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The danger of a single story

Tuesday, November 10, 2009 by Marianne Elliott

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Two of the finest books I’ve read in recent years were “Half of a Yellow Sun”“Purple Hibiscus” both by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
If you haven’t read these books yet then I highly recommend them to you.

Adichie is a masterful storyteller who has tackled extremely challenging subject matter in both of these books. ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ tells the stories of three very different characters who are swept up in the events of the Nigeria-Biafra war in the 1960s. In ‘Purple Hibiscus’ when a 15 year old girl is sent to her aunt to be kept safe from a military coup she discovers a word beyond the confines of life with her strict Catholic father.

My own father grew up in Nigeria and I, as a result, grew up on many stories of Nigeria. In this one case I was spared, therefore, what Adichie has termed ‘the danger of the single story’.

In this video Adichie talks about both the power and the peril of allowing a single story – no matter how true – to become our only story about a people, a place or an event. It is, I believe, a call to action for storytellers. It is also a compelling reminder to readers to read widely and to be wary of falling for the single story.

I’d like to thank my friend Karen for bringing this video to my attention.

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5 Responses to "The danger of a single story"

  1. 🙂 You’re so welcome. She’s amazing, isn’t she?

  2. Tesni says:

    Wow! She really is amazing. Thank you for sharing this video. I’ve posted about it on my blog too.

  3. This is such an important talk, isn’t it? I’ve been thinking about the ways we make “the other” a homogeneous group and the ways this dehumanizes others. Thanks for posting this.

  4. amy says:

    i was lucky enough to be in the audience for that talk. it was incredibly moving. i’ve read her short story collection, The Thing Around Your Neck. but you’ve inspired me to add her novels to my list. thank you.

  5. Lubna says:

    Thanks for sharing this video. I’ve read – Half of a Yellow Sun. Will look for the other book, soon.

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