein the two voices resonate and reinforce each other. ''

- Sheila M. Neysmith, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto

``How do single mothers break the cycle of poverty and what got them there in the first place? What are the barriers they face and how can we assist in breaking them down? How do they maintain hope as they try desperately to put food on the table at the end of the month? The real-life experiences of these tough, resilient, and resourceful mothers provide a road map and inspiration to reform our social and financial policies. Read their stories, and then work for change. ''

- Olivia Chow, former Toronto city councillor and Member of Parliament