Chimamanda Adichie—“The danger of a single story”

Below is a link to a video of Nigerian-born novelist Chimamanda Adichie speaking about the power that stories have over our perceptions of unfamiliar people, places, and cultures.  Adichie emphasizes that “stories matter” and that, while a single story provides an incomplete representation and “robs people of their dignity”, multiple stories can be “used to empower and humanize” people. 

Watch the video of Chimamanda Adichie’s speech here and reflect on the following questions about the role stories play in education.

  1. Adichie talks about how reading British and American children’s books as a child influenced her ideas about what stories mattered and who those stories ought to be about.  How might the books read by the students at your school impact their perceptions of what should and should not be written about?  Do all your students see representations of themselves and their lives in the books they read?
  2. In the video, Adichie recounts some of the positive and negative experiences she had growing up and states, “all of these stories make up who I am.”  Why is it important that stories include both the positive and the negative?  What happens when only one dimension of a story gets told?  Can you think of any examples of this happening to a culture or group of people in the mainstream media?
  3. Adichie talks about the shame she felt when she visited Mexico for the first time and realized she had let a single story determine her opinion about the people and the country.  Have you ever had a similar experience?  What single stories are being told to the students you work with and what can you do to change this?

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