This is a blog about me and the things that make me laugh, smile, hurt or cry!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Danger of a Single Story

About two years ago, I received an email with a link to this talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's delivered at TED Global 2009. She entitled her talk, The Danger Of A Single Story. At the time, we were scheduled to read her book, Purple Hibiscus in the book club. I was very excited to watch this and to read the book. I had first heard about Ms Adichie on a trip to Nigeria for work in December 2008. During a break in the workshop, book sellers set up a table outside the venue to sell all sorts of books. I mentioned to a Nigerian friend that I loved to read and really wanted exposure to good (emphasis on good) contemporary African writers. He pointed me to Purple Hibiscus.



Why do I love this talk so much? It was like she was speaking my mind. The opening words where she talks about the kind of stories she wrote as a child based on the kind of books she read was spot on. I remember being obsessed with Enid Blyton books where the children drank ginger beer and spoke to fairies and goblins and pixies. I disturbed my English teacher when that is what I wrote about.

Doing my high school education in the UK also meant that even though I read some amazing books that stick with me to this day (To Kill a Mockingbird, Lord of the Flies), I never had the privilege of being exposed to African writers or literature. This is why when we read Things Fall Apart in the book club, it was a revolutionary experience for me. I felt my existence as an African validated. For the first time, I recognised and identified with a book in a new way. This lead me to want to know and read more about my own cultural history and heritage.

Ms Adichie's TED talk goes on to talk about why a single story about something or someone is very dangerous. As Africans, we are familiar with being labelled and judged based on a single story. The beauty of this though is that she shares how she so easily ended up doing the same thing. Of all the hundreds of TED talks on the website, this was my first and it remains my favourite.

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