“I am not done yet”: Literacy, identity work and narrative exploration in a women's drug treatment writing classroom

Kelley A Evans, University of Pennsylvania


In recent years women with addictions have moved from positions of relative invisibility to become one of the most stigmatized populations in social imagery. Much of this societal condemnation is leveled directly at poor mothers and women of color, and few outlets exist for women to construct alternative images of themselves that take into account issues of racism and sexism affecting their lives. The ways in which poor women with addictions are labeled and portrayed have implications for the field of adult education because many participate in adult literacy classrooms in treatment centers and community education programs. Conducted over one year, this study looks at the intersections of addiction, identity and women's literacies in the writing class I taught in a women's treatment program. The methodology builds from feminist, postmodern pedagogies as well as from my position as a teacher researcher in this space. Through analysis of the women's written and oral narratives—as collected through classroom writing, audiotapes of class sessions and interviews with women attending the program as well as staff members—this study illuminates the ways in which addicted women employ literacies to take up, interrupt and complicate images of women's addiction. Findings that result from this study suggest that women in drug treatment may employ treatment discourses to posit their positions as members of the recovery community as well as demonstrate to external authorities their commitment to sobriety (which may influence custody of children, gaining housing or welfare benefits or staying out of prisons). This study also illuminates the importance of motherhood to the vast majority of women in our classroom; linking adult literacy contexts with discussions of women's positions as mothers and caretakers may thus create forums for women's literacy practices in educational as well as treatment settings. A further finding is that a social inquiry pedagogy appears to be a viable curriculum in centers of drug treatment. Through their engagement with social observation and critique, the women in our class demonstrated that writing and discussing issues of social and personal import can lead to engaged learning beyond the acquisition of basic skills.

Subject Area

Language arts|Adult education|Continuing education|Rhetoric|Composition

Recommended Citation

Evans, Kelley A, "“I am not done yet”: Literacy, identity work and narrative exploration in a women's drug treatment writing classroom" (2007). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3271745.