The danger of a single story

Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people but stories can also repair that broken dignity.

~ Chimanda Ngozi Adichie

This is a powerful argument crafted by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie about the danger of a single story. She narrates how as a child she grew up reading American and British literature and could not connect with the elements of the stories as they were out of her experience such as ginger beer and the weather. However, she accepted them and wrote about them because that was how she understood literature from the texts she had read. The characters in her stories she wrote in her childhood were white and blue-eyed. Her mental perception shifted when she encountered African writers and started writing about things that she had a personal connection with. Upon her move to America, she began consciously identifying herself as African, something she had never done before while growing up in Nigeria.

With wit and humor, Adichie goes on to caution the audience through her many personal examples, that if we buy into the single story of a person or a country, there is a large risk of misunderstanding occurring. It is vital to listen to the multiple stories of a person or a place, to truly engage and gain an objective and in-depth understanding of the subject being written about. Being immersed in media coverage that represents people groups or a place as one thing repeatedly creates stereotypes and it is too easy for others to become stuck in their mindset of a person or a place that has been unjustly misrepresented by the media or a writer. Therefore, it is crucial to reflect on the judgments and assumptions we form too quickly.

As an aspiring writer, I realise that it is important to write stories and news reports in a way that uncovers the truth. Listening to this speech has reiterated the criticalness of presenting stories from different angles that gives an objective view about people groups or places. I hope that the stories I write in the future will empower and humanize, and render social justice to marginalized groups. Most importantly, that they will reflect honesty and integrity. This I believe, is a huge challenge for many writers.

The author concludes her speech with the following statement:

“That when we reject the single story, when we realize that there is never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise.”

How aptly expressed! 😉

*To read more about Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and her works, feel free to visit her website The Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie website


2 thoughts on “The danger of a single story

  1. Pingback: Your story has value. | SoshiTech

  2. Pingback: The Dangers of a Single Story – The Perpetuation of Multiple Stories | TILT

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