When listening to Adichie’s talk: “The Danger of a Single Story” I was impressed by many of her points. She explained her college roommate’s misguided stereotypes of Nigerian (or as the roommate would have said, African) culture, but Adichie also admitted to holding many of the same over simplified perceptions of people in her own country. She used her family’s servant as an example, telling us that her mother always emphasized their servant’s poverty, but never told her children of how skilled his family was in crafts. Adichie later realized that her perception of many Nigerians was very similar to Americans’ perceptions of them. The main difference being that Americans would assume that Adichie must have come from a similar background as her servant since she was Nigerian. The reality was that her lifestyle was much closer to many upper-middle class Americans.
Another point that gave me pause was how strongly literature can influence people’s perception of a culture. I admit that the reason I decided to take this course was because I knew nothing about Nigeria, and taking this course seemed like (and has been) an enjoyable way to gain knowledge of Nigeria. Before listening to Adichie’s talk, it did not occur to me that reading a story about a society could be a problematic way of forming one’s perception of it. However, I would not want someone to form their opinions on American society by basing them on a scenario in a Steven King Novel, so I appreciate Adichie’s concern with Americans and Europeans basing their opinions on Nigeria, from reading her novels. Though novels do reflect the society they come from, they are not meant to be anecdotes or case models.