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Aside
07 Mar

You need to post to your Nonfiction page your response to Chimamanda Adichie’s speech from Ted Talks.  Follow a template and compose a response that highlights 3 quotes from her speech and explain the importance of these quotes. (click here to see my sample)  Her speech is a personal narrative that talks about her life and some of the life lessons she has learned.

Chimamanda Adichie: The danger of a single story

Chimamanda Adichie delivered this speech in 2009 to a crowd at the Ted Global 2009 Conference in Oxford. 

Here are some of the talking points that I have identified from the speech.

  • I wrote exactly the kinds of stories I was reading: All my characters were white and blue-eyed, they played in the snow,
  • Now, this despite the fact that I lived in Nigeria.I had never been outside Nigeria. We didn’t have snow, we ate mangoes
  • how impressionable and vulnerable we are in the face of a story, particularly as children.
  • But because of writers like Chinua Achebe and Camara Laye I went through a mental shift in my perception of literature. I realized that people like me, girls with skin the color of chocolate, whose kinky hair could not form ponytails, could also exist in literature.
  • So what the discovery of African writers did for me was this: It saved me from having a single story of what books are.
  • So the year I turned eight we got a new house boy. His name was Fide.
  • I was startled. It had not occurred to me that anybody in his family could actually make something. All I had heard about them was how poor they were, so that it had become impossible for me to see them as anything else but poor.
  • My American roommate was shocked by me. She asked where I had learned to speak English so well,
  • She asked if she could listen to what she called my “tribal music,” and was consequently very disappointed when I produced my tape of Mariah Carey.
  • I must say that before I went to the U.S. I didn’t consciously identify as African. But in the U.S. whenever Africa came up people turned to me.
  • I remember walking around on my first day in Guadalajara, watching the people going to work, rolling up tortillas in the marketplace, smoking, laughing. I remember first feeling slight surprise. And then I was overwhelmed with shame. I realized that I had been so immersed in the media coverage of Mexicans that they had become one thing in my mind, the abject immigrant. I had bought into the single story of Mexicans and I could not have been more ashamed of myself.
  • I recently spoke at a university where a student told me that it was such a shame that Nigerian men were physical abusers like the father character in my novel. I told him that I had just read a novel called American Psycho –  and that it was such a shame that young Americans were serial murderers. Now, obviously I said this in a fit of mild irritation.
  • So after I had spent some years in the U.S. as an African, I began to understand my roommate’s response to me. Africa were I too would think that Africa was a place of beautiful landscapes, beautiful animals, and incomprehensible people, fighting senseless wars, dying of poverty and AIDS, unable to speak for themselves and waiting to be saved by a kind, white foreigner. I would see Africans in the same way that I, as a child, had seen Fide’s family.
  • All of these stories make me who I am. But to insist on only these negative stories is to flatten my experience and to overlook the many other stories that formed me. The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.
  • Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.
  • That when we reject the single story, when we realize that there is never a single story about any place,we regain a kind of paradise.

Wednesday, March 7th

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Posted by on March 7, 2012 in Curriculum

 

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