“It’s important to know that all stories have been told, but you can bring something new to them. Inspiration comes from everything; it isn’t something magical. You sit in front of the computer and you hope the writing happens.” Chimamanda Adichie offered this straightforward truth to a group of over one hundred students and faculty from Grant High School, one that any writer, but especially a young writer, would find encouraging, and the audience at Grant was no exception. Adichie is self possessed, poised, and remarkably accessible, and students connected with her easily. When asked how she came to be a writer she responded: “I didn’t always like school, but I always loved to read. In fact, it’s okay if you don’t always love school, but you should love reading, and read everything you can.”
Adichie’s passion for storytelling is palpable, and her belief in the importance of the complete story drew several questions from the audience. Students were curious about her experience since moving to the U.S. from Nigeria, how much of herself she puts into her writing, and how she deals with the kids of narrow-minded stereotypes that she addresses in a TED Talk called “The Danger of the Single Story.” “Stereotypes are not always untrue,” Adichie responded, “but they are incomplete. A single story can be true, but it’s not complete, and if a story is not complete, what’s the point?” She went on to explain that the sort of cultural misunderstanding that produces a stereotype doesn’t have to be a source of conflict or antagonism, but an opportunity for connection: “Ignorance can be a good thing, when you approach it with humility; it becomes a bad thing when it’s arrogant.”
Students and faculty alike were charmed and inspired by Adichie’s confidence, her commitment to telling her own truth, and the remarkable way in which she makes the often intimidating world of art, ideas and writing seem manageable, even fun. The lively and dynamic conversation undoubtedly had many students wondering as they left, what their own true story might be.
Thank you to Chimamanda Adichie, as well as Grant High School students and faculty for making this visit a memorable one!
–Acacia, WITS intern