The Danger of a Single Story: Chimamandi Adichie #tedtalk #tuesday


Knowing that I’m desperate for all things that discuss literature and race and how the two interact/intersect, the thoughtful & loving Ruth Long tweeted me early this morning with a TED talk from Chimamandi Adichie, which discusses the “single story,” or a format that all stories fit. In Adichie’s case: with white protagonists, who enjoyed snow, talked of the weather and ate apples, when Adichie and her family never saw snow, ate mangoes  and didn’t talk of the weather as it was not necessary. Adichie was an early reader and writer, and when she wrote, she wrote of what she’d read: American and British children’s books devoid of girls of dark skin.

This is particularly poignant to me, because it is exactly why I’m working on the thesis I am: because when I read the speculative fiction I loved so much, I was hunting for the aliens of dark skin who were caring and diverse, like the protagonists. Then, I realized, I shouldn’t just be hunting for aliens who may/ perhaps/ hopefully represent me, but that there should be/could be protagonists who do the same.

But Adichie goes much deeper than just this sentiment of the danger of a single story, but of the ripples of this danger, including but not limited to a questioning of authenticity. It’s more than worth the 17 minutes you spare to listen to her.

Lovely TED Talk for a lovely Tuesday. It will stay with me as I search online catalogs today for minority authors.


8 thoughts on “The Danger of a Single Story: Chimamandi Adichie #tedtalk #tuesday

  1. Agreed!! Worth every second of the seventeen minutes! She’s bright, engaging, and direct. A thought-provoking and insightful not just for writers but for anyone looking for a deeper and more compassionate connection to the world and people around them!

    1. Exactly. I can’t thank you enough for sharing this. So relevant to me on a personal level, but also with my current research. Hit the spot! She’s so honest about it, and it’s not about pointing fingers, but simply looking around us, as you said–making a deeper, more compassionate connection. We all need to understand each other and to really see the stories around us and how they shape us and our beliefs and thoughts. Just a lot of food for thought. And it’s fun to chew on!

    1. Well, I’d be happy to talk about it, though I’m no expert. I’m just not starting to uncover/figure out/put together what I think about literature & race. I’m certainly no Chimamandi Adichie! Will shoot you an email, though!

  2. This was spot-on! My critique partners and I have had this same discussion. There is a serious lack of multicultural representation in fiction, especially in the YA genre–with such an impressionable audience, it is crucial to provide truly identifiable characters, unburdened with the stereotypical molds that have shaped our expectations in literature. This is something I’m striving towards in my own writing–breaking the molds without creating new ones.

    1. Right on, Sam. Thank you for sharing, because you’re so right. It’s important for young minds to see and be aware of how diverse we all really are (and that we are equal, despite our differences), but they don’t even get a chance to see these characters, so they don’t get much of a chance to think about the different people who are in their lives, and shape their existence. Just being aware of this lack of eye-opening!

  3. I’ve only got one spot left in the challenge, Jalisa–Let me know if you can swing it (post date is on Weds. August 7th:) Really hope you’ll join in on the fun!

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