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Common Reading 2019: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

"The Danger of a Single Story"

"So that is how to create a single story, show a people as one thing, as only one thing, over and over again, and that is what they become."

—Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian novelist who has also written short stories and nonfiction such as Purple Hibiscus and the book-length essay, We Should All Be Feminists which started a worldwide conversation about feminism. Her work has appeared in numerous publications including The New Yorker, Granta, and The O. Henry Prize Stories. She has won many awards such as the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Purple Hibiscus, and her 2009 TED Talk, The Danger of a Single Story, is now one of the most-viewed TED Talks of all time.

Act It Out!

2 actors:  Chimamanda and Roommate

Prop: iphone with Mariah Carey


Chimamanda:  Hey don’t forget tomorrow is when the Add/Drop period starts.  I have so many classes I need to switch around!

Roommate:  I can’t believe how well you speak English!

Chimamanda: English is actually the first language of Nigeria.

Roommate:  Oh wow, I didn’t know that.  Are you in the mood for some popcorn?

Chimamanda:  That sounds great!

Roommate:  Cool, I bought some today.  Here, let me show you how to use this machine.  It’s called a “microwave”.

Chimamanda:  Uh . . . I’m good. We actually have microwaves in Nigeria.

Roommate:  ohhh, sorry, gosh, I just assumed . . .

Chimamanda:  It’s no problem.

Roommate:  Perhaps we could listen to your tribal music while we eat our popcorn?

Chimamanda:  Sure, I’ve got a recording right here (plays Mariah Carey)


Skits contributed by Dr. Jennifer Sacher-Wiley and Samantha Schwarz

Discussion Questions

1. Have you been surprised that anyone was more than their “single story” since coming to college?

2. There are many people who are similar to Adichie in that they are defined by one particular aspect of their lives. How does hearing Adichie's perspective on this allow you to understand other people's "stories" better?

3. How do you think we can fix this problem of defining people as only one of their stories?

In-Class Activities

1. Split into small groups and discuss what “single story” students feel like they are defined as.


Monica Prince, assistant professor of activist and performance writing at Susquehanna University, received her MFA in poetry from Georgia College & State University and BA from Knox College. Her 2018 choreopoem, How to Exterminate the Black Woman, premiered to sold-out audiences at Susquehanna, and will be published in 2020 by [PANK]. Her debut collection of poetry, Instructions for Temporary Survival, launched in July 2019 with Red Mountain Press, and she’s the managing editor for the Santa Fe Writers Project Quarterly. 

Introduction by Monica Prince