Chimamanda Adichie: The Danger of the Single Story


"I realized that people like me, girls with the skin color of chocolate, whose kinky hair could not form ponytails, could also exist in literature."


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I was fascinated with Chimamanda Adichie’s lecture, which led me to ask these questions:


Does the Caribbean have a “single story”?

If the Caribbean has a “single story,”

What is it?

When did this “single story” begin? With whom?

Who are the writers who continue to tell this “single story”?

Why does the “single story,” continue to be told?

Who benefits from the telling of the “single story”? Who doesn’t?

How does the “single story” continue to be told? Who tells it? Why?

Do we want to hear these other stories? Why? Why not?

Do we want to hear anything else but the “single story”? Why? Why not?

What would a story that deviated from the “single story” sound like? Do other stories exist?
Why? Why not? Who is telling them?

What are the implications of this “single story” on Caribbean culture(s)?

 Do trade publishers (Caribbean and non-Caribbean) continue to tell this” single story”? Why?

If a writer or publisher refused to tell this single story, would she be rewarded or punished?
What are the advantages of continuing to tell the” single story”? What are the disadvantages?

Do textbook publishers and schools continue to tell this “single story”? Why?

Do we tell this story to ourselves? Why?

If the story is disadvantageous, why do we continue to tell it?

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Comments

Randy Baker said…
Coincidentally, I just watched this video last night. Her speech was very good and I think the implications go well beyond the obvious points. Your questions on the "single story" of the Caribbean provides intriguing food for thought. In the post-colonial era, I think the Caribbean has tried to craft its own "single story" in many ways. In this context, it raises the question of whether or not it should. In a manner of speaking, I suppose that's a question that's been asked and is being asked in many ways across the region, though not necessarily within a literary framework.
Randy, Give thanks.
I'm holding off on my comments for now.
Calliope222 said…
Isn't it a writer's responsibility to present his or her vision? Marquez's magical realism is as valid as, say, Raymond Carver's dirty realism; Naipaul's pessimism exists alongside less negative visions of the Caribbean, as by Pauline Melville or Junot Diaz (though the latter is tricky).

My main reason for posting a comment, though, is as a response to your last question, in which you ask if it's "disadvantageous" to write other stories. But how can literature be spoken of as advantageous or disadvantageous? At its core, "art is quite useless," as Wilde said. What may be "disadvantageous" to you, then, has no bearing on literature as a whole, for literature--art--does not have anything to do with such terms.
Calliope222, I agree with you 100%: it is a writer's responsibility to follow his/her vision and to write stories that are true to his/her worldview.

What I seen however is that there is a tendency on the part of publishers from the metropoles to publish stories/ novels that stay away from the "one story" of the Caribbean which is slavery or the effects of slavery/colonialism.

Where are the stories about the Jamaican doctor who is a Catholic, but is asked by a family friend to perform an abortion on his daughter?

I'll tell you, up until a few years ago (before the advent of Akashic and others) stories like these would not have been published. In fact, if you search through the archives you will see that Preston Allen's characters were accused of being "too white."

I'm not saying that slavery/colonialism DID NOT have an effect on our peoples. What I am asking is why do publishers continue to perpetuate this one sided view of Caribbean peoples? A

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