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The Stories in Our Lives

In her latest post, Jenn ponders the connection between Literature and the human experience. Can our individual stories ultimately bring us together as one? -Ed.

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Watching Chimamanda Adichie’s TED Talk on “The Danger of a Single Story” made me think back to all the books I read in my own childhood.  I loved fairy tales and Greek myths and fantasy.  Many of these stories starred children who defied the grown-ups in their lives using magic.  These kids were powerful and strong, and they didn’t really belong to this world.  I never thought about what the characters looked like or how they talked or where they came from.  I only thought about how much I wanted to be like them!  How I wished I had powers like Matilda to make my parents disappear!  Adichie’s experience was different, and she teaches us about the power of letting everyone tell their own story and making those stories accessible to our children.  Of course it’s true that there are many stories to be told – how many people live on earth?  Even within families and communities, each of us bring our own story. If you zoom out… way out… reaching back over eons, you’ll find the one story that truly connects us. It’s the human story. Of course, as we put our classroom libraries together we want to consider who tells the stories, who is represented in those stories and what that story portrays as truth. I hope that this narrow focus on race, from Adichie’s point of view, doesn’t lose the forest for the trees.  We can’t lose the human story!  The one about friendship, family, suffering, overcoming obstacles, hope and ingenuity. That’s the human angle, and it’s the one I want my kids exposed to. I want them to know about heroes and villains, hardships and an overwhelming sense of story. We begin to forget that we’re all in this together. Good literature reaches into the heart of everyone, and that should be preserved no matter what.