How I Developed Literature Stereotypes Throughout My Life

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Similar to Chimamanda Adichie’s experience, I developed many stereotypes by reading literature and watching media. In my opinion, my upbringing was quite similar to hers. As a child, my favorite author was Enid Blyton, author of the Famous Five. This series always involved a group of five-closely related children go on adventures and solve local mysteries. Many repeated elements of the stories were that they camped a lot, drank root beer and ate ice cream. Even when I was given writing assignments, I would write similar stories of a group of children going on a vacation and solving mysteries except I would include foreign locations I had been to.

When my friends and I went on a school excursion which was a camping trip, I was shocked to see how much the reality differed from my expectations from reading Famous Five. Root beer tasted absolutely horrible, the campsite was teeming with bugs and the tent setup was a backbreaking and exhausting task. Later on, I got obsessed with R.L. Stine’s horror short stories. This would greatly affect my writing style as I read so many books of his that, eventually, making every story of mine a horror story felt effortless. At that time, I felt like I had read every single type of horror and began using similar elements in my work. My creativity and imagination became very limited and my stories, very monotonous.

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As I grew older, my stories didn’t work well with teachers because it was generic horror and all the characters were very cliched. Eventually, to improve my grades, I started searching for authors and discovered Stephen King’s books. His books greatly improved my vocabulary, broadened my horizon and helped me make my storytelling have descriptive settings, complex characters and original horror ideas that I still use to this day. His genre led me to great authors like Thomas Harris, Agatha Christie, William Peter Blatty, and Arthur Conan Doyle. All these famous authors’ writing really pushed my storytelling ability and helped me rid stereotypes as each novel contained a multitude of various character types each with their own unique identity.

In addition, the video of the TED Talk was extremely thought-provoking for the way I see and hear about people and places. Through the influence of literature and the media, many of us forget that it is fundamental to value the differences of other cultures and lifestyles. This talk reminded me of an instance when I was young; my family and I were celebrating Easter by hard-boiling, decorating and hiding some eggs in our neighborhood. I remember repainting some eggs because the design didn’t “look Easter-y enough.”

When I came to Canada and shared this anecdote, many people were surprised to hear that non-Christian families celebrated Easter with equal pomp in India just as in North America. At the time, I didn’t give it much thought. Now, I realize how the portrayal of India worldwide is simply a small selection of what it truly is, thereby giving rise to the stereotypes regarding its culture and people

I noticed how she kept using anecdotes and experiences to express her thesis, adding credibility and emotional weight as everyone in that hall could relate to a time where they used stereotypes to judge a person. Her ideas made me realize that literature and media may contain a lot of stereotypes and we are not supposed to take them and hold them against a person as every one of us is a complex, multi-tiered and unique person.

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