New Series: Personal Histories

“Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity…When we reject the single story, when we realize that there is never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise.”

– Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi (The Danger of a Single Story)

There is always room for more stories. In particular, I feel that we need to make even more room for diverse stories. I am extremely proud to announce the start of my new series for Peaks & Harbours, Personal Histories. On the third Tuesday of each month, women from around the globe will be generously sharing their personal stories with you. I am overjoyed at the response from everyone, and those that continue to contact me. The ability to share stories on this platform that are multi-cultural, multi-racial, and diverse in experience is incredibly meaningful for me, and I hope for you too.

This is what I enjoy doing most. Interviewing women about their journeys through life, their backgrounds, how they navigate their changing identities, their ambitions, and their successes. This is also what I most enjoy reading about – the personal stories of others. Perhaps this is a result of how I grew up. As the child of two immigrant parents, a Swede and an Italian, conversations with new friends and acquaintances always revolved around where they were from, how they came to live where they did, what their families were like, and how they liked (or didn’t) like Canada.

I always thought it was fascinating how my dad had a knack for finding the only Swede in a town, and not thinking twice about starting up a friendship with this stranger. He was the first of his family to leave the country, and has always had an adventurous spirit in that way. My mother’s experiences as an Italian immigrant growing up in Prince Rupert, were very different than my father’s life as an adult coming to Canada. So many differences separate their stories, economics, education, religion, prejudice, her being born a woman…I am hoping that I can share both their stories here soon, so I will stop there, as they are not mine to tell just yet.

Power is the ability to tell a story about another person, and make that the definitive story about that person. In her talk, Chimamanda notes that, “the single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make the one story become the only story.”

This is what has informed my own academic career, and my work in museums and galleries – to fight again the reality that often one perspective of a period in history is taken as truth. More often than not, this means that the experiences of women and people of colour are silenced by those in power.

We need to expand the scope of the stories we consume about people’s cultural experiences.

These are woman across the world telling you their own stories, on their own terms, and in their own voice. Say hello to them. Contact me if you would like to share your own story. Let’s keep connecting with each other.

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