The Danger of a Single Story

by Anna Hewitt

Last year I taught Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie’s debut novel Purple Hibiscus to my Year 12 English class. This was initially met with resistance. There were words in Igbo, they didn’t understand what they meant, it didn’t have a sequel, it wasn’t set in a dystopian wasteland, I hadn’t taught a lot of them before and they wanted to push my limits. I asked them how many had read a book that wasn’t written by a white person before. I was met with shocked and silent stares, and only a couple of students put up their hands. I tried to explain the importance of reading a whole range of authors, of genres, of stories. It is in doing this we can move beyond a chiched understanding of the world, and begin to understand what is is really like to walk in someone else’s shoes. I decided I was not doing this idea justice. Who am I, a white middle classed woman, to tell a class of Samoan, Tongan, Maori, Croatian, Indian and Pakeha students this? So we watched this. It is amazing.

So when my friend Grace asked me if I wanted to go and see Adichie in conversation with David Eggers, I almost melted with excitement. I get to see her talk for real! I will let you know how she is. Amazing, no doubt.

If you want to read anything by her, she has written Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun and Americanah. And yes, she is the one that is sampled on that Beyonce song.

Enjoy.

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