by Mojdeh Feili & Yasmina El Hilali
We both took the same path throughout our university career, only our minors differed: Mojdeh chose to do her minor abroad (NYC), while Yasmina did a minor in Education. By the time we started our Masters in Literatures in English, a gnawing feeling came into being. Every day that went by we came to feel more and more that little of the literature we were offered during our Masters consisted of diverse literature. Whatever we were offered that was diverse, we devoured with great enthusiasm. Whereas we both enjoyed the classics and the poetry we were being given to read, to ponder, to analyze, something was still missing. Representation. We did not feel connected to the protagonists we encountered, and the stories often didn’t strike a chord with us.
Humans have the intricate need to be validated as just that: human. We need to see ourselves represented, our voices need to be heard, we need to be able to identify ourselves with someone that is just like us. When we never see ourselves represented in the movies we watch or the books we read, we feel invisible, our existence goes unnoticed.
Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie put this feeling in words and in her speech at TedGlobal in 2009 called this phenomenon “The Danger of a Single Story”. She states firmly that:
It is impossible to talk about the single story without talking about power.
In traditional and classic literature, the marginalized are described and depicted by the one in charge: the author. They are more often than not, the villain of the play or fairytale; hidden, mysterious and dangerous. The voices of ‘the other’ are suppressed, oppressed, and distorted.
To put the marginalized front and center means we create a power shift: we can give a voice to those who are normally always on the sidelines. We can share how their experience is just as important and just as valid as any human experience.
For this reason, we came up with the idea for this blog. We wanted to do what we loved most: read diverse books, talk about them and throw in a coffee or four.