A Single Story

I love this story from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “We Should All Be Feminists”

14117709454_bfab91f0b6_o-500x500“When I was in primary school in Nsukka, a university town in southeastern Nigeria, my teacher said at the beginning of term that she would give the class a test and whoever got the highest score would be the class monitor. Class monitor was a big deal. If you were class monitor, you would write down the names of noisemakers each day, which was heady enough power on its own, but my teacher would also give you a cane to hold in your hand while you walked around and patrolled the class for noisemakers. Of course you were not allowed to actually use the cane. But it was an exciting prospect for the nine-year-old me. I very much wanted to be class monitor. And I got the highest score on the test. Then, to my surprise, my teacher said the monitor had to be a boy. She had forgotten to make that clear earlier; she assumed it was obvious. A boy had the second-highest score on the test. And he would be monitor. What was even more interesting is that this boy was a sweet, gentle soul who had no interest in patrolling the class with a stick. While I was full of ambition to do so. But I was female and he was male and he became class monitor. I have never forgotten that incident.”

One of my biggest regrets of my time in The Gambia is that I only experienced a singular story – the story of a small village in a small country, and even then I only experienced an episode rather than a complete tale. I didn’t spend much time in urban Gambia or Senegal, and when I did I predominantly spent it with other Peace Corps volunteers. My view of the continent is inevitably limited by this sheltered experience. I hope one day to be able to give a greater balance of stories.

barghouti-1“If you want to dispossess a people, the simplest way to do it is to tell their story, and to start with, “secondly”.”

– Mourid Barghouti

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