Telling Stories

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Mom always told me, when listening to someone depict a situation where an opinion of the other person involved may be created to always hear the other person’s side. There is no such thing as a single story or experience. So often, we listen to one side and fight against the other without actually hearing or trying to understand the other side. We tend to go with what’s most popular, and in the case of Fadwa Laroui, it was the story of a male who lit himself on fire that was covered more than her own story. Not to discount the suffering behind the story of Mohamed Al Bouazizi, but the stories involving men have always been heard and understood while those involving women are left untouched. This situation is no different. Both were fighting for their rights, protesting injustice and both died by fire, but the coverage of Bouazizi’s death was much more than Laroui’s and that puts us in the trap of a single story. Fadwa’s story represents many women’s lives and the injustice they face and by not hearing it or spreading it, her fight for equality goes unnoticed. Majority does not represent minority, men do not represent women, and everyone has a story to tell that gives way to a deeper collective memory.

This goes with the concept of inter-generational mourning, where the trauma of the older generation is then acted out in the second generation. Stories always give way to other stories and stories are felt across time. In Marjane Strapi’s Persepolis, we see this when Marjane’s mother tells the tale of her guilt when her father was in prison and she wanted to ride on his back and play. She ended up hurting his back and as she thinks in the past tense, feels guilt for not understanding what was happening. Marjane then acts out what it would be like to be in a wet cell by taking a bath. Her mother’s guilt is felt across time and then acted out in a way that Marji can understand. The story of the past is felt in the present, allowing a single story to be heard and translated into a different story, giving way to a collective memory. A single story is a scene in the larger play of events where inter-generational mourning is felt between fades of each scene. Being able to feel for the previous generation and lament their losses gets them out of the trap of the single story because it helps them translate their past pain into the current situation and move into a collective memory; a group of stories understood by all.

As someone who witnessed trauma at a young age, while not in the same ways, I related with Marji. In a lot of ways, how she handled the pain of loss and feeling like she didn’t belong anywhere is very similar to how I also tried to handle my own pain. Her story spoke to me. She went through very normal life situations like an awkward stage, trying to fit in and losing some of herself in the process, getting her first boyfriend and having no idea what to do; but while going through each of these typical situations, she had a lot more on her mind and heart that influenced what she did in those situations. It’s true that you can never really know what’s going on inside of a person. There’s a lot that is left unsaid. Marji existed a lot in her head as I do and I think what I loved about that is I saw someone who was published, who has gone through so much, still dealt with things as I did. In seeing how she felt alone, it made me feel like I wasn’t. That I am just as important and that I can make something great of my life, no matter my pain or loss or struggle.

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