The Hindrance of the Single Story

Black authors are not as represented in literature as white authors, and thus “black literature is taught as sociology, as tolerance, not as a serious, rigorous art form”(Toni Morrison).¬† In class, we watched Chimamanda Adichie’s TED talk about the problems “single stories” create. Adichie tells of how the single story of Africa inhibits African writers, like herself, from receiving the same recognition as white, western writers. She explained how living in Africa, she grew up reading books with all white characters. When she submitted a story, a professor told her it was not “authentically” African, even though she herself was an African writer. This problem circles back to Morrison’s idea that African American works of literature are often depicted as less than serious works of literature and art, and are expected to convey the “single story” of being African American. Great works of literature written by African Americans should be recognized as such.

There should be no limit to creativity in writing. There is no single story or narrative in which black authors “should” write about. Adichie made the point in her TED talk that when she wrote a story about an abusive father, it was assumed that people would believe that was typical of African people. However, if a white person wrote the same story, it would not be assumed to be representative of the the whole culture. She was expected to portray Africa’s single story in her writing, and was not taken seriously when she did not.

During this course, one of my goals is to be more aware of any preconceived notions I have about the people and cultures that we will read about. This will allow me to read with a more open mind and greater appreciation for the literature. If I subconsciously think of single stories for different cultures, I want to rid myself of them.

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