Sunday, September 8, 2013

Pursuit of a fuller truth

Yesterday, I watched this TED Talk by the Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie entitled "The Danger of a Single Story." She describes the inherent limitations in our understanding when we see a group of people from only one point of view. The video clip is less than 20 minutes long, and this young woman is articulate and engaging. I recommend taking the time to watch it.

The preconceived notions westerners had about her and her family, notions that were formed in and perpetuated by popular literature and media, were stereotypes caused by a dearth of knowledge and a superficial truth. Her point is well-taken - if we are given only one point of view, 'a single story,' then stereotypes will perpetuate and the depth and dimension of the truth will elude us.

Our job as writers, teachers, bosses, parents, community organizers, etc. is to speak the truth in our work, revealing multiple facets of our subject matter. It's our duty to convey more than one side of the story to our audience so they come away with a fuller understanding. And fuller understanding will be closer to the truth.

We've all read sad, horrible stories set in Nazi-era Germany, and unfortunately many of them fall into this 'single story' mold. I didn't want my story Risking Exposureto be another one of those; I wanted it to reveal a different facet of the truth of that time and place in history. So I chose to tell the story through the eyes of an insider, a girl in the Hitler Youth who has only been told the preferred truth, her society's 'single story.' When changes in her life open her eyes to other dimensions outside of that single story, she sees a fuller truth. Hopefully, readers will also.

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