Today marks the beginning of my fourth week of fundraising to support the DVD production of my solo show, Piecework: When We Were French. In just three weeks, we have managed to raise $4,000, almost 60% of our overall goal. During these three weeks, I have been reflecting on the show’s creation, the themes and ideas that it explores, and the heritage and culture it reflects, that of the Franco-American communities of Vermont and New England.
I have also been thinking a great deal about stories, about what happens to us when we tell a story, and how, when we hear a story in which we can recognize some part of ourselves, the world can take on a different dimension. Some 12-step recovery programs emphasize the importance of telling one’s own story because the process has such transformative power.
I’m grateful that a friend sent me this TED talk by Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie, entitled, The Danger of a Single Story, and I’m pleased to pass it on to you. In her talk, Adichie describes how our perspectives on other people and their experiences are flattened when we only hear one version of their story. “The problem with stereotypes,” she says, “Is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”
Adichie’s point is especially stark because she is talking about how Africans are perceived in North America. But other groups are similarly obscured here at home. Think of the parts of Vermont that aren’t covered by Vermont Life Magazine, the images of Maine not seen in your L.L. Bean catalog. Who will tell stories about the places where we’re from? How will we see ourselves in those stories?
The goal of Piecework: When We Were French is not to tell one story of Franco-Americans, but to tell many stories — to suggest that there are innumerable stories of the immigrant experience, and that each one of us must create our own story of who we are, how we got here, and what it means to be in our place and time. Maybe that sounds grandiose, but it’s a lot less grandiose than claiming to speak for a whole people or community. I hope the show will encourage others to tell their stories and enrich the culture around them by doing so.
If you support these ideas, I hope you’ll contribute to my fundraising campaign. Please click here to learn more.