• HOW I DEFY A SINGLE STORY AND ADD TO THE SWELL OF STORIES THAT DEFY STEREOTYPES

    Date: 2018.09.08 | Category: How Dare We! Write a multicultural creative writing discourse, The Art of Writing | Response: 0

    HOW I DEFY A SINGLE STORY AND ADD

    TO THE SWELL OF STORIES THAT DEFY STEREOTYPES

    -IN THE MIX-

    How much simmering does it take for you to write a poem, a story, a blog post, or even a tweet or a response to a FB post?  How much anxiety?  How much shame?

    Chimamanda Adichie’s TED Talk, 2009, “The Danger of a single story,” states:  “The consequence of a single story is this: it robs people of dignity.  It emphasizes how we are different rather than how we are similar.”

    As a MFA student in a Creative Writing program, I often felt suffocated and angry because I felt there was only a single story being perpetuated: of what you needed to learn to be a writer, what you needed to write to be a writer, who you needed to be to be a writer, and who you needed to embrace (not contentiously disagree with).

    “The consequence of a single story is this: it robs people of dignity.”  The story when I attended graduate school was not inclusive.  It didn’t include my story.  It offered shame.  I was told “they didn’t teach me how to write.”  Perhaps not, but I wrote, and I graduated with a 4.0.  Yet, I experienced that my story was a thorn in the single story.

    As writers, we all have our particular story(ies).  In How Dare We! Write a multicultural creative writing discourse, LHP, 2017, we can read 24 particular stories.  These stories defy a single story; they embrace difference and for some of us, similarity.

    My story as a writer is that I don’t write every day, I may not write in a month or even a year.  I don’t write to be a writer.  I didn’t go to graduate school to be a writer; I went to prove to myself I was smart enough to earn a graduate degree.  What I write has more to do with finding myself, understanding myself/my mixed identity-and when I write is when I write, period.  And I didn’t go to graduate school to become a teacher.  I became a teacher because someone gave me an opportunity to be one and I accepted because I needed the paycheck.  I wasn’t a particularly good teacher, just like I’m not a particularly good writer-but I persisted: 1) because I needed the money, and 2) because, apparently, I was born to tell the truth, whether it served me well or not. But persistence doesn’t define pace, and for me, persistence, didn’t mean I was or am prolific.

    I am not one story.  My story is not a true story unless it envelops race, class, gender, sexuality, age, ability, etc.  My story wanders in and out of time and situations.  Currently my story is a story of aging.  It’s one of contemplation, of consideration.  I have written a few poems; poems that I didn’t write because I had to which is always the reason I have written in the past-out of urgency.  And I am writing a picture book, a gift to my grandson (and his parents) who is nonverbal and was diagnosed with autism at an early age.  I am imagining, by observing, what he might have to say to grandmas, to parents, and to caretakers.  I don’t have to write this book, I want to.

    My story is many stories; it could never be just one story.  And my many stories are just a drop in the swell of other writers’ stories.   I pray for dignity, not shame, for all of us who write whether every day, or whenever; who are published or not-who want to be or couldn’t care less; who are expert grammarians, or like me not so much; and who have not only the heart and determination, but the words and a way to articulate them to engage purposefully in social media-again, I’m not so skilled or articulate-or brave.  It’s all okay.

    Adichie says “stories matter.” I’d like to add, your story as a writer matters.  I remember being told a writer should take risks, not be a copy-cat, that to be unique is what really counts.  There might be some truth in that, depending on what your goals as a writer are/or are not, but maybe it’s not about taking risks, but just embracing who you are.

    I think I’ve written this story before.  Sometimes I have to remind myself.

     

    What is your story as a writer?  Feel free to share in comments.

     

    Sherry Quan Lee, September 8, 2018

  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “The Danger of a Single Story,” TED Talk, 2009.

    Date: 2018.09.08 | Category: Words of Wisdom | Response: 0

     

    “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.”

    “The consequence of a single story is this: it robs people of dignity. It emphasizes how we are different rather than how we are similar.”

    “Stories matter.”

    –Chimamanda Adichie

     

  • Nikki Giovanni, “When I Die”

    Date: 2018.07.03 | Category: Words of Wisdom | Response: 0

    “and if ever i touched a life i hope that life knows / that I know that touching was and still is and will always / be the true / revolution”

    –Nikki Giovanni, “When I Die”

  • Women Who Run With the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estés

    Date: 2018.07.03 | Category: Words of Wisdom | Response: 0

    “Creativity is not a solitary movement.  That is its power.  Whatever is touched by it, whoever hears it, sees it, senses it, knows it, is fed.  That is why beholding someone else’s creative word, image, idea, fills us up,  inspires us to our own creative work.  A single creative act has the potential to feed a continent.  One creative act can cause a torrent to break through stone.”

    Women Who Run With the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estés

Artist Statement

Sherry Quan Lee approaches writing as a community resource and as culturally based art of an ordinary everyday practical aesthetic. Lee is a Community Instructor at Metropolitan State University (Intro to Creative Writing, Advanced Creative Writing), and has taught at Intermedia Arts, and the Loft Literary Center. She is the author of A Little Mixed Up, Guild Press, 1982 (second printing), Chinese Blackbird, a memoir in verse, published 2002 by the Asian American Renaissance, republished 2008 by Loving Healing Press, and How to Write a Suicide Note: serial essays that saved a woman’s life, Loving Healing Press, 2008.

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