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Immigration, Motherhood and Parental Involvement

Narratives of Communal Agency in the Face of Power Asymmetry


Lilian Cibils

Immigration, Motherhood and Parental Involvement is based on the vivid accounts of seven Latina immigrant women of how they learned to navigate the school system in the rural southwest of the United States. Their stories are presented within several contexts, the socio-political conditions of immigration overarching them all. The process of acquiring a new socio-cultural script offers a common frame to the narratives, which illustrate the central role of the community in finding spaces for agency in circumstances of vulnerability. As a contribution to educational theory, this book explores the official discourse of parental involvement within the broader context of social policy by pointing to a common underlying ideal parent norm across areas of policy related to family and women. It also revisits the concept of parental involvement through contrasting ideologies of motherhood, as it applies the concept of participation parity in everyday institutional interactions as a fundamental measure of social justice. Immigration, Motherhood and Parental Involvement offers deep insight into the institutionalized patterns of formal inclusion/informal exclusion in the relationship of schools with Latina immigrant mothers, even within the best intended programs. Its focus on the persistent need for the implementation of culturally and linguistically sensitive approaches to home-school relations makes this a must-read for undergraduate and graduate courses in teacher education, education leadership and sociology of education. Teachers, administrators and policymakers committed to moving away from the prevalent view of mothers as people who mainly need to be educated also need to read this book.


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This work would not have seen the light had it not been for the support of many people: family members, friends, colleagues, mentors, and research participants. First and foremost, I am profoundly grateful to the wonderful women I had the privilege to get to know and interview. I will remain perma- nently indebted to each one of them for their trust, openness and generosity in sharing their powerful life stories. Their purpose in participating in the study was clear: they hoped that by relating their experiences they could make a difference in many immigrant mothers’ lives. In retelling them here, this is my wish too. I would like to thank Shirley Steinberg and Chris Myers for the opportu- nity to publish my work. Sophie Appel’s diligence and support was invaluable at crucial points in the process of publication; I also thank all members of the Peter Lang team whose work made this book better. I also express my grati- tude to the College of Education and the Department of Curriculum and In- struction at New Mexico State University for the generous financial support I received through graduate assistantships which allowed me to complete my research. I am grateful to Jeanette Haynes- Writer, Chair of the Department, for her interest in this project and her sustained encouragement. I would x IMMIGRATION, MOTHERHOOD AND PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT also like to thank Neil Harvey, James O’Donnell, Marisol Ruiz, and Hermán S. García for their insightful questions, comments and suggestions. I owe thanks...

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