Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Danger of a Single Story

September has been a month of exploring why and how people tell their stories. On one of the first days of class this year, students watched Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie's TedTalk entitled, "The Danger of a Single Story," in which she warns us against seeing others from only one perspective, of having only one story of a person or a people. After discussing her message, the students began to understand that the only way for people to truly understand one another is for us all to tell our own stories, to give one another a glimpse into what the world looks like through our eyes.

In order to tell their own stories in the best way possible, students realized that they needed to better understand the techniques that other authors use when they write personal narratives.

Consequently, we have been reading and listening to a series of personal narratives, each with a different focus. For example, we studied "The Scolding" by Nabeela Rehman to consider how dialogue can bring a story to life, while Dara Horn's "Walking With Living Feet" drove home the impact of vivid imagery. If you would like to listen to or read the narratives we've been enjoying, they can be found HERE.

During one class, students looked for various literary elements in Amy Tan's famous personal narrative "Fish Cheeks." Each group focused on annotating for a new technique as they came to each new part of the story. By the end, we had uncovered a wealth of techniques used by Amy Tan to convey the maturity that it takes to recognize and accept one's identity.

After we study a story, students apply the technique we've focused on to their own memoirs. For example, after listening to/reading and discussing Kamaal Majeed's "Being Content With Myself" to recognize the importance of a story's hook, students rewrote the first line of their own memoirs for maximum reader impact and connection to their memoirs' themes. Students wrote these on large sheets of poster paper so that they could be inspired by one another's writing.

Students are looking forward to sharing their stories near the end of October. Their memoirs cover just about every topic imaginable, but more that that, they add important stories to our collective understanding of our community. And for that, I am so grateful!

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