The Single Story About Asian Americans

Yesterday, a friend directed me to Chimamanda Adichie’s 2009 TED talk entitled “The Danger of a Single Story.” For those who aren’t familiar with her work, Adichie is a Nigerian-born writer and MacArthur Fellow; her most recent book, Americanah, garnered a host of best-of-2013 accolades and is being adapted into a film starring Lupita N’yongo; her other TED talk, “We Should All Be Feminists,” is sampled in Beyonce’s song “Flawless.” She’s a writer with an almost nauseating amount of talent. In “The Danger of a Single Story,” she shares the story of meeting her roommate at her American college, who was shocked to learn that she spoke English (and that English is, in fact, the national language of Nigeria), that she listened to Mariah Carey and not “tribal music.” Adichie explains that her roommate had only one story about Africa – “a single story about catastrophe.” That story, unfortunately, is the single story that most Americans hear about Africa; they do not hear about the writers, the professors, the accountants, the architects that also populate the continent. The single story about Africa, in Adichie’s words, is “beautiful landscapes, beautiful animals, and incomprehensible people, fighting senseless wars, dying of poverty and AIDS, unable to speak for themselves and waiting to be saved by a kind, white foreigner.”

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