Recently published qualitative studies

Below I provide introductions to recently published books that teach readers about human experiences from people whose voices have seldom been examined in scholarly literature.  In each study, researchers who were not members of the communities examined worked to collaborate with others to tell the stories of people who have frequently been marginalized in academic writing. 

In their book, The hidden among the hidden: African-American elder male caregivers, authors Helen Black, John Groce, and Charles Harmon (2017) explore the experiences of elder African-American men who are principal care-givers for family members, including parents and wives. This book provides an in-depth and sensitive look at the experiences of 13 men ranging over the age of 60 (ages ranged from 62 to 87, average age 75 years) who were intensively involved in care-giving from 2 to 25 years. The study takes a narrative approach, and through analysis of in-depth qualitative interviews explores a range of issues, including identity in caregiving, generativity, experiences of suffering, strategies for coping in caregiving, the men’s belief systems, and caregiving as pilgrimage. The book concludes by summing up how the findings address the knowledge gap concerning African-American elder male caregivers. The authors of the study were well-equipped to conduct this study. Helen Black is a qualitative researcher who has worked on numerous studies related to aging, and herself has been a caregiver. John Groce and Charles Harmon are cofounders of Mature Africans Learning from Each Other (M.A.L.E.). Groce has had long experience in the field of aging and social work, and Harmon has worked in radio broadcasting. While this study will be of particular interest to those involved in caregiving of elders in the African-American community — it also speaks to any of us who may be involved in care-giving of partners and aging parents.

In their book, Collaborative and indigenous mental health therapy, TātaihonoStories of Māori healing and psychiatry, authors Wiremu NiaNia, Allister Bush, and David Epston (2017) describe how indigenous knowledges might be incorporated in mental health therapy with Māori youth and their families in New Zealand. Tātaihono is defined as “spiritual binding together that confers unity and strength to a partnership”, and this Māori concept is central to both the approach to therapy described, as well as how the book is written. After an introduction and context description, five therapeutic cases are discussed from multiple perspectives. These include accounts from an indigenous healer, Wiremu, a traditionally trained psychiatrist, Allister Bush, along with the perspectives provided by the young people involved in therapy as well as their family members. The book provides in-depth descriptions of phenomena that occurred during the therapeutic interventions that cannot be simply explained by western medicine, but are interpreted using knowledge and practice of indigenous culture and spirituality. This book is of interest to researchers using indigenous and decolonizing approaches in their research, as well as those involved in mental health.

An Ojibwa-Cree elder in Canada, Ma-Nee Chacaby, provides an autobiographical account (2016) of her life as told to Mary Louisa Plummer. Told in Chacaby’s voice, the story recounts her family’s historical roots in Manitoba and Ontario, Canada, before taking readers on a journey through her life. Recounting a life of struggle and determination, Chacaby overcomes remarkable challenges involving physical and sexual abuse, alcoholism, visual impairment and homelessness to her current “simple life in the city” as a great-grandmother (p. 199). As described by Plummer, Chacaby demonstrated the same creativity, resourcefulness and persistence exhibited in her approach to life in the writing of the book (p. 215). What I found particularly interesting about this book is the methodological description of how Plummer and Chacaby worked together to develop the book. This was no easy task, since ethical issues abound in how Chacaby’s narrative might be represented authentically and ethically. These include issues to do with family members mentioned (pseudonyms are used throughout), as well as the use of Anishinaabe (“Indigenous”) terms from the Ojibwe language. This book provides a detailed portrait of one woman’s life, in addition to ideas for how a life story such as this might be accomplished with members of marginalized groups.

Kathy Roulston


Black, H. K., Groce, J. T., & Harmon, C. E. (2017). The hidden among the hidden: African-American elder male caregivers. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Chacaby, M.-N., & Plummer, M. L. (2016). A two-spirit journey: The autobiography of a lesbian Ojibwa-Cree elder. Winnipeg, Manitoba: University of Manitoba Press.

NiaNia, W., Bush, A., & Epston, D. (2017). Collaborative and indigenous mental health therapy: Tātaihono — Stories of Māori healing and psychiatry New York & London: Routledge.


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