I have to say, up to this day, Chimamanda Adichie was completely unknown to me. (In my defence, I don’t get round to read nearly as much as I’d wish to of late.) Chimamanda Adichie is in fact a novelist of high acclaim. What she said in a speech, moved me, so I thought I’d share.
Born and raised in Nigeria, she hardly ever found it odd when she read books about people strange to her, with lifestyles very different from her own. I’m quoting from the clip at ted.com; you can also watch her speech on YouTube:
“When I was seven, I wrote exactly the kinds of stories I was reading: All my characters were white and blue-eyed, they played in the snow, they ate apples, and they talked about the weather, how lovely it was that the sun had come out.
“Now, this despite the fact that I lived in Nigeria, I had never been outside Nigeria. We didn’t have snow, we ate mangoes, and we never talked about the weather, because there was no need to.
[…]”What this demonstrates, I think, is how impressionable and vulnerable we are in the face of a story, particularly as children.
[…]”I had become convinced that books by their very nature had to have foreigners in them and had to be about things with which I could not personally identify.”
She also put it in a nutshell: “I realized that people who looked like me could live in books,” she’s quoted from the Washington Post.
Visibility matters, and representation matters. One could say that I as white, mostly straight female have little or no concept of the issue. Well I do have, I think, but I don’t feel like cluttering this post with my own petty issues.
Do watch the video, and go and get all books ever written by this lady; it will surely be worth it!