“The Danger of a Single Story”

On October 22, 2019, Program Chair Sandra Ens challenged us to something novel — a panel discussion of author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s presentation, “The Danger of a Single Story” (2009)

In this “Ted Talks” video, the author describes growing up in Nigeria reading books from Britain or the United States. However, Nigerian literature was missing entirely. Attending college in the U.S., Ms. Adichie was taken aback that North Americans know next-to-nothing about Nigeria specifically, and she felt patronized or pitied as an “African.” She realized that our opinions are (still!) based on “a single story.” To make matters worse, we extrapolate that story across all the countries, cultures and diverse peoples living in the entire African continent. Ms. Adichi’s own books, along with strong support she and her publisher give to other Nigerians to write and publish their own stories, will help readers broaden perspectives and dispel negative stereotypes.

After the video, members referenced examples from their own experiences, especially of different cultures and faith traditions, in general agreement with Ms. Adichie’s thesis.  Recognizing that it is easy to fall into the trap of stereotypes, we were reminded of the importance of being open to other stories and of learning to appreciate that the story being told, including our own, is often incomplete but still worthy of consideration.

You may listen to Ms. Adichi herself, if you weren’t at our meeting.

(Thanks Helen, for your always outstanding Minutes, which I have used for this post! I’m sorry I missed out on this special meeting. Janet H.)