Stories Matter

I recently saw this TED talk by Chimamanda Adichie, called “The Danger of a Single Story.” She tells about her journey as a writer, and how she was so strongly influenced as a child by the single perspective told in the books she read:

“I wrote exactly the kinds of stories I was reading. 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. Now this, despite the fact that I lived in Nigeria, had never been outside Nigeria. We didn’t have snow, we ate mangoes, and we never talked about the weather because we didn’t need to.”

I think one of the wonders of the internet is how many stories, how many voices are out there. Because of my background in anthropology, I have read countless stories about the lives of people in foreign, far-away places. But at the same time, I grew up without very much diversity represented in the fiction I read — thank goodness for science fiction and authors like Ursula K. Le Guin for introducing stories about entirely foreign cultures and culture contact. The stories we read, and the stories we tell ourselves and each other, really do matter.