Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s writing is studied and discussed in many school and college classrooms due to her political and social activism, which she explores in both her novels and her mini-manifesto, We Should All Be Feminists.
Ngozi Adichie presented a fascinating Ted Talk called The Danger of a Single Story in which she discusses how writing shaped her childhood and adult writing and understanding of the world.
Image via Variety
Adichie’s understanding of the effects of the single story narrative stemming from her childhood is fascinating. Stories are not only told through books but also through language. She admits were not many diverse books about African culture when she was a child, and so she read many European and American books. As a result, she internalized the idea of an ordinary American girl being the ideal, and all the characters she wrote about would be white, with blonde hair and blue eyes, who talked about the weather, and ate apples, two things little girls in Nigeria didn’t do, as the weather was temperate and the local fruit was the mango. She uses the example to show how it is important to write what you know in order to broaden the minds of your readers, rather than writing what you have read over and over.
Adichie makes it clear that she had a comfortable upbringing, in a middle-class home with educated parents, and she had many opportunities others did not have. Going to America for college was eye-opening, as many people had preconceived notions of what being ‘from Africa’ meant. Her roommate wanted to listen to her ‘tribal’ music and teach her how to use the stove.
If you’d like to learn more about how important it is to challenge the ‘single story’ perspective, watch Adichi’s amazing talk below!
Feature Image via Foreign Affairs Symposium