The Power and Vulnerability of a Dream Deferred: High-achieving Minority Adolescent Girls’ Narratives of Success
This study chronicles the “ordinary success” of 20 highly motivated, working-class minority adolescent girls. Within achievement motivation literature, success generally has been conceived as measurable performance and studied with quantitative methods. The current study instead uses narrative inquiry to investigate success as a process. The girls in this study speak of pursuing rather than achieving success, moving towards a target beyond their line of vision. Constrained by realities of their daily lives, the girls capitalize on the openness of the future to craft narratives of assured success. Paradoxically, this approach sustains their motivation but jeopardizes their prospects, since they are invested in keeping the future at a distance. Knowledge about the requirements of success is often a “dream killer,” forcing imaginative thinking to collide with realistic planning. This research suggests that ambitious but underprivileged adolescents would benefit from targeted support to help them negotiate tensions intrinsic to their understanding and pursuit of success.