Telling Tales

Living the Effects of Public Policy

By Kate Bezanson and Sheila Neysmith  

Paperback $29.95

This book documents how the political, economic and social policy changes of the last decade of the twentieth century helped and harmed different segments of Canadian society. The chapters are grounded in the narratives of 40 households chosen for differences in income levels, sources of income, household structure and gender, as well as diversities based on race, ability, language, sexual orientation and Aboriginal status. Household members discussed their concerns as individuals, household members, employees, community members and citizens. This is not a book about social policy models, theories or practices; it is a book about how these come together to shape people’s lives on a daily basis.

“Telling Tales offers a sharp and compelling critique of neoliberal policies that erode incomes, increase surveillance, and further endanger those with the fewest resources. This is an excellent book that should be widely read by those with an interest in social policy and issues of poverty and marginalization.”

— Patricia M. Evans, School of Social Work, Carleton University

“This remarkable book makes policy come alive. The authors peal away the complex, compounding and cumulative impact of rapid public policy changes. Vivid stories provide the fulcrum of chapters on how individuals and families provision for their households and respond to dislocating changes in employment, income, health, immigration, education, and social services policies. Findings are generalized through analysis of policies and secondary material. Unique is the attention to how persons varying in their social location interpret their situation and explain their anticipated futures. Teachers, students, policy analysts and scholars are challenged to think in new ways about policy analysis and research as they engage with the convincing evidence and lucid arguments of Telling Tales that policies can systematically exacerbate the insecurities they are intended to address.”

— Marge Reitsma-Street, Studies in Policy and Practice, University of Victoria, British Columbia

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  • Acknowledgements
  • Experiencing Social Policy Focussing on People, Not Policy Arenas
  • The Compounding Effects of Policy Change
  • The Outcomes of Income Security
  • Policing Motherhood:  The Gender and Racial Effects of Poverty
  • The Barriers to Good Jobs and Dashed Hopes after Years on the Job
  • Shut Out: Uncovering the Dynamics of Exclusion
  • The Myth of Community, Family and Friends
  • Interpreting Experience, Attributing Cause and Considering Options
  • Developing Methodology that can deal with Complexity
  • References
  • Appendices


  • Kate Bezanson

    Brock University

    Kate Bezanson teaches in the Department of Sociology at Brock University.

  • Sheila Neysmith

    University of Toronto

    Sheila Neysmith teaches social work at the University of Toronto.

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