As I watched Chimamanda Adichie talk about how, as a child, the influence of books shaped her view of who she thought could be part of literature, I remembered my own childhood reading habits. For her, a child in Nigeria, literature consisted of British white children with blonde hair and blue eyes, and thus, she felt she could not be a part of literature. For me, everyone in books looked and talked and lived like me, at least in the broad sense. This is a tragedy for both of us.
Of course, we want literature to show us our common humanity, but we also need our literature to show us that not everyone on this planet is just like us, and we need to know broader stories so that not only do we grow as people but we grow to learn about one another, too.
That is why literary diversity is good, necessary, powerful. That is why, while I love the books of the traditional Western cannon, I believe our cannon of great literature is still far too narrow. That is why, we must all write what we know and explore what we don’t know. So that we don’t trap ourselves and each other in single stories.
Do you ever feel trapped in a single story?