The danger of a single story
November 29, 2009 § 4 Comments
This is a superb presentation by Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie. Also see Binyavanga Wainaina’s “How to write about Africa“, and Uzodinma Iweala’s “Stop Trying to ‘Save’ Africa“. (thanks Rabee’ah)
Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice — and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.
About Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
In Nigeria, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel Half of a Yellow Sun has helped inspire new, cross-generational communication about the Biafran war. In this and in her other works, she seeks to instill dignity into the finest details of each character, whether poor, middle class or rich, exposing along the way the deep scars of colonialism in the African landscape.
Adichie’s newest book, The Thing Around Your Neck, is a brilliant collection of stories about Nigerians struggling to cope with a corrupted context in their home country, and about the Nigerian immigrant experience.
Adichie builds on the literary tradition of Igbo literary giant Chinua Achebe—and when she found out that Achebe liked Half of a Yellow Sun, she says she cried for a whole day. What he said about her rings true: “We do not usually associate wisdom with beginners, but here is a new writer endowed with the gift of ancient storytellers.”
When she turned 10 and read Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, about the clash between Igbo tradition and the British colonial way of life, everything changed: ‘I realized that people who looked like me could live in books.’ She has been writing about Africa ever since.