The Danger of the Other Single Story
“You thought everybody in America had a car and a gun; your uncles and aunts and cousins thought so, too. Right after you won the American visa lottery, they told you: In a month , you will have a big car. Soon, a big house. But don’t buy a gun like those Americans” (Adichie 115).
Throughout the course time, we have constantly questioned the danger of the single African story, reminding ourselves constantly there is more to Africa than the name, old stories of savages, and the sunsets. The Thing Around Your Neck brings up another possible single story; the single story of the United States and it may even continue the tropes of the single story. The quote above shows a typical manifestation of the single story, with the tropes of large houses, cars, and plenty of guns. Throughout many of the short stories in The Thing Around Your Neck, other common tropes of having too much food and stunning amounts of privilege.
While this is highlighting the great differences between where characters originated and the situation they find themselves in now, to me it feels repetitive and predicable that I will find a story of a struggling woman in each of these stories as she is exploited by either her husband, home or abroad, or a white man that is in love with the idea of having an exotic girlfriend. We see this in Nkem as a member of the “the Rich Nigerian Men Who Sent Their Wives to America to Have Their Babies league” Adichie 26, Karama being very confused by the strange choices and actions of her bosses, and finally in The Thing Around Your Neck, where “you” feel the emotion and difficulties of working through the United States.
Let me be clear that I am not discounting the power of these stories or the truths that are imbedded in them, I just find that despite her own calls to avoid the single story Adichie is stuck telling a very similar story with details laced with tropes and exaggerations like, “American parenting was a juggling of anxieties, and that it came with having too much food: a sated belly gave Americans time to worry that their child might have a rare disease that they had just read about, made them think they had the right to protect their child from disappointment and want and failure. A sated belly gave Americans the luxury of praising themselves for being good parents, as if caring for one’s child were the exception rather than the rule” (Adichie 82).
Perhaps I just do not understand the struggle and the privilege that I do possess makes it so the story is in fact truly a wide brush truth but, I simply believe that these stories would have another layer of interesting, nuance, and fascinating complication if they did not stick to a single story.