Well, the short answer is – to avoid the “danger of a single story” (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie).
Now let me get to the longer and (hopefully) more interesting answer 🙂
It starts with the talk The Danger of a Single Story by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie that I discovered after reading her book Americanah (my review). And that’s when I realized that my interest in discovering other cultures through books is fueled by a fear of getting trapped in my own bubble, by getting only single story when there’s so much out there. It all made sense!
If you haven’t watch Adichie’s talk, I make it easy for you to do it:
When I started blogging (5 years ago) I was reading mainly fiction stories about English and American cultures, I was very excited about reading classics, and not so excited about reading contemporary stories.
As a little bit of context, I am living in Romania (Europe), a country with little mix of cultures, with its people predominantly white and Orthodox. Until I was 6 I grew up in a rural area, so even more traditional. I don’t think I saw face-to-face a Black person before turning 12, and that happened during the holidays abroad, not at home.
But things started to change after I started blogging – in 2017 I read about Australian and Japanese disputes during WWII (The Narrow Road to the to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan – my review), in 2018 I read my first Murakami (started with 1Q84 – my review), and in 2020 I read my first book written by a Black author (Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi – my review).
Well, I still read books about English and American cultures, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But now I consciously choose to also read books about cultures that are less similar to my own. And book by book, I discover how many single stories I was trapped into …
Here are some books that challenged by single stories and provided much more than just a beautiful fiction story:
- We Are All Birds of Uganda by Hafsa Zayyan (my review)- I learnt about the phenomenon of twice migration (first time I heard of it, mind-blowing ….)
- The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak (my review) – I learnt about Sufism, a mystical practice in Islam
- The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (my review) – I learnt about colorism and about Black people with skin colour so light that they could pass as white
- The Girl with the Louding Voice by Adi Daré (my review) – I learnt about Nigeria, a country I knew nothing about – from Nollywood (Nigeria’s film industry) to religion (Nigeria has the largest Christian population in Africa)
- The Old Capital by Yasunari Kawabata (my review) – I learnt about the components of a kimono, how they created, and what’s their cultural significance
- The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste (my review) – I learnt that Italy invaded Ethiopia during WWII (from school I had a narrow view that Africa was not involved in the war, imagine my shock)
- … and the list can go on.
To conclude, I strongly believe that reading fiction stories about other cultures than yours is an accessible and effective way of having your single stories challenged. I am definitely looking forward to discovering more and more cultures, as I feel like I’ve just started my journey around the wonders of the world.
Let’s discuss – what books challenged your single stories?
‘Till next time … happy reading!
Cover picture: Jonathan Borba via Pexels