The Single Story


Recently I had the pleasure of working with a group of Living Books, preparing for a Human Libraries project at Hamilton City Libraries.

This amazing event seeks to explore, expose, explain and reduce stereotypes, discrimination and prejudice through face-to-face conversation.

A library borrower has twenty minutes with a Living Book, to ask about their experience and better understand what it’s like to be them.

Together, in the workshop, we watched Nigerian storyteller, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, at TED, speak about the ‘single story’ we tell ourselves about other people. The assumptions we make reflect our upbringing, our experience, the influence of friends and the media. Both negative and positive, they define the way we treat others and our expectations of what they will or won’t, can or can’t do.

Your single story of a refugee may be hardship, heartbreak and horror, and bear little resemblance to the person in front of you twenty years later.

Your single story of a covered muslim woman may be oppression, and defy the strong confident person you work with.

We are offended when others have a single story of us, yet we hold on tight to our version of them.

It is only once you accept the possibility of other stories that you can start to see each person as an individual - just as you are an individual.

Jenny Magee


Trainer, coach and consultant, Jenny Magee (BEd, DipTchg, DipSLT) works with organizations to raise awareness of diversity in all its richness and has over 25 years experience as a champion of diverse workplaces and positive, productive partnerships.

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