The issue of being different from the crowd has always been of current interest in all times and cultures. People have always been wary of strangers who look, talk or behave differently. The speeches of two brilliant writers and speakers - Lidia Yuknavitch and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie draw the listeners attention to the situation when a person literally stands out from the crowd and possible consequences and dangers of it.
Ms. Adichies fascinating and mind-blowing speech deals with mechanisms of how stereotypes are made and preserved. Being Nigerian, she knows firsthand what it is like to be categorized and simplified to a single myth. The most striking revelation of her childhood she considers discovering the fact that a poor family of her acquaintance was hand-making some beautiful crafts. In childs imagination the family could be nothing but poor. Ms. Adichie underlines that the danger of a single story, of single-myth stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story (The Danger of a Single Story). It is of even more significance to consider Ms. Adichies revelations in the light of African peoples assimilation into American life and culture. Growing up on a university campus as a professors daughter and being able to read from the age of 4, Chimamanda is shocked to face the Americans patronizing reaction to her, full of well-meaning pity (The Danger of a Single Story). As seen by her roommate, Chimamanda was supposed to speak little English, listen to tribal music and have no idea how to use a stove. This 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 (The Danger of a Single Story). Ms. Adichie makes it perfectly clear that making assumptions about unfamiliar people from the way they look, speak or position themselves is not only erroneous but even wrongful. There is always more to any person than stereotypes might say. It is curious that the awareness of herself as an African person comes to Ms. Adichie only after she leaves Nigeria and goes to live to America. She confesses that it was difficult to deal with peoples assumptions about her as an African person, especially when people expected some mythical and non-existing African authenticity from her creative prose where characters drove cars and smoked. Adichie emphasizes that she has no idea what African authenticity is and implies that any set of defined characteristics is unable to draw an adequate picture of a unique person.
Lidia Yuknavitch speaks about the issues, adjacent to the ones of assimilating and dealing with stereotypical assumptions. The topic of her speech is being a misfit and how to handle it. According to Ms. Yuknavitch, the main problem of many people who feel as if they literally miss fitting in is that they do not feel they deserve all the good things that can happen to them. Even when she received a letter with invitation to attend a seminar with many famous writers, Lidia was stunned and felt as if she was somehow not entitled to such a generous prize. She is certainly not the only one with self-under-appreciating mental attitude. It is a wide known fact that people who do not like themselves and think poorly of themselves radiate this attitude through their facial expression and body posture so other people perceive them in the same way as someone not worthy of success and happiness. Lidias speech renders a very important and heart-warming message every person whatever failure their life might seem deserves to be heard and listened to.
Lidias speech is extremely inspirational too. She acknowledges that when she was in her thirties, her life seemed a total catastrophe: she lost a child, had been homeless and in prison and her creative career to that point was a sort of small, sad, stillborn thing (The Beauty of Being a Misfit). Even when she was offered representation from a famous literary agency, she could not accept it because something in her prevented her from taking the big thing. It made her feel somehow ashamed of wanting to be happy and successful. However, in her fifties Ms. Yuknavitch is a mother, a successful writer and generally a fascinating personality who is interesting to listen to and to be with. In order to achieve all of it she had to reinvent a self from the ruins of [her] choices, the stories of how [her] seeming failures were really just weird-ass portals to something beautiful. All she had to do was give voice to the story (The Beauty of Being a Misfit).
One of the most significant reasons for actually being a misfit in any society is failure to conform to already existing pre-told single stories that the culture ascribes to them. Like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Lidia Yuknavitch tries to warn people about the danger of incomplete and rigid socially-sanctioned stories (Nash). In one of her interviews Ms. Yuknavitch states that our vulnerability is our great strength (Nash) and she teaches people to tell their stories as a way to save their lives.
Another important thing that she encourages people to teach themselves is the ability to want things, to say yes to impossibly generous offers, to stand up for oneself, to ask for better things etc. Ms. Yuknavitch practically heartens her listener to go beyond the limits of the pre-written story of a loser that people themselves sometimes ascribe to themselves and subsequently try to conform to. However, she gives this message in such a gentle and loving manner far from the style of usual irritating instructive tips that the listeners heart can only be warmed and inspired.
Lidia also discusses experiencing the misfit myth. It consists in peoples ability to reinvent [themselves] endlessly. Lidia emphasizes the fact that everybody is beautiful at any moment of their life whatever miserable it might seem to them. She gives everyone a surge of motivation once they found themselves stuck in a rut or lost hope for being what the universe is supposed to want them to be.
The Beauty Of Being A Misfit. TED, 2016. Video.
The Danger Of A Single Story. TEDGLOBAL, 2009. Video.
Nash, Elle. "The Story You Made Of Me: An Interview Lidia Yuknavitch About Dismissed Narratives". LitReactor. N.p., 2016. Web. 1 July 2016.
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