We can’t tell a “single story”

So, I watch Ted Talks from time to time. One of them caught my eye recently, and I decided to share it with y’all. It’s called “The danger of a single story” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Towards the beginning, she mentions how:

“All my characters were white and blue-eyed. They played in the snow. They ate apples. And they talked a lot about the weather, how lovely it was that the sun had come out… Despite the fact that I lived in Nigeria. I had never been outside Nigeria. We didn’t have snow. We ate mangoes. And we never talked about the weather, because there was no need to.”

Now, I’ve had a similar story in a way. Most characters I grew up with were heterosexual Caucasians. Many had the ‘difficult’ choice of choosing between a best friend and someone they had just met. They all came from the same two kinds of families: dead or broken from divorce/death.

They were different yet their core was about the same. If I took away their places, names, and battles, and explained them as plainly as possible… Would I have been able to tell the difference?

However, the world is — in fact — filled with differences in every corner. Not everyone is the same. But stories that didn’t have that basic outline stood out as odd or peculiar.

And those peculiar stories are all we have in some cases. They form our entire thought processes about that one major difference, whether it was a sexuality or culture or something else. There’s no other representation to tell us otherwise. We have no other exposure.

We only have that single story to explain all of it.

Chimamanda goes on to mention that:

“The consequence of a single story is this: it robs people of dignity. It makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult. It emphasized how we are different rather than how we are similar.”

It’s hard to believe that someone is similar if you never hear about them. Most commercials depict all of Africa as underdeveloped when that’s not true. The media puts a bad light on all Mexicans, but that’s never completely true either. But what tells us otherwise?

Stories — the words we hear — shape our thoughts.

Instead of keeping an open mind, sometimes we all rush to the front and say, “No! That’s not how it is! I heard—”

Having representation in the stories we tell — in the books we read — is important. It helps us grow and understand the world a bit more. That’s why I try to go out of my way to read more stories that are different than the ones I’ve always heard. More LGBTQIA+ characters. More races. More cultures.

We have a lot of stories around us that we don’t know they exist.

But if we can find and publish more representation, we can open our eyes to new possibilities and similarities.


“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.”

-Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

6 thoughts on “We can’t tell a “single story”

  1. There is an interesting balance here between the opinion of the author, who says authors should tell more stories than their own, and a certain loud and controlling segment of the population who says a writer may not under any circumstance tell any story but their own and “cancels” anyone who attempts to do otherwise.

    I prefer a world in which Ms. Adiche’s opinion reigns supreme, but right now that is most definitely not the case.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah. I’ve seen the debate about it online a lot recently. As long as the writer does their research (and so many writers research) without meaning any harm, I don’t mind.

      I prefer Adichie’s opinion as well.

      Liked by 2 people

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