A Single Story

Recently a friend emailed me a YouTube video of Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie’s talk entitled The Dangers of a Single Story. I have read one of her books and remember her coming to my area a few years ago to speak.

It’s a long video – 20 minutes – but so worth it.

The title led me to think it was about the fears of only having one story in us as writers, but I was so wrong. Her message is amazing. She means that it is dangerous to view a person or group of people as only having one single story. An important message on Valentine’s Day.

I’ll illustrate with an example from my own life.

The summer before my first year in college I learned the name of my new roommate and looked up her picture in the facebook sent out to all incoming students. I couldn’t wait to meet her. I was sure she would be my first real college friend.

She wanted nothing to do with me. She didn’t talk to me. Even though we had made the same friends in our house (I went to a college with houses, not dorms), she ignored me. I didn’t know what I had done or said to cause that reaction and none of our mutual friends were able to enlighten me.

Sometime that fall, I found myself in a sophomore’s room, laughing with my roommate and a bunch of friends, a couple of whom happened to be gay. Later that week, I found out that my roommate was gay.

Okay, so this didn’t change anything for me. I didn’t care who she felt attracted to. She still didn’t talk to me and I still didn’t know why.

Time passed. One day I went into the senior’s room across the hall and plopped onto her bed while she watched video of rats (she was a behavioral biology student doing thesis research).

“Things are better between you and Roommate, aren’t they?” she asked.

I nodded.  “Yeah, we’ve actually been talking and hanging out.”

“She came in here earlier, shouted, ‘I love my roommate’ and left again,” the senior said.

I grinned.  I finally had the friendship I had imagined all summer.

Why had she avoided me for the first month or so? She had taken one look at my picutre in the facebook and decided that I was a stuck-up priss who would hate her for being gay. So she decided to hate me first. You see, she saw me as only having one story, a prissy, gay-hating story (which wasn’t even true).

This is what people often do. We make snap judgments about people based on what they look like, or what we’ve heard about them, and we don’t always give them a chance to show us their real selves. Governments do this when they marginalize certain countries or parts of the world, or in deciding who gets aid and who doesn’t.

The dangers of seeing only a single story are real and can be applied in so many ways – our writing, meeting new friends, in business. How will you apply this information in your own life? Please tell me in the comments.



Filed under The rest of my life

20 responses to “A Single Story

  1. I remind myself that God loves every one of His creation and expects me to go and do likewise. This gives me reason to have an open mind about people. I don’t have to agree with everything a person does or thinks to like them and care about them. Blessings to you…

  2. Huh, isn’t that something? Amazing how we have preconceived notions about people without even meeting them. Isn’t it wonderful when those ideas (based on anything other than fact) are wrong? I’m glad things worked out between you. 😉

    • Vicki Tremper

      Well said, Carol Ann!
      Yes, Laura, it was nice to get past that – we became good friends and chose to room together the next year.
      Thank you both for commenting!

  3. I’m so glad there was a happy ending to that story.
    Yes, I believe that most people we meet have so many facets, and that we only see one of them.
    It is sad, though, when people only want to see one, and not the others.
    Great post!

  4. Cool post Vicki. I’m glad it had a happy ending. And lots to think about. Thanks

  5. Judging people without knowing their story is always dangerous. ***waves back***

  6. Welcome to the crusade. Moi aussi je parle francais, et j’adore les langues.

    LOOOOVED your post!

  7. Oh, fabulous post–it’s so true. People spend a lot of energy trying to make sense of the world and it is certainly EASIEST to make a quick judgment based on something concrete. I think it’s especially tempting when we are vulnerable or have been indoctrinated in ‘in-group’ ‘out-group’ thinking. In reality, it’s always better to be open to all the stories.

  8. Great post, Vicki.

    I’m following you on twitter. I hopped over from the crusader list to say “HI.”

    Just a few more days until the first challenge… It should be fun.

  9. Just wanted to say congratulations on getting an honorable mention on the Dark and Stormy Night contest! Yay!

  10. Wow, that was a case of reject or be rejected if I ever heard one. So glad it worked out for you guys in the end. =)

    Working through the crusade list and stopped by to follow and say hello!

  11. I’ve always tried not to judge a book by it’s cover. Great post. I’m a crusader and I can’t wait to read more of your blog.


  12. There are what we call the rose colored glasses that make everything look one way that we want to see it instead of how it truly is. Some people will walk around with those preconceived notions and not give anyone a chance to give their side of the story. I try to keep the glasses clear and give everyone an equal share of space to share their story.

  13. This is a truly wonderful post. Thanks for sharing!

  14. I love the way you put this, that we have “more than one story”. WOW! I need to remember. I might even post on this idea, too.
    Fellow crusader – new follower

  15. You are so right. I wish I had something more intelligent to post as a comment but I don’t. Your story reminded me of this cute guy I befriended in my freshman year in College. After I found out he was gay, I don’t know what vibe he got from me but he started avoiding me and making excuses as to why he wasn’t available to hang out anymore. I tried to hold onto that friendship but in the end I had to let him go. I doubted he ever truly believed that I didn’t mind him being gay. *sad*

  16. Hi, fellow crusader.

    I love this video. So much that I showed it to both my 7th-grade classes because we’re studying Africa. Historians, journalists, teachers, and writers can learn something by watching it.

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