Acclaimed writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie illustrates a basic yet understated point about the power of stories. Adichie states that hearing only one about a people or nation leads to ignorance; the truth is revealed by many tales.
The prolific author tells this true story about coming to the United States, as a middle-class daughter of a professor and an administrator, and the experience of meeting her college roommate. Adichie recalls her roommate’s ‘default position toward me, as an African, was a kind of patronizing, well-meaning, pity. My roommate had a single story of Africa. A single story of catastrophe.’
CNN states that: “Adichie also tells how growing up in Nigeria reading only American and English children’s books made her deaf to her authentic voice. As a child, she wrote about such things as blue-eyed white children eating apples, thinking brown skin and mangos had no place in literature. That changed as she discovered African writers, particularly the Nigerian Chinua Achebe.”
The “single story” phenomenon is hazardous across the board. True to its brainwashing nature, it spreads the same illusion, from the same perspective and identical lack of fundamental truth. Depictions of a wide range of citizens from the vast continent of Africa ought to be readily available, rather than than the typical concentration on those in absolute turmoil.
Every culture in the world is like a tapestry, comprised of stories from a myriad of perspectives. Adichie proves that it’s up to each and every one of us to reclaim our own authentic voice – and use it – for the sake of our own cultural survival.