Story is a word that has many different and broad definitions, due to the fact that the word itself can be used in various ways. Essentially, a story is anything that is told or written.  According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a story is “A short account of an amusing, interesting, or telling incident, whether real or fictitious; an anecdote.” An alternate definition of the word as a verb rather than a noun, also provided by the Oxford English Dictionary is “to relate in a history, to record the history of.”  The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines story as “an account of incidents or events; a statement regarding the facts pertinent to a situation in question.” According to, a story is “a narrative, either true or fictitious, in prose or verse, designed to interest, amuse, or instruct the hearer or reader; tale.” While all of these definitions point to sharing of information, some emphasize aspects of diction, writing, history, and anecdotes.  Stories have been written in literature, or have been passed down by word of mouth for generations. Stories are also a large part of history, as before books were written, stories were passed down to spread of information.

The word story has had many different meanings over time, all of which have evolved to create the meaning of the word today. In the 1200’s a story was originally  defined as “narrative of important events or celebrated persons of the past.” The word is derived from Old French estorie, estoire, “story, chronicle, history,” from Late Latin storia, and then later was shortened from Latin historia “history, account, tale, story.”  According to, in the 1200’s, the word story was known as a “connected account or narration of some happening,” The word was first recorded in the late 14th century, and it meant “recital of true events.” The word story was originally derived from the word history, however in the 1500’s the word was finally differentiated from history.  In the 1690’s stories were often considered as a euphemism for a lie.

Stories have been written in literature, or have been passed down by word of mouth for generations. Stories are also a large part of history, as before books were written, stories were passed down to spread of information. Stories are most often found within three mediums; literature, passing from word of mouth, and used within everyday life. In most daily conversations, people tell stories as a form of discussion, and basic communication. However, stories within literature can also be considered many different things. A novel itself could be considered a story, or stories could be found within the context of a novel.

One reason stories are important are because they allow us to learn lessons. One component of stories is that there needs to be a lesson or takeaway at the end. Children can only learn so much by just being told something. Having a story allows for the children to internalize the lesson and understand why it’s important (Rathnam). A story always adds a layer of realness to a lesson. The Inuit people use storytelling as opposed to yelling. For example in order to teach kids to stay away from the water they told kids that a big monster would drag you down to the bottom if you wandered too close. Kids wouldn’t need to be yelled at because they would just be afraid (Doucleff). Even if the story being told is fiction, reading about the characters and the situation they go through helps children empathize with both fictional characters and real people.

Stories are also important for understanding different cultures. Every culture on earth has its own stories. They span from a collection in a book like European fairy tales to spoken legends from Native American culture. While the stories all may seem similar, the lessons and central themes are very different. For example, a common theme in Northern European fairy tales is the idea that you will be rewarded for being good. A prime example of this is Cinderella. Cinderella is treated very poorly by her step sisters, as they make her do every chore in the house while calling her names, like Cinderella. All the while Cinderella kept working and trying to be nice and polite to her new sisters. In the Grimm Brothers version, at the end the sisters eyes are pecked out by birds while Cinderella becomes the princess. Another story this lesson is present in is Snow White. Snow White is regarded as the fairest in the land in her story, which makes an evil witch jealous. The witch tries to have snow white killed by assassin and later by poison.  At the end of the story when the witch fails, she goes to Snow White’s wedding where she is forced into red hot iron shoes to dance until she’s dead while Snow White also becomes a princess. Contrast this with the ideas of American Folk Tales where they focus on determination. One American folk tale is John Henry. John Henry was a railroad worker in early America. When a new machine came that threatened to put all the workers out of business, John Henry challenged the machine to a race. Through his determination and strength he won, only to die shortly after from working so hard. Another story is that of Paul Bunyan, who became a legend with his work clearing trees. It’s important to realize these differences in cultures, so we can avoid judging others by the standards of our own culture.

Stories are beneficial for understanding other cultures through more of their own lens and for teaching lessons to people. These both go hand in hand as the stories a culture choses to tell also determines what lessons that nation will learn. Stories are important because with stories we can start to understand cultures that we didn’t grow up in.

A single story plays a significant role in literature and today’s society. A single story creates biases or paints the wrong picture of a particular person, group or event. In her TED Talk, “The Danger of a Single Story,” Chimamanda Adichie explains how a story can have dangerous attributes if it is told via the “single story” approach. Adichie says,

So, after I had spent some years in the U.S. as an African, I began to understand my roommate’s response to me. If I had not grown up in Nigeria, and if all I knew about Africa were from popular images, I too would think that Africa was a place of beautiful landscapes, beautiful animals, and incomprehensible people, fighting senseless wars, dying of poverty and AIDS, unable to speak for themselves and waiting to be saved by a kind, white foreigner. I would see Africans in the same way that I, as a child, had seen Fide’s family (5:44, 2009).

The single story represents the racial prejudice that has and still does occur in today’s society as it allows us to make assumptions, create stereotypes, emphasize our differences, and dehumanize other races. Adichie provides examples of this concept through her personal experiences when she states, “I remember walking around on my first day in Guadalajara, watching the people going to work, rolling up tortillas in the marketplace, smoking, laughing. I remember first feeling slight surprise. And then, I was overwhelmed with shame. I realized that I had been so immersed in the media coverage of Mexicans that they had become one thing in my mind, the abject immigrant. I had bought into the single story of Mexicans and I could not have been more ashamed of myself” (Adichie 8:42). What Adichie does here is refer to how in today’s society, we are judging people based on what we have been told to believe, which Adichie disagrees on when seeing the other side to the “story”. It shows how media can play a role in shaping the single story by only representing a culture based on how they want to portray it, or what they think that know. Today, people will hear a single story, believe in that story and run with it, with no desire to become knowledgeable of the reality that no culture, person, or race can be depicted by a singular story. This is exemplified towards the end of the Ted talk when Adichie states, “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story” (Adichie 12:45).

Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric  provides different examples of how the single-story concept comes to play. In doing so, she addresses and presents the numerous microaggressions, or the unintentional or subtle things said or done to discriminate against someone, that black people have to face on a consistent basis. By inviting the reader to experience the stories being told via the second person, it shows just how powerful these racial prejudices that are caused from the singular story are. One example that illustrates this is when Rankine talks about the Caroline Wozniacki imitation of Serena Williams controversy. Wozniacki, another very talented tennis player, imitated Serena by stuffing towels in her top and shorts as a joke with supposed “good intentions”. This exemplifies the danger of a single story. Wozniacki racially targeted Serena by associating her attributes to that of Sarah Baartman, a woman with large breasts and a large butt. She was used as a symbol during the 19th century. Her body was used as an attraction and to represent hypersexuality of a black woman. During that time, her parts were compared to females of European decent. She was considered more developed than the average woman and that fascinated the public during that time. According to Meserette Kentake,

Baartman was exhibited at a venue in London after her arrival. For 2 shillings, from 1pm to 5pm, at 225 Piccadilly, people could witness Baartman displayed as animal-like and exotic. On stage she wore skin-tight, flesh-coloured clothing, as well as beads and feathers, and smoked a pipe. She was forced to show off her derrière in a cage that was about a metre and half high. Wealthy customers could pay for private demonstrations in their homes, with their guests allowed to touch her (The Weekly Challenger, 2017).

This negative cognition is represented in Wozniacki’s way to dehumanize Serena while still mocking and pretending to be the best tennis player in the world. She created the idea that Serena is similar to Sarah and if someone didn’t know Serena other than she was the best tennis player in the world, then they would be corrupted with the single story that she is a black woman with huge breasts and a huge butt. She will be viewed in the eyes of others with this hypersexual aspect.

Additionally, Rankine addresses the microaggressions that are demonstrated in the text while reminding the reader that it is a result of the single story that was told to the neighbor in the example. Rankine says, “You and your partner go to see the film The House We Live In. You ask a friend to pick up your child from school. On your way home your phone rings. Your neighbor tells you he is standing at his window watching a menacing black guy casing both your homes. The guy is walking back and forth talking to himself and seems disturbed. You tell your neighbor that your friend, whom he has met, is babysitting. He says, no, it’s not him. He’s met your friend and this isn’t that nice young man. Anyway, he wants you to know, he’s called the police” (Rankine III). This shows that in this situation, the neighbor automatically assumed this black person was causing mischief. The neighbor most likely thought this way because he is using the single-story lens to predict the outcome of what this black person’s motives were, as people tend to associate black people with crimes more so to that of a white person.

Though stories are seen to be informational, for pleasure or to teach a lesson, stories can have a damaging effect. Think back to stories you have heard in your life or when someone tells you about a story or conflict they had with another person. When you’re not told both sides of the story, you immediately become defensive for the friend who shared the story, but what about the other party? What about their side of the story? How would you feel if someone treated you a way when they didn’t know your stance? It can be damaging and unfair. Now just imagine the damage or how bad the world is because of these single stories. If we don’t know about something or want to know, try to get a more accurate story or ask multiple people. Knowing what a single story can do, we need to move away from this and do further unbiased research.

Works Cited

“Chimamanda Adichie: The Danger of a Single Story.” PsycE“Chimamanda Adichie:

Doucleff, Michaeleen. “Storytelling Instead Of Scolding: Inuit Say It Makes Their Children More Cool-Headed.” NPR, NPR, 4 Mar. 2019,

Kentake, Meserette. “Sarah Baartman: The ‘First Known Black Female Victim of Trafficking.” –, The Weekly Challenger, 5 Jan. 2017,

Rathnam, Tharani. “Why Is Storytelling Important To Children In This Digital World?” ParentCircle. Parentcircle, 02 May 2019. Web. 01 May 2019.

“story, n.” OED Online, Oxford University Press, March 2019, Accessed 6 May 2019.

“Story | Search Online Etymology Dictionary.” Index,

“Story.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster,, Nong. @californong Now I can read in the dark. 2018 unsplash


For my found poem, I chose to write about climate change. I found an article that was published in November of 2018. This article was written by David Malakoff, and it outlines the current state of the United States in terms of climate change. The original title of the article is “Climate Change Poses Major Threat to United Staes, New Government Report Concludes.” Climate change is present today, despite denial from the president, and any administration following the president. Climate change is a serious issue that will devastate the whole entire world, and human population, if action is not taken soon. This article outlines the negative aspects of climate change, and the lack of effort made in order to fix this issue.

I chose to write out the words that I had originally circled, and blacked out of my article. The article was two full pages long, therefore I chose to write out the found words, rather than black them out in the traditional style. I originally had written it out, and added color, however I felt it took away from the overall message. We need to take action in order to avoid the repercussions of climate change, and I hope that my found poem helps to spread this message. Climate change, and the fact that people aren’t worried about its impact is something that angers me, and the found poem was a nice medium to express my anger in regards to the topic. Each of these sentences are fragments from the article, coupled together in order to make sense.

Racism in an Era of Colorblindness

In Citizen, an American Lyric, the author Claudia Rankine, composes different ongoing encounters of racism taking place within the twenty-first century. These racist aggressions take place within daily life, daily conversations, among friends, and strangers, as well as within the media. Racism is clearly still present in the world today, and Rankine provides the reader with individual racist encounters written in the second person narrative point of view. Doing this allows for little to no context on who is saying what, and therefore makes the impact of the words being said more powerful. Some of these encounters are slips of the tongue, while others are intentional derogatory comments, meant to be hurtful and offensive. Through the utilization of essays, images, poetry, and more, Rankine composes an “American Lyric” on the effect of racism in what is currently a failing “post-race,” society.

In sections III through V, Rankine continues to describe individual racist encounters of all different kinds. As well as this, in part IV, she begins to touch on the effect of these racist encounters on the individual primarily through the utilization of poetry. Due to the fact that each passage in each chapter is written in the second person narrative point of view, as the reader, you don’t know if this is a composition of racist encounters of one singular person or a collection of many different accounts. Because of this, the velocity and effect of these encounters are increased. Ambiguity as an author is an important strategy, and Rankine is successfully using this technique to her advantage.

In section III of Citizen, we are reminded again of section I, as there are similar types of racist encounters. The first passage of the section is the one that has stuck out to me the most thus far throughout the novel. You and a friend are rushing to meet a friend in a distant neighborhood, and this friend says to you “You are late, you nappy-headed ho” (Rankine 41). She has never code switched like this before, and you are curious as to why she has done it now. Rankine then continues to talk about how perhaps you being late signaled the stereotype of “black people time” and so she attempts to respond with “black people language” (Rankine 41). As I read this racist encounter, it made me think about how commonly and easily college students, of all races, use the N-word in today’s society. Specifically, just on this college campus, I hear it used in everyday conversation more often than it should. The woman who was late was clearly made uncomfortable by the racist comment, and the woman who said it regret saying it and knew that what she said was wrong directly after. In the media, as well as in conversation today, racist slights are thrown around way too often, and way too casually. This is a problem and needs to be stopped. People are so entitled, and feel as if the words that they say won’t have an impact on other people’s feelings. However this is not the case, and no matter the circumstance, racism, in any form, is never okay.

In the article, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander, the author argues that today’s society is experiencing a new Jim Crow era. She writes “In the era of colorblindness, it is no longer socially permissible to use race, explicitly, as a justification for discrimination, exclusion, and social contempt” (Alexander, 262). In a country that is supposed to be blind to race, racism is present despite all historical and social efforts to abolish it. Alexander compares today’s society and racist tendencies in the United States to that of the Jim Crow in the 1950s. On pages 52 and 53 of Citizen, there is an illustration of two separate posters. The first poster reads “I do not always feel colored,” over and over again, and the second poster readers “I feel most colored when I am thrown against a sharp white background.” (Rankine 51-52). This illustration reminded me of Alexander’s article due to the emphasis on color, or lack thereof. The artist does not always feel colored, however, they feel most colored, and most isolated when compared to the color white. Both Citizen, by Claudia Rankine, and The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander discuss racist encounters that take place today in the United States.

Why do you think Claudia Rankine utilizes a second person narrative point of view in her novel Citizen: An American Lyric?

Do you think reading a novel such as Citizen: An American Lyric, by Claudia Rankine has the potential to illicite change in racist tendencies and encounters in the United States today?

Alexander, Michelle. New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. New Press, 2016.

Rankine, Claudia. Citizen: an American Lyric. Penguin Books, 2015.

Introduction: Paige Scott

Hi everyone! My name is Paige Scott, I’m a second semester freshman here at SUNY Cortland. I am a communications major, and I’m from Red Hook, NY, which is a super small town upstate. I enjoy watching, and playing sports, specially lacrosse. I’m a total coffee addict, and can’t start my day without it. I’m Looking forward to getting to know everyone!