Vol. 70 No. 4 (2022): Names: A Journal of Onomastics

"My Name Is...": Picturebooks Exploring Linguistically and Culturally Diverse Names

Carrie Anne Thomas
The Ohio State University
Blessy Samjose
The Ohio State University

Published 2022-12-06


  • diversity,
  • picturebooks,
  • content analysis,
  • socio-onomastics,
  • Rudine Sims Bishop,
  • Eve Tuck
  • ...More


A child’s personal name is an integral part of their identity. Names and name negotiation in children’s picturebooks can explore this connection by narrativizing the impact of positive and negative experiences involving name-carriers, name-givers, and name-users. In this study, we began with a framework combining a socio-onomastic perspective with the children’s literature metaphor of “mirrors and windows” (Bishop 1990) and the educational research concept of “damage and desire” narratives (Tuck 2009). Our content analysis of twelve picturebooks featuring characters with culturally and linguistically diverse names led to a coding scheme of six common episodes of name negotiation in the picturebooks’ narrative arcs: (1) inflicted damage; (2) internalized damage; (3) supplying desire; (4) internalized desire; (5) asserting the desire; and (6) joining the desire. Our findings highlight how episodes of damage focus on the pain, sadness, and struggle name-carriers undergo, while episodes of desire center the support of parents and teachers as well as detailed cultural and familial information about names. We conclude that while both “damage and desire” episodes contribute to the narratives, too heavy a focus on damage could lead to the perpetuation of a “single story” (Adichie 2009) that normalizes pain and struggle as an inevitable experience for children with linguistically and culturally diverse names.


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