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August 2015

Paperback cover image of Adichie's novel Americanah

Americanah and the Disruption of a Single Story

In her TED Talk “The Danger of a Single Story,” author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says, “the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” The brilliance of her novel Americanah lies in its defiance of the single story. Through her protagonist Ifemelu, Adichie tells an untold story. It is a story about Nigeria; about immigration; about race; about gender; about coming of age; and it challenges the unconscious stereotypes planted in our minds by the stories we have been told again and again.

Americanah disrupts the single story by adding a new voice to the story we all know by heart (the one that incites well-meaning but demeaning pity for Africans, or that encourages “colorblindness” to race in America); but one novel alone won’t eradicate the single story. We must instead seek what author Chinua Achebe calls “a balance of stories.” The best way to achieve balance is to read widely. Read books about characters that live in places and times remote from your own experience. Read about current events and issues in an alternative source. Then listen; listen to the stories told by your friends, classmates, students, clients, and mentors. Listen carefully and you will find a great variety of humanness existing all around you. Finally, tell your own story. Avoid the story that has been told about you, the one that reinforces whatever stereotypes touch your life. Tell your story. Tell it through conversations, writing, performing, and service. Tell your story every day, even as it evolves.

College provides one of the best opportunities to seek a balance of stories; here’s to all the untold stories we will tell together.

Photo of Taylor

Introducing Taylor Kalloch


Photo of Taylor

Name: Taylor Kalloch

Job title: Archives Associate

Location in Library: Lower Level (My door is right next to the vending machines, outside of the small computer lab).

Tell us what you do in 50 words or less: 
I collect, organize, preserve, and store archival materials related to the history of Wheelock College. Another major part of my job involves making materials accessible to the Wheelock community and beyond, by describing the materials, answering reference inquiries, and working with researchers who are interested in using the collection.

Choose one service that your department provides that you most want the Wheelock community to be aware of:
Working with primary sources and doing archival research can be daunting, especially when it is a new experience. I want the Wheelock community to know that archivists don’t just collect and protect the historical records; they also help connect researchers with collections and guide the researcher through the entire process.

What is a typical work day like for you? 
Every day is a little different depending on reference inquires, researchers, and what projects I have going on. But in general while the materials in the archives are from the past, the archivist’s job is to be constantly planning for the future. In this vein I spend a good amount of time each day looking forward by answering questions such as: How can we improve how our collections are stored and preserved? How can I describe the collections to ensure they will remain accessible for years to come? What materials do we need to collect now in order to provide a full and balanced picture of Wheelock College for those who are interested in 50 or 100 years from now?

What is your favorite website? 
I can’t say I have a favorite website but here are two that I frequent often:
King Arthur Flour Recipes

What is your favorite book in the Wheelock Library collection?
I like books entirely too much to have just one favorite so here are a few that commonly make the top of my favorites list:
The entire Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling (Never read the series? Start HERE.)
Owl at Home by Arnold Lobel
The Encyclopedia of New England: The Culture and History of an American Region edited by Burt Feintuch and David H. Watters
No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women by Estelle B. Freedman

When I’m not at work, you can find me… baking, cooking, reading, crafting, exercising, making as many trips back to Maine as possible, watching re-runs of TV classics such as M*A*S*H, and relaxing with my three cats.

Feel Like a Jane Austen Movie Marathon?

Last month was the 20th anniversary of the movie, Clueless. I was not old enough to watch it in theaters when it came out and watched it in the early 2000s. While the clothes were no longer in style by then, the movie still felt fresh and modern.   I watched it again a few months ago and was glad to find that it still held up (and is Paul Rudd immortal?).  That is because it was an adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma and Jane Austen is always in style.  Adaptations and spinoffs of her novels are still going two centuries after her novels were published. The appearance of Bride and Prejudice, the Bollywood version of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, in my Netflix recommendations inspired me to hold you hostage to my some of my thoughts about lesser known Austen on-screen adaptations.
Aisha (2010).  A Bollywood modern-day adaptation of Emma . It has a slick and upbeat sensibility and continues the tradition of making the character of Emma and her antics frustrating but winsome, which I find difficult to do for a modern remake.

brideandprejudiceBride and Prejudice (2004). Some of the best scenes in Pride and Prejudice take place at dance parties, so a musical Bollywood film is a natural medium for the story. The misunderstanding between Lalita (Elizabeth) and Will (Darcy) has the added dimension of a culture clash between the Lalita, who is Indian, and Will, who is Caucasian American.

clueless Clueless (1995).   I just find some of Emma’s personality traits much more acceptable and realistic in a historical context rather than a modern one.  That is probably why the screenwriter aged her down from 20 to 16 and placed the entire story in high school.  When Emma (or Cher as she is known in the film) is a teenager, her single-mindedness, naivety, and unintended selfishness make more sense to me.  The movie has an interesting atmosphere of both innocence and biting commentary, which is partly why it is being celebrated 20 years later.

From Prada to Nada (2011). A loose, modern-day adaptation of Sense of Sensibility. Nora and Mary are the counterparts to Elinor and Marianne. What’s interesting about the movie is that the two young women are Mexican-American and part of their growth in the film involves exploring their cultural identity.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (2012-2013). This is an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice in the form of video blog –featuring a graduate student, named Lizzie. This works incredibly well since the novel is primarily told in Elizabeth’s point of the view. I like the twists and updates to the characters and their situations. Mr.Collins’s proposal wasn’t a proposal of marriage but a proposal for Lizzie to join him as a business partner.  You can watch the series on youtube.

mansfieldparkMansfield Park (2007). Another Mansfield Park adaptation starring Rose Tyler Billie Piper.  As an adaptation, it was a failure. It was historically inaccurate and some of the characters portrayals were completely different from their novel counterparts.  So why is this on this list?  Because as a Mansfield Park alternate universe fake-history fanfiction, I found it a funny and entertaining watch.  I don’t think there has been a Mansfield Park adaptation made yet that has done its source material justice.


Persuasion (1995): 1995 was a great year for Jane Austen adaptations! Persuasion is faithful to the novel and its characters. Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds were quite a bit older than the novel’s characters, but they portrayed Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot and their suppressed emotions beautifully.


persuasion2Persuasion (2007): Another great adaptation of the novel, though I think it’s a touch more romanticized (especially the ending!) than the 1995 version and lacks some of the tension from the 1995.



You may notice that Northanger Abbey adaptations are not mentioned.  That’s because I haven’t watched any of them yet!  On-screen adaptations may be wonderful and very satisfying, but nothing beats the books.  Amidst all the romance are the social commentaries, the satirical notes, and the comedic beats that don’t always shine through in the adaptations.