Avid readers always look out for opportunities to read and relish interviews of their favourite authors. After all, there is better way to glean a writer than from a heart to heart conversation. The Last Interview: Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Other Conversations takes this literary conversation to another level altogether.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez was a Colombian author. He won the Nobel Prize for literature in the year 1982. He is considered as one of the most significant influences and voices of the last century.
The book, edited by Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter David Streitfeld comprises of a series of interviews with the author. It basically consists of five curated and highly detailed, informative and revealing interviews. The earliest interview dates back to 1956 and the renowned author’s last interview dates to the year 2006.
The interviews have been carefully curated and handpicked. Some of them were originally published in other languages, mainly Spanish, and have been translated into English in the book.
Taken together they cover the entire writing life of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, whose fierce activism was always woven with the literature he produced. The interesting mix of interviews reveals his writing process, his deep involvement with political matters in Latin America, his activism, his views on power and how it corrupts as well as little known tidbits from his writing life. It also includes the writer’s insights into subjects such as the meaning of true love and quite interestingly, the validity of superstitions.
Interestingly, the book includes his first ever interview, that was taken before he wrote the book “One Hundred Years of Solitude”, which took him to dizzying heights of success. It provides an intimate glimpse into the mind of the young writer at that time. Quite predictably, it also contains his last interview. Somehow, it makes fans of the writer view his life in full circle.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez was a prolific and powerful writer. This book only exemplifies this fact through a unique insight into key conversations that he has had with the media in his lifetime.
The Last Interview: Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Edited and with an introduction by David Streitfeld
Publisher:Melville House Publishing,
I’ve been teaching a variety of students from all age groups for the past eight years. I’ve realized that teachers in general have to improvise by adding new teaching aids and techniques to gain the attention of the ultra-modern 21st century child.
However, I can say very confidently that despite all the odds, it holds true that a child who reads using either a physical book or an eBook is definitely a much more empathetic, patient, diligent, and intelligent human being than one who does not read.
Such children who read for pleasure, as I have seen, are not only top rankers in their schools, but also better individuals who are broad-minded, righteous and dedicated. This is because unlike other entertainments like playing a game on a tablet or Xbox, or watching a 3D movie, reading, using any medium, teaches a child many lessons and shows them different points of view which enhances their intellect and develops their creative and innovative thinking abilities. I make it a point in my tutorials to make sure that my students read at least one book every week. I’ve seen the difference in grades and behaviour of pupils who read on a regular basis and those who don’t. So yes, readers do and will always have an edge over children who do not read for pleasure, but teachers and parents will have to find many innovative and creative ways to get children to read these days in the new millennium.
Start them young, is what I always say to parents. Start reading to your children from the time they are born. Books should be associated with love and respect right from the time the child is able to think and reason out in the new environment its born into. If, however, you as a parent have missed the bus and your child is a preteen who hates to read, don’t nag him or her to do so.
Start reading on a regular basis yourself to set an example for your children. Remember, children are constantly watching their parents and will always be influenced by what they see.
To give an example of myself; I am a person who loves to read, as well as, who reads to live. Whenever my students are doing a test or a writing assignment, I sit beside them with a book in my hand and read, keeping an eye on them. Watching me, now my students too during a class break, get out their novels or non-fiction books and read. I never touch my smartphone at all when I am in class, and though my students are not my flesh and blood, they have imitated me for their own betterment. Think about how beneficial therefore it will be for children to see their own parents reading voraciously, instead of constantly working on the laptop, or talking on the smartphone even at the dinner table.
I read a very interesting and thought-provoking book a year ago called The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma, whose father made a promise to read to her every night for one hundred nights, but once they met their goal they couldn’t stop. One hundred became one thousand, and the reading streak continued for 3218 nights, finally ending when the girl was in her twenties. Father and daughter made it a point in any circumstance never to miss a single night.
The book reminded me of my dear uncle, who used to read to me stories every night when I was a toddler and also when I was a preteen and teenager. When I was between twelve and fourteen years of age, my uncle read to me all the Sherlock Holmes titles, until school homework and late-night study made us stop very reluctantly. To me therefore, there is no such thing as an age bar to be read to. We are humans, and we all are storytellers. In the past stories were told to us around a fire by every member of the community, these stories encompassing the whole of humanity.
However, if you want to make a child an independent reader and wean him off being read to, for discipline purposes, then the right grade would be the second or third when the child is intellectually capable of reading a book by him or herself. The age however varies greatly from child to child and family to family. My uncle still reads to me articles, stories and blog posts from his smartphone, and I am twenty-eight years old!
The classics are the repository of wisdom and knowledge, which according to me a student must read to learn from the past and to shape his or her future.
In my book I’ve mentioned numerous techniques that I have used, to impart the love of reading classics to my wards, like the movie first method, reading snippets in class, the PowerPoint method, etc., which can be adopted by parents in their homes.
I would like to mention again here, where parents are concerned, nothing works best than the parents taking an initiative and reading the classics along with the child. Another technique I can think of right now, is the use of abridged classics to first introduce a child to read, as it is easier to read and comprehend, and the child feels he too can read an adult book. Later, when the child gains confidence, supply him or her with the copy of the original unabridged version.
According to me, it does not matter at all through which medium the student gets to read a story; reading is reading whether you read an eBook or a physical tome. We must adapt to the changing times and not be rigid. Remember, in the past we used to read from papyrus, palm leaves, and goat skin, and it was the Chinese who invented paper and changed our reading habits, which we use even to this day. Change is inevitable. Change is dynamic. We need to see and analyse the positive and negative aspects of change and see if it is beneficial to our children or not.
Most of my students read physical books, but there are a growing number of younger students, born post 2005, who are more at home with a Kindle or iPad. As long as they are reading and not finding it a strain, who am I to complain? However, I know that where younger students are concerned, the physical act of turning the page of a regular physical book, touching the pop out images, smelling the pages, makes them better readers than e-readers would do.
Reading and the modern child have a complex and dynamic relationship. Times are changing and reading trends will follow suit, but it is heartening to know that a love for reading is still alive!
Art transcends the boundaries of age. It is never too early to introduce works of great artists to children. This is why we love the Mini Masters series of board books for children. The aim of this particular series is to introduce impressionist painters to toddlers (and parents for the uninitiated!)
Each title in the Mini Masters series pairs simple verses with some of the most famous paintings in the history of art.
We often assume that great art requires very advanced interpretation skills. This could not be farther than the truth. The Mini Masters series brings famous Impressionist Painters to the minds and hearts of very young children.
Each book is centered on one painter. Authors Julie Merberg and Suzanne Bober have successfully paired the beauty of the impressionist paintings with rhyming verse. As you turn the pages, there is a painting on each page and a little rhyme connected to the painting. Each new page reveals a new painting and the verse that connects all the paintings together till the end describes each painting in a fun and lyrical way.
Little children love rhyming lines. They love looking at pictures as well and these books combine the two things seamlessly.
A look at some of the individual books in the series:
In A Picnic With Monet, Claude Monet’s light filled paintings take the children on an enchanted picnic, right into the artist’s flower garden.
In The Garden With Van Gogh takes a look at his countryside paintings with enriching rhymes.
Dancing With Degas explores the magical world of ballet dancing complete with the toe shoes, tutus and of course, the ballerinas.
A Magical Day With Matisse visits his bright and vibrant works.
Each board book is sturdy enough for the curious little hands that will explore it! The names of the individual paintings are not given on each page, but at the end.
The Mini Masters series of books is a charming and lyrical introduction to art. It is the best way to introduce children to great paintings of the world, and some really spectacular artists!
Do share your experiences with the series (or other similar books) in the feedback section below.
Sonia Mehta, who has been writing for children for over two decades, brings the saint back to life in Junior Lives: Mother Teresa. This book is the first title in a series of illustrated biographies created for young readers. The aim of the series is to get to know our world heroes better.
This book sets a great example for the rest of the titles to follow. Mother Teresa’s life is narrated in form of a story. This is something that always works with children. It traces the story of Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, the young girl from Albania who transformed into the beloved Mother Teresa, the epitome of humanity.
Written in a very engaging way, it is packed with little-known facts which make it all the more interesting. Speckled with stories and incidents from her life, the book aptly takes the reader through the saint’s childhood, her decision to become a nun, her tryst in India and her work with the poor. It ends with her journey to sainthood. It thus presents in a simple and easy-to-read manner the story of one of the most important people who ever lived!
The illustrations make the book lively. There are several side-boxes and side-bars that highlight additional explanatory information. Hence, this does not break the flow of the story and at the same time gives a lot of background information that is relevant to the story. For example, in the chapter on Mother Teresa’s decision to become a nun, the side-box explains in a lucid manner the different steps involved in the process of becoming a nun. In another chapter that describes the caste-system in India, there is a diagrammatic representation of the same.
Besides the interesting trivia presented throughout the book, there is a selection of quotes and a timeline at the end, illustrations of commemorative stamps, as well as a list of resources used by the author for the well-rounded research.
In all, Puffin Books India’s Junior Lives: Mother Teresa is a great way to get young readers to know about the saint!
Puffin Books India
Author: Sonia Mehta
Illustrator: Aditya Krishnamurthy
As a very public figure, who has been extremely vocal about feminism, it would be natural to assume that the famed writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is looked up to for her views on the feminist thought. Hence, it is not surprising that a dear friend wrote to her, asking for advice to raise her baby girl as a feminist.
Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie started out as a response to that question. While it was meant for a woman as an advice book on raising her daughter, it transcends barriers of gender. It should be read by mothers and fathers of boys and girls as well as by anyone who seeks an equal society.
Adichie begins by sharing her feminist formula, that is two “Feminist Tools” as outlined below:
The first is your premise, the solid unbending belief that you start off with. What is your premise? Your feminist premise should be: I matter. I matter equally. Not ‘if only’. Not ‘as long as’. I matter equally. Full stop.
The second tool is a question: can you reverse X and get the same results?
The fifteen suggestions take the form of fifteen simple and lucid chapters. Adichie presents her guidelines on raising a child in the context of the feminist thought.
Adichie attacks the use of language that reinforces stereotypes. She often does this in a humorous and memorable manner, using the dry wit that she is known for.
For instance, the statement below:
Remember in primary school we learned that a verb was a ‘doing’ word? Well, a father is as much a verb as a mother.
When we say fathers are ‘helping’, we are suggesting that childcare is a mother’s territory, into which fathers valiantly venture.
She explores outdated notions of gender roles and how adults unknowingly or knowingly instill these concepts into minds of children. She gives examples to show how early society reinforces gender stereotypes: classifying colours blue and pink, arranging toys in toy shops in neat gender specific sections and worse in the language we use to talk to children.
I remember being told as a child to ‘bend down properly while sweeping, like a girl’. Which meant that sweeping was about being female. I wish I had been told simply, ‘ bend down and sweep the floor properly because you’ll clean the floor better’. And I wish my brothers had been told the same thing.
Adichie addresses varied themes such as work, motherhood, gender roles, marriage, ideas of beauty and so on in a gentle but firm voice.
While she obviously addresses the more clearly visible and apparent instances of how we subscribe to gender inequality, she also looks at examples where a so-called feminist face hides subtle but pervasive inequalities. For example, a husband “allowing” his wife to work (in a society where women are predominantly relegated to domestic chores) may seem to some as progressive. But, Adichie questions if it is really so. Such instances of tokenism give a false impression of gender equality, and the book illuminates this.
The book is highly practical in nature. The fifteen chapters are suggestions and she deftly weaves in these practical tips with the theories she presents, thereby making this a guide which parents can follow.
While the tone of the book is gentle, there are some passages where she fiercely and strongly makes a point.
Please reject the idea that motherhood and work are mutually exclusive. I have no interest in the debate about women ‘doing it all’ because it is a debate that assumes that care-giving and domestic work are singularly female domains, an idea I strongly reject. Domestic work and care-giving should be gender neutral, and we should be asking not whether a woman can ‘do it all’ but how best to support parents in their dual duties at work and home.
Adichie’s work is a short but highly impactful read. It is a book you may finish in under an hour, but whose ideas will remain forever. The book is a great starting point for a new discourse on what it means to raise boys and girls equally- in the true sense of the term.
The Little Gardener is a very simple story. Like in any good picture book, the pictures take the story forward, with minimal but very effective text.
The detailed illustrations make the garden look like a fascinating jungle. Thanks to the highly creative drawings, the garden looks like a lush and rich forest! Fascinating details, such as the little earthworms (and many tiny natural objects that you can find in the artwork) will appeal to readers!
There was once a little gardener and his garden meant everything to him. He worked extremely hard as he tended to his garden. However, he felt he was too little, and the garden was very big. There was a hint of disappointment. Yet, he continued to labour day in and day out. One single flower did blossom. It was that one flower that gave him hope. He worked hard to save the garden from dying. One night, he wished he had a little help, before he went to sleep.
While no one heard his wish, the blooming flower caught the eye of a little girl who lived in the house nearby. It gave her hope and she started to tend to the dying garden. While the gardener slept out of weariness, when he awoke there was a big surprise in store for him. His garden was alive and blossoming!
The Little Gardener is a book that can be used with children as a simple story, complete with wonderful artwork. It can also be used as a starting point for discussions that are more philosophical in nature- for instance, the nature of hard work, value of persistence and nature of hope.
Without appearing moralistic, The Little Gardener echoes the eternal truth that it is important to persist, against all odds. As human beings, we need to do our duties and relentlessly pursue what we have set out to do. Just like the little gardener, we are all batting our own weeds in life! But, there is always help at hand, if you ask for it, and work for it. It also brings in the notion that sometimes help can be found in the most unexpected of places.
Flying Eye books, 2015
Those who are vaguely acquainted with the field of literature, or those who have only read canonical writers like Shakespeare and Charles Dickens may wonder in what way has Chinua Achebe contributed to the corpus of literature? In a grief-stricken world where war and violence in their myriad forms overpower human beings, the author’s reservoir of wisdom transports one to the realm of peace. His simple yet profound statements take readers to a different realm of thinking and bring about a paradigmatic shift in responding to a story.
Impact of oral traditions…
Chinua Achebe had a very humble upbringing. Born in the Igbo town of Ogidi in South-Eastern Nigeria, Achebe was fascinated with stories at a very young age and grew up with stories told by his mother and sister. These left an indelible mark on his personality. The strong influence of oral tradition on Achebe’s Igbo community accentuated his belief in the power of storytelling. It is thus no wonder that proverbs, sayings and myths formed a part and parcel of his story telling. Achebe sustained this interest in stories and his friends jocularly called him ‘Dictionary’ after sensing his interest for books.
Whose story is it anyway?
Achebe strongly validated the notion that “People create stories create people” or rather, “stories create people create stories”, and this idea which spells out the interdependence of man and stories made him transform the literary world. He therefore, decided to write stories which would change the perception of human beings in general and his African community in particular. As he was nurturing this interest in reading, he also recognized that unconsciously he was enamoured by white characters and despised black characters. This made him realize that a part of his personality is shaped by the stories inscribed by European writers. These stories by European writers painted a bleak picture and were instrumental in motivating Achebe to change the perception of Africa in the world. He felt it was his moral responsibility to generate awareness among his people.
In his essay “The Novelist as a Teacher”, Achebe pronounces, “There is an adequate revolution for me to espouse – to help my society regain belief in itself and put away the complexes of the years of denigration and self-abasement. And it is essentially a question of education in the best sense of the word,” His works, therefore offer an insight not only into the nuances of the African cultural, social, economic and political life but also help the readers to discern the way stories have the power to shape culture. These stories are an indication of evolution of culture. They also indicate how change and transition influence people and shape their stories.
In Anthills of the Savannah he states, “It is only the story that can continue beyond the war and the warrior. It is the story that outlives the sound of war-drums and the exploits of brave fighters. It is the story…that saves our progeny from blundering like blind beggars into the spikes of the cactus fence. The story is our escort; without it, we are blind. Does the blind man own his escort? No, neither do we the story; rather it is the story that owns us and directs us,”
Perhaps, the universal appeal of stories and the direction offered by them enabled Achebe to reflect their worth and place change at the centre of his fiction. His characters are also seen to be influenced by this transition from tradition to modernity. Achebe deeply values traditions but at the same time, he is open to positive transformations in the African communities. He is credited with the invention of modern African literature and called ‘The Father of African Literature’ as his works present an objective interpretation of traditions and represent the vicissitudes of modern life. The interpretation and representation of Africa proffered through Achebe’s texts is an extension of his thoughtfulness as a writer.
He has written five significant novels, namely, Things fall Apart, No Longer at Ease, Arrow of God, A Man of the People and Anthills of the Savannah. These novels critically delineate the falsified history of Africa conceived by the colonizers and neo-imperialistic agencies. Besides this, they also provide a beautiful rendition of the African culture and traditions and the interaction between human beings.
Oral tradition, which is the hallmark of African tradition, is weaved into his writings through folk tales, myths and proverbs. This is not merely to embellish the work of art, but also to serve a definite purpose of dealing with different aspects in the lives of the people of Africa. He has bestowed on literature a nuanced voice by deliberating on notions of art, peace and humanity.
Art, according to him, is man’s constant effort to create for himself a different order of reality from that which is given to him. He condemned art which merely gave pleasure and endorsed that art must be instructive and move beyond the pleasure principle. He deployed art through stories, proverbs and narrative techniques to demystify literature in all its contours and thus, transformed the field of literature with his creative endeavours.
Achebe exemplified art to explore the nuances of culture and to give a voice to his people. This has given an impetus to debunking the myths which perpetrate stereotypical depiction of the Africans. It has also assisted in dismantling the subversive colonial ideals. Apart from this, Achebe has written innumerable essays which exemplify his role as a teacher and bear testimony to the fact that he has a social vision.
In one of his essays titled “What has Literature got to do with it” from the book Hopes and Impediments, Achebe outlines the way literature is concerned with change. Change is possible after reflection and contemplation. A society which is conditioned with misplaced beliefs may expect a revival after understanding the role of literature in revealing the truth.
Achebe deserves these accolades because he is one of the writers who has communicated the angst of marginalized beings through his thematic exploration, creative narrative strategies and profound sensitivity. Colonization had indeed created a negative impact on the traditional values of people. Third world nations are still succumbing to the ideology of those in power. As ideology and power dynamics are deeply entrenched into the gamut of knowledge, the truth about the third world nations does not receive an effective understanding.
The neo-imperialistic agents distort the essence of the nation and further the suppression of the natives. The ideology seeps into the workings of the nation, challenging the role of leaders. Achebe seeks to redress the most crucial issues of leadership as it is affecting the African nation and the world. The clamour in Nigeria due to ineffective political leadership receives a perceptive interpretation in his postcolonial novels like A Man of the People and Anthills of the Savannah. These two novels initiated a positive step by engaging the readers with modern world leaders and their failed relationship with people. Leaders can mould the world through sensitivity and empathy and a deep connect with human beings. Achebe’s philosophy was genuinely embedded in humanitarian values and he endeavoured to depict the harsh realities of modern life where power corrupts people and drives them towards selfish pursuits.
An authentic voice…
Achebe continues to remain one of the most authentic voices on the African literary landscape and his contribution to the world of literature will always bring a sense of hope to the dispossessed and solidify their belief in self-worth. He remains a beacon of hope and his voice will continue to guide all those who seek expression and articulation of feelings and emotions for the larger benefit of the world. His commitment and sensitivity has established the ground for other writers to explore the misrepresentations of culture and, at the same time, the social role has recreated a vital essence of truth, dignity and wisdom for all the beings.
J. C. Echeruo’s assessment succinctly expresses the mammoth role played by Achebe in the literary and social field when he says, “Achebe’s is both an absolute achievement and an achievement in context. It is absolute in the sense that his novels demonstrate that it is possible for a writer with his roots firmly planted in the local African soil and writing in a foreign language to produce work that is authentic as regards local colour and universal in terms of the humanity and the empathy that informs it”.
“Why did Kattappa kill Bahubali?” was probably one of the most asked questions before the release of the second movie. People came up with thousands of theories…as well as websites and chats dedicated to discussions!
While the story of Kattappa and Bahubali is at the forefront….and the public soon knew the answer to this much-asked question…..let’s take a moment to reflect on other stories of this fictional kingdom. These are stories that deserve elaboration.
If the tale of Bahubali has created a fictional world in the minds of people…the creators must indulge people! For this by-no-means-easy task, S.S. Rajamouli, Director of the record breaking blockbuster Bahubali turned to one of the most esteemed names in historical fiction writing- Anand Neelakantan.
The result is a leap into the past…rewinding into time…going back to an era when the Queen Mother, Sivagami was but a young seventeen year old girl, haunted by memories of witnessing her father’s execution. The strong image of Sivagami, is entrenched into the minds of the viewers. She is undoubtedly one of the most powerful characters of the film. Her decisions spur the chain of actions and reactions that make the movie. The prequel to Bahubali thus tells the story of this mighty queen….in a much-awaited trilogy. The Rise of Sivagami is the first book in this series.
We see Sivagami as an orphan, ready to avenge the death of her father who served his kingdom Mahishmathi. He was executed and labelled a traitor. As we pass through the annals of history we uncover a bustling metropolis that hides dark secrets…a world where politics is as ruthless…where people play power games to reach the top….where the elite exploit the oppressed and marginalised to serve their selfish needs.
Sivagami recovers a manuscript that holds clues to her father’s death. But, this is not the story of Sivagami alone. There are many parallel plans and events lurking in the darkness… noblemen who seek power, the dark underbelly of the kingdom where slave trade and prostitution thrives, the pervasive caste and class system, a group of tribals who are looking at dethroning the king as well as an all-women band army who are bravely fighting to stop the slave trade. There are other stories that also move hand in hand with the story of Sivagami. The book gives an insight into Kattappa as a young slave, and the genesis of his unflinching loyalty to his masters. This is a world that echoes a social and political scenario that is familiar to readers in any part of the world even today.
Despite being woven as a part of the Bahubali magic, the book stands strong in its own right as a story that deserves to be heard….Neelakantan is a master storyteller who weaves in all these different stories from Mahishmathi’s past, to present a compelling narrative that will be difficult to put down. Revenge…betrayal…suspense…cruel twists of faith…this book has it all. The fast paced narrative plunges right into the exciting story to reveal a surprising conclusion….
Would it go the Hobbit way and have the prequel as a movie? I think it would be a great idea….though for now, since I will soon know why Kattappa killed Bahubali, I’ll wait with bated breath to know about the next series of turn of events in The Rise of Shivgami!
Clearly…the Bahubali fever will not cease……the Before the Beginning series will ensure that the legends from Mahishmathi continue to enchant readers!
Westland Publications Limited, 2017
The first line of a novel or literary work holds great responsibility…and if it sticks in the minds of readers, it will make the book timeless for eons to come. Listing down famous opening lines is always a herculean task for any reader…how can one choose between so many good words…from so many great works? But, we’ve managed….
BookedforLife lists a few famous opening lines in literature….and why we love them…
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife” Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
2. For setting the tone for the mood to come, in a delightful mix of poetry and prose!
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
3. For its in-the-face provocativeness…especially when you know the theme of the novel.
“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul” Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita
4. A classic proverbial style opening!
“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
5. For being disconcerting and arresting at the same time….
“Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday; I can’t be sure.” Albert Camus, The Stranger
6. A lot is said…while unsaid..
“I was born in the city of Bombay…once upon a time. No, that won’t do, there’s no getting away from the date: I was born in Doctor Narlikar’s Nursing Home on August 15th, 1947. The time matters, too.” Salman Rushdie, Midnight’s Children
7. Short and effective…
“It was a pleasure to burn.” Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
8. The quintessential beginning through all times!
“Once upon a time…”Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Grimm’s Fairy Tales
9. Introduces an element of surprise…
‘It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen” George Orwell,Nineteen Eighty-Four
10. It dives directly into the thematic heart!
“All children, except one, grow up”. M. Barrie, Peter Pan
11. An effective introduction despite staring with the minor characters…
“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense” JK Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
There are many more…but these famous opening lines do teach us a bit about the art of making an entrance!
Thanks to the proliferation of social media, we are able to access varied points of view and make up our own narratives. When my friend Rupa, recommended that I hear the TED talk on “The danger of a single story” by acclaimed novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, I did not realize that it would open my eyes to a hidden lurking danger that I might not even have been aware of. The talk was given in the year 2009, but remains relevant to the current global scenario.
Adichie begins the talk by citing her own example- how as an early reader, the British and American children’s’ books that she read, really impacted her and how she started writing fiction, inspired by the novels she read as a child. Several elements crept into these early stories- elements that may not have been a part of her experiences as a child growing up in Nigeria. Her stories and characters had a seeming resemblance to what she read- they talked of the weather, drank ginger beer and ate apples…just like the foreign characters in the books she read. Luckily, as she matured she discovered African writers, and this broadened her horizons. In her words: “It saved me from having a single story of what books are”.
In the talk, she recognises that while these ‘foreign’ books opened up new worlds for her, they also had unintended consequences. Using personal anecdotes to draw out the nature of these consequences, she says, “What this demonstrates I think, is how impressionable and vulnerable we are in the face of a story, particularly as children”.
As the talk progresses she illustrates how we often have single stories about people, and cultures. Through the prism of her experiences in Nigeria and her consequent education at University in the USA, she illuminates the danger of these stories…these narratives that creep into our collective consciousness and destroy the possibility of alternative realities.
She explores the notion that literature often (and sadly) is the cause of these single stories…and more dangerously, different versions of the same story! She also throws up the idea that power plays a role here….the power of who chooses to tell the story and how.
The lucid but powerful talk is laden with strong one-liners. “Show a people as one thing, only one thing, over and over again, and that is what they become” she says, appealing to the audience that “stories matter….many stories matter”…which is why we must not “make one story the only story…”
As a mother, my takeaway from this insightful talk would be to expose my child to multiple stories….diverse narratives…not only in literature and the books that we read, but also in life!
BOOKS BY Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie