According to Adichie, why is a single story about a person or place dangerous? What is her reasoning, and what examples does she offer for her thinking?
How does Adichie experience the dangers of a single story in her own life? Specifically, how does she experience herself as being on the receiving end of a single story, and how does she find herself perpetuating single stories as well? (Consider her single story of poverty about Fide, her U.S. roommates single story about Africa patronizing, well-meaning pity filled with preconceived nwhy is a single story about a person or place dangerous? otions about catastrophe on the continent, and Adichies own single story about Mexico with the “abject immigrant.)
Adichie says that power is the ability to tell the definitive story of another person: Why does she think that this is so? What kinds of examples does she use to make this point? (Media, literature, leaders, etc.)
For each statement, please offer an interpretation of it in your own words. Consider what the statement means, what you think of it, and whether you agree with the statement or not. Be sure to explain why you think what you do.
About her experiences, Adichie says: All of these stories make me who I am. But to insist on only these negative stories is to flatten my experience and to overlook the many other stories that formed me. The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story. Please explain this idea in your own words, say whether or not you agree with it, and use an example to illustrate your point.
The consequence of the single story is this: It robs people of dignity. It makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult. It emphasizes how we are different rather than how we are similar. Please explain this idea in your own words, say whether or not you agree with it, and use an example to illustrate your point.
Adichie notes how impressionable and vulnerable we are in the face of a story, particularly as children. Please explain this idea in your own words, say whether or not you agree with it, and use an example to illustrate your point.
Adichie says that a single story is created by show[ing] people as one thing, only one thing, over and over again, and that is what they become. Please explain this idea in your own words, say whether or not you agree with it, and use an example to illustrate your point.
Connect Adichies ideas whether you agree with them or not to your own experiences.
Consider a time in your life when you thought or felt like someone had a single story about you: What was this experience like? How did it happen? What did it make you feel like? How did you respond to this single narrative?
Consider a time in your life when you thought or felt like you had a single story about someone else or a group of people: What caused this single story? Were there multiple factors, or just one thing? Do you still have this one narrative about this person or group of people? If not, what changed your perspective?
Stereotypes are often formed through single stories. (See #4 question.) Often (but not always), relatively powerful people or groups of people perpetuate these stereotypes over other people, cultures, countries, etc. You may have heard the statement that history is told by the winners, or some variation thereof. Consider: What role does power play in forming stereotypes? What kinds of stereotypes – of groups of people, or places – do you know of, and how do you think these stereotypes came to be what they are?
What reasons does Adichie give for her ambivalent feelings about categories? Why do you think she nonetheless identifies, however, with her background, gender, and other features?
Think about Adichies struggle in relation to your own life: Can you relate to her struggle, be it in terms of race, gender, ethnicity, religion, or other aspects? How do you see other people (celebrities, writers, friends, leaders, etc.) experience this tension?