The Danger of the Single Story – an amazing TED talk by acclaimed author Chimamanda Adichie alerts us to the dangers of judging a place or people by the one thing you’ve heard about it. She begins by talking about how as a girl, the only stories she read were of white girls in cold lands – and so, when she began writing, she wrote of what she had read – of those girls and of their experiences. But growing up in Nigeria, those stories were not her reality but yet the fantasies of European or North American children.
While the talk is predominantly of prejudice of a person or place – for me, it resonated as a publisher. Her talk is refreshing and important – for writers and for readers. For writers, because she talks about writing what is in your heart – regardless of the fad of the day or what an ‘expert’ might tell you. For readers, it is because she alludes to power, and with power, one can control the stories that are told, that are read, that are heard. It struck me that as a reader, in many ways, we are told a single story – or better said – we are fed a few stories. Ones of vampires and werewolves, or secret Christian societies or ones of girls with tattoos. The in-control publishing powers feed us what we should read – the single stories that are Meyer’s, Brown’s or Larsson’s. This power to determine what people read is of course not new to the marketing age. It has been around since the advent of the printing press – when it was controlled by the clergy. Now, instead of religious powers holding the cards – it is the ones with the biggest marketing budgets.
Don’t get me wrong – these are wonderful stories told by great story tellers. And I do not try to take any of their success away. This post is just an invitation to all readers – to ignore the single stories that are fed to us and to seek out something different than what the marketing powers will have you read. Expand your horizon beyond these fashionable single stories and discover what literature and storytelling is all about – the culmination of many types of stories in many different forms that make us a richer humanity.