Narrating Estrangement : Autoethnographies of Writing Of(f) Family book cover
1st Edition

Narrating Estrangement
Autoethnographies of Writing Of(f) Family

ISBN 9780367643379
Published May 10, 2022 by Routledge
306 Pages

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Book Description

The stories in Narrating Estrangement: Autoethnographies of Writing Of(f) Family demonstrate the pain, anguish, and even relief felt by those who contemplate estranging or who are estranged, whether by choice or circumstance. Despite the social assumptions persisting about the everlasting nature of family relationships, when people make the complicated and often difficult decision to disconnect from family members, they experience shame, stigma, and isolation because of social pressures to maintain those relationships at all costs.

Each contributor uses the act of storytelling and the autoethnographic mode of scholarship and writing to find clarity in their individual, unique, and complex situations. Several authors’ explorations restore some of what they have lost through estrangement—such as a sense of identity, emotional health and well-being, and feelings of belonging—due to the breakdowns in social and family support systems meant to be unconditional and "permanent." The stories display the wide array of reasons why family members become estranged, delving into different types of estrangement, permanent and/or intermittent. In doing so, the writers in this book demonstrate that family relationships are neither easily categorized nor neatly ended—their impact on an individual’s life continues and changes, even in and through estrangement.

This book adds to the ongoing scholarly conversations about family estrangement for students and researchers interested in autoethnography and qualitative inquiry, in a wide range of disciplines in the social sciences, healthcare, and communication studies.

Table of Contents


Lisa P. Z. Spinazola and David F. Purnell

Section One: Estrangement due to lingering effects of childhood neglect, abuse, or abandonment

1. Writing of, off, to, and from my mother: Moving forward, word by word

Lisa P. Z. Spinazola

2. Estrangement: A Father/Son Love Story

David F. Purnell

3. A Series of @!?#@!? Events: A Journey to Mother-Daughter Estrangement

Sarah LeBlanc

Section Two: Estrangement due to family secrets, betrayal, or death

4. Complicating the experience of estranging from a sibling

Anonymous (Darren)

5. Sister mine: Understanding family estrangement in siblings

Amy Muckleroy Carwile

6. Blood is thicker than water!

Christine Lewis

7. Traci(ng) Estrangement: Sisters, Secrets and Suicide

Trudi Peterson

Section Three: Estrangement resulting from the search for identity, belonging, or home

8. An Autoethnography of the Ongoing Impact of Parental Divorce and Estrangement

Andrea M. Bergstrom

9. Too far out all my life…but not drowning

Suzanne Crowley

10. Our Real-Life Matilda Moment: Redefining and Finding Family

Chanelle Walker and Julie L. G. Walker

Section Four: Estrangement initiated by another and out of our hands

11. Writing of(f) family: Sarah’s family hand-me-downs

Dawne Fahey

12. My Mum is a Dreamer: Losing Family but Learning to Love

Fiona Murray

13. The Roots are Gone Too: An Autoethnography of Estrangement and/in Mourning

Colin Whitworth


David F. Purnell and Lisa P. Z. Spinazola

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Lisa P. Z. Spinazola is a visiting instructor at the University of South Florida. She uses autoethnography and narrative inquiry to research trauma, grief, family relationships, body image, and identity. Her current projects include adapting an in-person pedagogy of care to enhance remote/online learning and navigating persistent pain/health issues.

David F. Purnell received his doctorate from the University of South Florida. He is a qualitative researcher whose research interests include shame culture effects on identity, food as communication, queering definitions of family, and ageism in the academy. His publications are mostly based upon an autoethnographic approach.


"This charged collection takes us into the silent and sometimes violent dynamics of families, manifesting the mercurial movements of trauma, love, and hope of making kin with other beings." -- Stacey Holman Jones, Monash University & Dan Harris, RMIT Australia

"A timely collection of research that is utterly compelling to read and invites rich reflections on the role of family in identity formation and negotiation, meaning, human development, cultural values, and trauma. Orbiting around estrangement as an important focus for family research, this diverse constellation of narratives will appeal to scholars in relational communication, family systems, social psychology, narrative research, and autoethnography." -- Elissa Foster, DePaul University, USA

"Breakdowns in family communication can be painful, baffling, traumatic. This rich volume offers new ways to think, feel, and story our way through the complexities of estrangement." -- Christopher N. Poulos, University of North Carolina-Greensboro, USA

"Engaging with their own and the contributors’ stories, Spinazola and Purnell show readers how to write brave narratives about family and estrangement—an excellent book that will greatly enrich research on family communication and autoethnography." -- Joyce L. Hocker, Clinical Psychologist and University of Montana (Ret.)