Travel Around the World in 46 Cookies (Cheaper than Airfare) ~ Food52

There are bar crawls and taco crawls and even cupcake crawls, so why not cookie crawls? Why not cookie crawls around the world?

We’ve taken that sugar-drunk fantasy and made it a reality. We’ve rounded of 46 Cookies of the World that feature the kooky, classic, and addictive recipes from our staff, friends, and community members just so you can country hop, cookie-style.

1. Nanaimo Bars (Nanaimo, Canada)

Another reason to consider moving to Canada. (Photo: Lillie Auld/Food52)

2. Pennsylvania Dutch Christmas Cookies (Pennsylvania, U.S.)

This straight-laced cookie is brightened by currants and a bit of lemon juice and zest, and a lashing of sweet glaze. (Photo: James Ransom/Food52)

3. Rainbow Cookies (New York, U.S.)

What’s better than a technicolor platter of classic Italian bakery cookies? (Photo: Nina Caldas/Food52)

4. Potato Chip Cookies (Saratoga Springs, U.S.)

 

This recipe proves that with some arm work and a not-so-secret ingredient, you can make the best cookies you’ll ever taste.(Photo: Linda Xiao/Food52)

5. Benne Wafers (South Carolina, U.S.)

These wafer-thin, sesame-seed studded cookies are lacey, crunchy, and caramel-colored, a.k.a. the perfect holiday treat. (Photo: James Ransom/Food52)

6. Prune & Chocolate Rugelach (New York, U.S.)

This classic Jewish cookie meets American, Hungarian, Serbian, and Israeli influences. (Photo: Bobbi Lin/Food52)

7. Black & White Cookies (New York, U.S.)

Bring New York to You (with Mini Black and White Cookies). (Photo: Yossy Arefi/Food52)

8. Bizcochitos (New Mexico, U.S.)

Made with lard, these cookies improve with age—so plan ahead! (Photo: Linda Xiao/Food52)

9. Mexican Wedding Cakes (Mexico)

This is a cookie recipe with a controversial past. (Photo: Linda Xiao/Food52)

10. Brigadeiros (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)

Brazilians grow up eating Brigadeiro, which are at every birthday party and pretty much any kind of celebration. (Photo: Linda Xiao/Food52)

11. Alfajores (Argentina)

The only thing that Argentineans love more than hefty pieces of steak and strong coffee is alfajores. (Photo: Sophia Real/Food52)

12. Serinakaker (Norway)

A classic Norwegian butter cookie perfect for ski trips, snowshoeing, and Christmas cookie tins. (Photo: Emily Vikre/Food52)

13. Swedish Rye Cookies (Sweden)

This is a classic Christmas cut-out cookie with rye flour and cream cheese dough (and a lot more personality). (Photo: Heidi Swanson/Food52)

14. Polish Apricot-Filled Cookies (Poland)

A family cookie recipe that the editors of “Gourmet” deemed the best of 2004. (Photo: Linda Xiao/Food52)

15. Pfeffernuse (Germany)

An updated, but true to form, take on a vintage German spice cookie. (Photo: James Ransom/Food52)

16. Austrian Vanilla Crescents (Vanillekipferl) (Austria)

Vanilla crescents appear unspectacular—just little sugar-coated biscuits among all the colorful Christmas biscuits—but their flavor and texture will win you over. (Photo: James Ransom/Food52)

17. Vanilice (Serbia)

This cookie was voted Your Best Holiday Cookie from Anywhere in the World! (Photo: James Ransom/Food52)

18. Koulourakia (Greek Sesame Twist Cookies) (Greece)

A not-too-sweet cookie recipe passed from one new immigrant family to another. (Photo: James Ransom/Food52)

19. Pain d’Amande (France)

A cookie for all your gifting, swapping, and impressing needs this holiday season. (Photo: James Ransom/Food52)

20. Brandy Snaps (U.K.)

Sometimes it’s the recipes, more than the memories, that show you about your ancestors. (Photo: Linda Xiao/Food52)

21. Maltese Lemon Christmas Cookies (Malta)

In Malta, it’s the smell of lemon—not chocolate or peppermint or cinnamon—that means Christmas. (Photo: Meikie Peters/Food52)

22. Spanish Butter Wafers (Spain)

The best friend your tea (or wine) will have this holiday season. (Photo: Linda Xiao/Food52)

23. Tehina Shortbread (Israel)

Traditional shortbread—with an Israeli twist. (Photo: Michael Persico/Food52)

24. Samsa (Almond-Orange Triangles) (Northern Africa (Morocco, Tunisia & Algeria)

A cousin to baklava, samsa get fried instead of baked. (Yum!) (Photo: Linda Xiao/Food52)

25. Chin Chin (Nigeria)

Meet Chin Chin: the cutest Christmas cookie on the planet. (Photo: Linda Xiao/Food52)

26. Nigerian Coconut Cookie Crisps (Nigeria)

A cracker-like coconut cookie with serious nostalgia power. (Photo: Linda Xiao/Food52)

27. Halawa (Halva) Truffles (Egypt)

These Middle Eastern and African cookies are bite-sized and ideal for dipping in tea. (Photo: Jonathan Gregson/Food52)

28. Mbatata (Sweet Potato Cookies) (Malawi)

Sweet potato cookies to commemorate the Malawian people. (Photo: Linda Xiao/Food52)

29. Chocolate Pepper Cookies (South Africa)

Spice things up: Add black pepper to your next batch of chocolate cookies. (Photo: Linda Xiao/Food52)

30. Basler Leckerli (Waldshut-Tiengen, Southern Germany)

The German boyfriend came and went, but this spice cookie recipe is still kicking it. (Photo: James Ransom/Food52)

31. Elisenlebkuchen (Nuremberg, Germany)

Of all the German gingerbread out there, here’s the one that will be your new favorite. (Photo: Sophia Real/Food52)

32. Buccellati (Sicilian Christmas Cookies) (Sicily, Italy)

Festive fig cookies that taste of a Sicilian Christmas. (Photo: Emiko Davies/Food52)

33. Ukrainian Curd Cheese Cookies (Ukraine)

Who’s to say that cheese doesn’t belong in a cookie? (Photo: Linda Xiao/Food52)

34. Rice Cookies with Cardamom and Rose Water (Kermanshah, Iran)

Gluten-free cookies with subtle floral kick. (Photo: Bobbi Lin/Food52)

35. Springerles (Germany)

Springerles, a biscotti-like biscuit with an odd-ball technique. (Photo: Food52)

36. Dorie Greenspan’s Stained Glass Cookies (Paris, France)

To make these elegant French sugar cookies, bien sûr! (Photo: Linda Xiao/Food52)

37. Struffoli (Italian Honey Ball Cookies) (Southern Italy)

Make a batch of these southern Italian cookies this holiday season and they’ll become a tradition for years to come. (Photo: Angela Brown/Food52)

38. Alice Medrich’s Buckwheat Thumbprint Cookies with Cherry Preserves (Russia)

A flavorful upgrade to the classic Russian Tea Cake. (Photo: Mark Weinberg/Food52)

39. Chickpea Flour (Besan) Laddu (India)

If you’ve never heard of laddus, just think of them as balls of sweet goodness. (Photo: Nik Sharma/Food52)

40. Coconut Milk Fudge (India)

An ancient Gujarati sweet—with a time-saving update. (Photo: David Loftus/Food52)

41. Chinese Peanut Cookies (China)

Buttery, nutty cookies to make this holiday. (Photo: Linda Xiao/Food52)

42. Matcha Butter Cookies (Japan)

The Japanese love flavoring desserts with the distinct, bitter flavor of matcha tea, and these cookies are no exception. (Photo: Emiko Davies/Food52)

43. Polvorón (Philippines)

These polvorónes—traditional Filipino cookies—do everything the cookies on that holiday platter you got this year don’t do. (Photo: Linda Xiao/Food52)

44. Tangerine Pies “Kuey Tarts” (Singapore)

These whimsically filled cookies have a deceptive name. (Photo: Pate Eng/Food52)

45. Mint Slices (Australia)

Sorry Girl Scouts, but these Australian Mint Slices might just give your Thin Mints a run for their money. (Photo: Sarah Coates/Food52)

46. Mango Melting Moments (Australia)

A classic Australian cookie with a “locally sourced” filling. (Photo: Emiko Davies/Food52)

https://www.yahoo.com/food/food-travel-around-the-world-in-46-cookies-173649532.html

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Stunning Ballpoint Imagery Explores Blackness And The Power Of Ink ~ Claire Fallon

Toyin Ojih Odutola. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.
 

In the practical world, there are myriad shades of black. Anyone who’s struggled with slightly mismatched black jackets and pants knows this to be true.

For artist Toyin Ojih Odutola, this quandary doesn’t frustrate: It inspires.

In an August 2013 interview, the Nigerian-American portraitist recalled a moment of revelation: “I’m doing black on black on black, trying to make it as layered as possible in the deepness of the blackness to bring it out. I noticed the pen became this incredible tool. The black ballpoint ink on blackboard would become copper tone and I was like, ‘Wow, this isn’t even black at all!'”

Layering shades and types of black media, she realized, could bend how the colors presented in surprising ways. “The blackboard was like this balancing platform for the ink to become something else,” she said. 

“Ballpoint pen ink is the reason I draw the way that I do,” Ojih Odutola told The Huffington Post via email. Though in the past decade of work she’s incorporated other media such as charcoal and marker into her repertoire, she’s continued to explore the themes of skin, blackness and perception in her portraiture. 

“Growing up in America as a black individual,” said Ojih Odutola, who was born in Ife, Nigeria, and later moved to the U.S., “you can walk into any room and your skin is the first read. From this reality, I treat the skin of my subjects as an arena to expose contradictions — to expand and constrict.” 

Her portraits, whether of white or black subjects, layer white on white and black on black, bringing out the texture and sheen of the skin rather than the shade or color we might typically perceive. “I build and build upon the surface various striations in layers,” said Ojih Odutola. “Some may describe them as anatomical, sinewy or aesthetically reminiscent of hair. This style is none of those things: it’s about texture, tactility and mezzanines.”

What does that say about identity, but more interestingly, what does that say about what we are accustomed to seeing when we see an image of a face or bodies?Toyin Ojih Odutola

By distorting the representation of a quality that silently governs so much of America’s social prejudices and injustices — skin color — her work pushes us to look at everything else about the subject.

“I became infatuated with this idea of filtering and transforming. Taking something concrete and very direct … and messing it up,” she explained. “It wasn’t about masking the source, but about stretching how an image can be transformed, what it can become, how it can be misleading and also revealing.” 

Ojih Odutola found she wanted to question, more and more, how her work deconstructed our default views of identity, she said. She’d ask herself as she worked, “What does that say about identity, but more interestingly, what does that say about what we are accustomed to seeing when we see an image of a face or bodies?”

Unlike classical portraits, Ojih Odutola’s may not even be recognizable to the subjects. “I never looked at portraits as indicative of the sitters in any way,” she explained. “I looked at portraits as a means for the artist to create his or her own space to invent.” As a Nigerian-American immigrant, finding a space of her own has been particularly vital. “It helps me deal with that lost, powerless feeling of wandering around as a Nigerian-American kid not feeling like the ground I was stepping on could truly be mine … I wanted to create my own terrain.”

In the landscapes she’s created of her subjects’ very skin, Ojih Odutola has succeeded at creating her own terrain; but more than that, she’s found a way to help us all, slowly and deliberately, re-envision how we can see each other’s faces and bodies, without easy categorizations.

Toyin Ojih Odutola’s “Of Context and Without” will be on display from Dec. 11, 2015 through Jan. 30, 2016 at the Jack Shainman Gallery in New York City. Check out more from the show below, and find more from the artist at her website.

  • Toyin Ojih Odutola. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.
    Mineral Survey, 2015. Marker and pencil on paper. 14 x 17 inches (paper).
  • Toyin Ojih Odutola. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.
    Let It Express Itself, 2015. White charcoal pencil on black board. 16 1/2 x 11 3/4 inches (paper).
  • Toyin Ojih Odutola. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.
    The Treatment 14, 2015. Pen ink, gel ink and pencil on paper. 12 x 9 inches (paper size).
  • Toyin Ojih Odutola. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.
    The Treatment 8A, 2015. Pen ink and gel ink pencil on paper. 12 x 9 inches (paper size).
  • Toyin Ojih Odutola. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.
    Denial or To Constantly Exclude Yet Never Be Excluded, 2015. Charcoal on board. 40 x 30 inches (paper).
  • Toyin Ojih Odutola. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.
    Soil Erosion, 2015. Marker, pencil and gel ink on paper diptych. 12 x 9 inches (each).
  • Toyin Ojih Odutola. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.
    Accoutrements or Your Accent Travels With You, 2015. Charcoal on board. 30 x 20 inches.
  • Toyin Ojih Odutola. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.
    Changing Circumstances: Changing Attitudes, 2015. Charcoal on board. 40 x 30 inches (paper).

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/toyin-ojih-odutola-portraits_5666e090e4b079b2818ff529?cps=gravity_2437_-7828151096097321619

A Queer African Tale: On Trauma, Gender Transitions and Acceptance ~ Ola Osaze

When I first embarked on this journey of queerness I was a woman. I went to lesbian bars because that’s what non-hetero women did, while ignoring that nagging voice in me that spoke of an identity more complicated than gay. In these bars I was usually the most femme presenting person in sight and, in retrospect, the prettiest thing around — my black body sticking out like a flagpole in a sea of weather-beaten white faces. I didn’t think myself pretty then, blinded as I was by ideologies that maintained people like me — dark-skinned African women like me — could never be beautiful. With my long braided hair extensions and dark brown lipstick-ed lips, in my form fitting clothes and my undulations on the dance floor, I rarely got the attention that I longed dearly for because, then as it often is now, a high femme expression of femininity was reviled in lesbian spaces.

My friend Candy – the tall and husky white butch dyke I used to hang with who had a thing for fucking femme cis boys – called the lesbian bar I frequented “the chicken rotisserie room,” because “every dyke in there is over fried and over done.” She was referring to the way all the mullet-bearing and flannel-wearing white dykes in there repeated the same pick-up lines and carried on the same tragically doomed relationships with each other. I went there often because I thought that’s where you go to find love. What I found instead were the empty expressions and foolish acts of betrayal at the arms of forlorn dykes, many of them white, many of them confused out of their minds about what this life was supposed to give them.

There was Star, a stout stonebutch with a shaved smooth dome, who had the shaded blue image of a star carved into her left hand, right between the thumb and forefinger. Everyone called her the resident “wigger” and it took me a while to fully understand the awfulness of such a term or the depths of confusion that would lead a white person to mimic a mode of blackness they think they understand. She talked with a Southern black drawl, peppering her language with tired sayings America liked to call ebonics, making college-educated me feel like I’d gone white. And she called me as much when she was trying to pick me up. On that night I strolled into the club with newly done braids, wearing a tight black on black button-up and jeans combo. I walked in there imbuing my steps with a confidence that I didn’t even halfheartedly possess. Through my thick glasses I stared into the cavernous hall of the club. A few disco balls dangled from the ceiling, buckled here and there by water da mage. Disco lights flashed red, blue, yellow, and purple while something resembling techno music droned on overhead through speakers precariously nailed into the walls high above the dance floor. People swayed, moving in dreamlike motions. I took all this in then eyed the bar where the bartender stared into space, boredom a more prominent feature on her face than her actual facial features.

Why am I here, I asked myself. I’d left the comfort of my warm apartment on the outskirts of Charlotte near the college I attended. I’d driven through the unusually cold January night and here I was, for what? I sauntered to the bar, ignoring that internal voice that teased me for daring to venture out alone, daring to be in this lesbian meat market alone. Was I looking to get laid? I couldn’t figure it out so I got a tequila shot. “And you’re the prettiest thing in here,” Star said, leaning towards me from her perch on the barstool. I was so desperate for acknowledgement that I leaned right in, gobbling her attention right up. On the dance floor she moved in a way that let me know I was supposed to respond rather than initiate, I was supposed to let myself be dominated. She grabbed my hips and slid her hands down the back of my jeans as she pulled me closer to her, but I wrenched myself free because I didn’t want to give in, or at least not in the way she demanded. After a few run-ins at the club, Star stopped coming to the bar for some unknown reason. Did we make out? No. I was too disturbed by the stereotype she was performing. As confused as I was by my black identity, her performance of swagger and ebonics both intimidated and repulsed me.

I moved on to Angel, another butch white dyke I met through an online lesbian dating site. She was everything I was supposed to stay away from: newly out of prison and on parole, drinker of Robitussin like it was water, passionate about alcohol, weed, cocaine and ecstasy. She had a mother long dead and a rich father who wanted nothing to do with her “because I’m a druggie bulldagger,” she laughingly revealed. I wondered what he reacted the strongest to — the drugging ways or her gender nonconformity. The latter I was inexplicably drawn to, wanted to try on in my own way but didn’t yet have a lexicon to capture and understand, trans not being a word or identity I was familiar with at the time.

At night, steeped in herb and alcohol, we’d fuck relentlessly, exploring each other’s bodies and surfing our mutual highs when the drugs in our systems crested, then devolving into grouchy teeth grinding trolls when their effect wore of. I was so feverish with desire for everything her body was about and weed took that feverishness to a ferocity I didn’t recognize. One night, Peter, her drug dealer friend came over to her apartment and all three of us occupied her brown threadbare precariously tilted couch, passing the pipe from hand to hand, smoking and watching crappy TV. I climbed onto her lap, took her face in my hands and stuck my tongue in her mouth. She in turn clasped me closer to her warm cough syrup smelling body and the make-out was epic. We looked up after what felt like hours later to discover Peter had quietly slinked out.

The first time I smoked bud, it was with Sam, a thirty-something slim-framed white man in his 30s. We spent so much time together that everyone at Gray’s bookstore, where we both worked, thought there was something going on. I can’t tell you why I chose Sam as my friend. Maybe it was because in a way we were both outsiders, him the oldest in the group and me the sole immigrant, African for that matter — an exotic species to the staff who’d known nothing but bible belt America their entire lives. “You need to get back to your roots,” one black man in his early 20s said to me, befuddled by my musical excursions into the worlds of Fela and Nine Inch Nails; by “roots” he meant Hip Hop, not Afrobeat.

One night, sitting on the steps of a co-worker’s house, a ruckus party was happening around us. Sam, his easygoing nature creating an isle of calm around us, was as perplexed as I was by the drunken college kids — many of them screaming at nothing but just sheer air, fueled by a chemically induced joyousness. Sam and I chatted about nothing special. He passed me what I thought was a rolled cigarette. I took a hit, after he told me what it was. I choked, spat in mild disgust. “That’s disgusting,” I said handing the burning spliff back to him. The end glowed deep orange suddenly; smoke trailing off it curling into a blue haze. I noted that. Noted also the feel of seeing something as mundane as smoke anew. As the curiously jubilant people around me came into sharp focus, I noted the hidden truths seemingly unearthed by this thing that charred my throat and smelled like skunk. That was the beginning of my belief in the church of weed and my dependence on it for connection with others. Thanks, Sam, wherever you fucking are.

My two-month affair with Angel brought a sexual freedom, the likes of which I’d never seen. The weed, drugs and booze probably had a lot to do with that, but just as crucial was the absence of gender when we were in bed. I didn’t feel like a girl or any gender in particular. We were just two warm soft bodies — one black, the other white — fitting together in ways that made sense for us. I remember sitting up in her bed one night my hands still sticky from her, letting my eyes roam over her body in the dim light of her bedside lamp, settling on her flat chest and square shoulders, wanting her again, wanting a body like hers.

In spite of these self-discoveries that led me to question a gender I’d assumed was unquestionable, we were dysfunctional. For we traversed the terrains of coy sex to reckless sex to passionate sex, but we never had sober sex. And how unready was I to be out about being queer. I couldn’t dare come out to my very traditional Nigerian family, most of who were either back home, in the case of my parents and extended family, or in the case of my sister, had escaped the oppressive 2nd class status of Nigerian womanhood for the UK. The only relative who lived in the same town as me at the time was my older brother and, given that year in the early 80s when we were both still in Nigeria and he did those strange unwanted things to my 7-year old body, I didn’t like to be around him much and didn’t like to reveal any details of my personal life to him. I remember clearly the day I tried to introduce Angel to a co-worker we’d run into at the local Hollywood Video. Anxiety over being seen with my gay lover by a straight co-worker forced me to momentarily forget her name. High as she was at the time, she laughed it off like it was nothing, like she didn’t expect anyone to remember her name — least of all her lovers.

When she later dumped me for the love of her life who was getting out of prison, I too swallowed the heartbreak like it was my lot in life to be left for someone else. What never came into our relationship were the realities of our lives outside our drug-fueled fuckfests. I never told her about the lifetime of physical and sexual abuse at the hand of my family I was doing my damndest to flee. Nor did she know about the ways I was hustling for under the table jobs or lying about my immigration status to claim jobs that paid me a pittance and called it wages. Or how every other Saturday I drove my Dodge hooptie to the other side town to sell plasma for $25 a pop. During intake at those vampiric clinics, right after the blurb about gay men not being eligible to sell their fluids, the form would ask me if I was Nigerian, because apparently Nigerian blood, like gay men’s blood, is tainted by AIDS. I needed the $25 something fierce so I decided to shirk my Nigerian identity, all hundreds of years of Yoruba and Edo history, all 19 years of my born-and-bred-in-Port-Harcourt life, to lay in a stupor for the hour or two or three it took to drain the requisite amount of blood out and pump the plasma-less gruel back into me. “Make sure you eat,” the attendant would say to me as I stumbled out of there disoriented and ashamed.

Driven by deep feelings of unworthiness, I spent my early queer years chasing broken white women like Angel. I surrounded myself with people, white people in particular, that so ardently invested in a vision of me that was anything but me. Dating broken white women became a way to reprise a powerlessness that years of sexual abuse and generations of blackphobia had tricked me into believing in. I drowned this feeling of powerlessness in weed and seeking out relationships in which I could engage in yet remain completely hidden from view. Neither did I really want to know these lovers either, because that required a deeper level of engagement that I was unprepared for. This is what happens when you can’t bear to look yourself in the eye in the mirror: you can’t bear to look at anyone else either.

As I write this essay, I’m well into my 30s, no longer that twenty-something who wandered wide-eyed into the chicken rotisserie room. I am now living full time in a body that’s beefy and slim in the places I want, square shouldered and hairy in the places I like. People call me “sir” and “man” and throw a male-gendered “dude” my way in salute. I tell the ones that will listen that I’m neither a man nor male-privilege-seeking. I’m starting to occupy the complicated transgender space I spent years carving out for myself.

And yet. Why am I staring at the ruins of another weed-soaked and silence-filled relationship? Why am I once again looking at that confused twenty-something, the me who tried to escape childhood trauma by drowning in invisibilizing relationships?

Rather than cast that confused twenty-something aside, I’m realizing I have to take her hand. I’m learning she still has much to teach me.

 

http://www.autostraddle.com/a-queer-african-tale-on-trauma-gender-transitions-and-acceptance-287227/

TED Talk Tuesday – Chris Abani: On Humanity

Author and poet Chris Abani, shares personal stories of humanity and connection. He recalls his feminist Mother, a former child solider, a priest, and a fellow prison inmate. Abani argues that we can only really see ourselves when seeing others; the South African philosophy of “Ubuntu.” “So what Ubuntu really says is that there is no way for us to be human without other people.” Enjoy!

But what I’ve come to learn is that the world is never saved in grand messianic gestures, but in the simple accumulation of gentle, soft, almost invisible acts of compassion, everyday acts of compassion. In South Africa, they have a phrase called Ubuntu. Ubuntu comes out of a philosophy that says, the only way for me to be human is for you to reflect my humanity back at me.

 “You know, you can steel your heart against any kind of trouble, any kind of horror. But the simple act of kindness from a complete stranger will unstitch you.”

TED Talk Tuesday: Chimamanda Adichie: The danger of a single story

A personal favorite, I love this talk dearly. In many ways it fully embodies the mission and goal of Minus The Box, to eliminate the single story through the creation of a space where multiple stories can exist equally and without judgment.

I’ve always felt that it is impossible to engage properly with a place or a person without engaging with all of the stories of that place and that person. The consequence of the single story is this: It robs people of dignity. It makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult. It emphasizes how we are different rather than how we are similar.” ~ Chimamanda Adichie

Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.” ~ Chimamanda Adichie

 

What this demonstrates, I think, is how impressionable and vulnerable we are in the face of a story, particularly as children.

Now, I loved those American and British books I read. They stirred my imagination. They opened up new worlds for me. But the unintended consequence was that I did not know that people like me could exist in literature. So what the discovery of African writers did for me was this: It saved me from having a single story of what books are.

Then one Saturday we went to his village to visit, and his mother showed us a beautifully patterned basket made of dyed raffia that his brother had made. I was startled. It had not occurred to me that anybody in his family could actually make something. All I had heard about them was how poor they were, so that it had become impossible for me to see them as anything else but poor. Their poverty was my single story of them.

What struck me was this: She had felt sorry for me even before she saw me. Her default position toward me, as an African, was a kind of patronizing, well-meaning pity. My roommate had a single story of Africa: a single story of catastrophe. In this single story there was no possibility of Africans being similar to her in any way, no possibility of feelings more complex than pity, no possibility of a connection as human equals.

So after I had spent some years in the U.S. as an African, I began to understand my roommate’s response to me. If I had not grown up in Nigeria, and if all I knew about Africa were from popular images, I too would think that Africa was a place of beautiful landscapes, beautiful animals, and incomprehensible people, fighting senseless wars, dying of poverty and AIDS, unable to speak for themselves and waiting to be saved by a kind, white foreigner. I would see Africans in the same way that I, as a child, had seen Fide’s family.

This single story of Africa ultimately comes, I think, from Western literature.”

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.

It is impossible to talk about the single story without talking about power. There is a word, an Igbo word, that I think about whenever I think about the power structures of the world, and it is “nkali.” It’s a noun that loosely translates to “to be greater than another.” Like our economic and political worlds, stories too are defined by the principle of nkali: How they are told, who tells them, when they’re told, how many stories are told, are really dependent on power.

Power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person. The Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti writes that if you want to dispossess a people, the simplest way to do it is to tell their story and to start with, “secondly.”

The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.