“The Danger of a Single Story Summary” is an insightful exploration of the potential pitfalls associated with relying on a single narrative to shape our understanding of the world. In this thought-provoking blog or article, the author delves into the consequences of perceiving individuals, cultures, or events through a singular lens, emphasizing the importance of embracing diverse perspectives for a more comprehensive and accurate portrayal of reality. Read More Class 10 English Summaries.
The Danger of a Single Story Summary
The Danger of a Single Story in English
Page – 95
I am a story teller. I would like to tell you a few personal stories to show you the danger of a single story. I grew up in a university campus in Eastern Nigeria. My mother says I started reading at 2. But I think I did it when I was 4.1 am a reader and I used to read mostly British and American children’s books.
I was also an early writer. I started writing when I was 7.1 wrote stories in pencil with crayon drawings. My poor mother had to read them. I wrote exactly like the kind of stories I read. All my characters were white and blue-eyed. They played in the snow. They ate apples. They talked a lot about the weather and how lovely it was when the sun came out. I had never been outside Nigeria. We did not have snow. We ate mangoes and we never talked about the weather as there was no need to.
Page – 96
This shows how impressionable and vulnerable we are to a story, especially when we are children. Since I read books whose characters were foreign, I thought books should have foreigners in them and should be about things I could not personally identify. Things changed when I found African books. Not many were available and they were not easy to find. When I read Chinua Achebe (Nigerian writer) and Camara Laye (writer from Guinea), I realised that people like me could also exist in literature. We have skin colour like chocolate and hair kinky which could not form pony tails. Now I started writing about things I recognized. I loved the American and British books I read. They stirred my imagination and opened a new world for me. African writers showed me that books can be about different things.
Page – 97
I come from a conventional middle-class family. My father was a professor. My mother was an administrator. We had a live-in domestic help, who came from a village nearby. When I was 8, we got a new houseboy, Fide. My mother told us that his family was very poor. My mother sent yams (“kachil”), rice and old clothes to his family. When I could not finish my food, my mother would say. “Finish it. Don’t you know that people like Fide’s family have nothing to eat?” I felt pity for Fide’s family.
One Saturday we went to Fide’s village. His mother showed us a beautifully patterned basket of dyed raffia that his brother had made. I was surprised. I never thought a member of his family could make something. I had heard enough of their poverty, I simply knew only one thing about them – they were poor. Their poverty was my single story of them.
Years later, I thought about this when I left Nigeria to study in the USA. I was 19. My American roommate was shocked by me. She asked me where I had learned to speak English so well. She was confused when I told her that English was the official language of Nigeria. She asked me to play for her some ‘tribal music’ and was disappointed to see that my tape had Mariah Carey.
She had felt sorry for me even before she saw me. She had pity for me as I was an African. My roommate had a single story of Africa. I n this single story she could not imagine that anybody in Africa could be like her in anyway.
Page – 98
Before I went to the US, I did not consciously identify as African. But in the US whenever Africa has mentioned people turned to me. I got the identity of an African. But I get angry when people refer to Africa as if it is just one country. After living for some years in the US, I understood my roommate’s response to me. If I did not grow up in Nigeria and if all I knew about Africa was from popular images I too would think like her. To people like her Africa was a place of beautiful landscapes, animals and incomprehensible people. The Africans, they thought, were unable to think for themselves. They were waiting to be saved by some white foreigners. They saw Africa, in the same way, I saw Fide’s family when I was young.
My American roommate must have heard different versions of a single story about Africa. A professor once told me that my novel was not ‘authentically African’. He told me that my characters were too much like him, educated and middle class. My characters drove cars. They were not starving. Therefore, he thought, they were not authentically African.
I learned that writers were to have unhappy childhoods to be successful. If that is true, I had to invent horrible things my parents had done to me. But the truth is I had a happy childhood full of love and laughter. Mine was a close knit family.
But I also had grandfathers who died in refugee camps. My cousin Polle died because he could not get adequate healthcare. One of my closest friends, Okoloma, died in a plane crash because our fire trucks did not have water. I grew up under repressive military governments that devalued education so that sometimes my parents were not paid their salaries.
All of these stories make me who I am. Giving importance only to the negative things is not good. The single story creates stereotypes. Stereotypes . may be true, but they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.
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