The Danger of a “Single” Story

Photograph © Beowulf Sheehan

© Beowulf Sheehan

Born in Engu, Nigeria, author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie consumed stories with an avid appetite. By the age of 4 she was having her mother read her stories and by the age of 7 she was beginning to write her own. All the stories she knew, however, were about white-skinned, blue-eyed characters who ate apples and played in the snow. As a Nigerian girl, these were not the hallmarks of her own experience. And, yet, these were the only ones she received.

The result left her in believing that girls such as herself did not exist in the literary world.

“Now, things changed when I discovered African books,” she says in her TED talk, “The Danger of a Single Story” (see video at the end of this article). “Because of writers like Chinua Achebe and Camara Laye, I went through a mental shift in my perception of literature. I realized that people like me, girls with skin the color of chocolate, whose kinky hair could not form ponytails, could also exist in literature. I started to write about things I recognized.”

While the original stories she received as a child were not intrinsically bad and still contributed to her growth as a writer, they possessed the dangerously effective capacity to silence all other narratives. She comments, “So that is how to create a single story, show a people as one thing, as only one thing, over and over again, and that is what they become.” Her discovery of African literature validated the experience she knew–a girl of color who ate mangoes not apples; it affirmed who she was as a person.

Stories cannot exist in isolation.

Each story is like a tile in an infinitely expanding mosaic, every person contributing constantly as we engage in life and in simply being. When only certain mosaics are displayed, we lose the whole picture and deny others the right to their own stories.

Sharing beneficiary impact stories is a way to display as many of these mosaics as possible.

We want to help make sure your organization is letting donors know the full extent of their impact. In order to do this, it is critical to ensure no stories fall through the cracks. Let Mythos help your organization present a full mosaic of impact stories to your donors.

The colors and texture of each tile, of each beneficiary, are vibrantly unique and deserve to be shared.