Growing we deem necessary, and like the

Growing up in a European house where watching television was only allowed on Sundays, I valued and enjoyed the gift of reading. Being the advanced reader I was, in kindergarten I joined the first grade reading track where my teacher introduced us to Shel Silverstein’s Giving Tree. What appealed to me about this book, was that it wasn’t my typical princess and unicorn read. Silverstein tells a story about a selfless tree who gives everything from his apples to his limbs in order to satisfy a selfish boy. From this story I drew parallels to my life of people who exemplify traits of selflessness and wished to be like them.I learnt the importance of giving to others and not expecting anything in return. In addition, I learnt that sometimes there are things that we deem necessary, and like the little boy, regret it afterwards. It’s hard to say whether it had a significant impact on the person I am today, but I can’t deny the timeless lessons I learnt from the story.Chimamanda Adichie is a Nigerian novelist who spoke on the TED GLOBAL 2009 stage about the importance of having multiple stories about cultures to fully understand and empathize with them. Adichie warns that if we only hear a single story about an individual or culture it can lead to stereotypical assumptions.There is a danger to taking a complex multi-faced country and turning it into a single narrative.     Chimamanda  grew up in a Nigerian University campus, and was a reader and writer from an early age. As a young child, she wrote stories based on American books her mother provided for her, and stereotyped western people as white, blue-eyed children who drank ginger beer and played in the snow. It was only when she grew older and read multiple viewpoints on western cultures,was she able to humanize  them and realize that they had the same human experiences, emotions and dreams that she held.Another experience she presented of her stereotyping based on one story was a young boy who lived with her family as live-in help, named Fide. Chimamanda’s mother used to send Fide’s family food and old clothes, explaining that his family lived in a desolate Nigerian village. When she went to visit fide’s village, she saw beautiful art and was unable to reconcile the beauty she visited with the image of a helpless family and village she had of them in her head. In her words, “it had become impossible for me to see them as anything else but poor,” prior to her visiting the village. As a late teenager she went to an American university and was subjected to similar situations as her’s to Fide; People, such as her roommate and professor, were painting people of her experience in one brushstroke: a “single story of catastrophe.”     Chimamanda began to realize that many Americans are fed different versions of a single story. The same narratives are being described consistently throughout television and media and novels, until that is the only story people believe. These stories are incomplete and they “flatten the experience and… overlook the many other stories that form a complete picture.”What we read influences us and our understanding of the characters and their life and culture. In Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, we are introduced to a whole new lifestyle and culture that is completely unfamiliar to our Western society. We are introduced to an Ibo community called Umuofia and their leader,Okonkwo. When we read the book, we separate stereotypes we may have previously attached to Nigerian life and learn that, like us, they have a strong culture that is built on tradition, respect to elders, faith and the arts. It is important to disregard our ‘Western ignorance’ and be able to accept a more diverse and different culture in order to become more knowledgeable and respectful people.    Chimamanda finishes her TED talk on a powerful and hopeful note. “Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.” Complete stories have the ability to break stereotypes, help others, and bring us closer to the humanity present in each and every one of us. We are encouraged to seek out complete stories of other cultures and people in order to gain an understanding and open our minds to what makes us all unique.