Having worked with Anne, I became aware of the treasure-trove of stories and often profound insights that Anne had collected for this book. As a researcher of young people and their transitions from school to post-school life, I readily accepted her offer to contribute to this volume. Working my way through stories was a richly rewarding and sometimes deeply moving experience. But there were also challenging questions. The first was: how to make sense of all this “data” from across decades? Part of this challenge was to make narrative sense of these complex and nuanced life experiences, and then locate them within wider frame. Echoing the wider literature, women’s transitions are not neat. They are relational and frequently “disrupted”, in the sense that they are not linear and sometimes, the participants’ stories painted a different picture to the one visible in the wider data. Life is messy and resists reduction and simple categorisation. But there were continuities and themes across generations and in relation to wider trends in education and work, and I have tried to capture some of these through an historical and sociological lens.

The second challenge, as a male researcher, was a keen awareness that I was writing about the lives of women. The chapters I co-wrote were in part one male academic’s attempt to understand complex biographies from an outsider perspective. To what extent is my interpretation of their testimonies framed by a masculinist, privileged perspective? In the end, the best I could do was to try to locate their voices in the wider data and scholarly research and ask: what is the data saying? And I am treating it with the respect and nuance that it deserves? This leads to the third challenge: how to do justice to this nuance, particularly in the absence of deeper contextual knowledge of their stories. The result is admittedly imperfect and is itself sometimes messy; but it does try to locate the testimonies of participants in an intergenerational and historic context. But part of the power of this book is that successive chapters delve deeper into, and unpack the testimonies of, interviewees in more detailed and nuanced ways, moving from the macro, broad brushstrokes of my analysis to the micro level of individual memory and everyday experience. These are viewed through variously conceptual lenses that provide, for example, feminist perspectives and a richer window onto the incomplete mosaic of the stories in this book.

Recent books:

Black, R. & Walsh, L.(2019). Imagining Youth Futures: University Students in Post-Truth Times. Singapore: Springer.

Walsh, L. & Black, R. (2018). Rethinking Youth Citizenship After the Age of Entitlement. London: Bloomsbury Academic Publishing.

Forthcoming in 2019:

Third, A., Collin, P., Black, R. & Walsh, L. Youth, Digital Society and Citizenship: Control Shift. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.


Walsh, L., Keary, A. & Gleeson, J. (2019). An intergenerational study of continuity and change in young women’s education and work trajectories. Young. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1103308818817632