Manual Real American Stories

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Table of contents

Here at the University of Iowa, nearly one in 10 students hails from China. Iowa City has gone global. Are video games a sport?

At least one U. Robert Morris University became the first school in the nation to offer athletic scholarships for video gamers. Would YOU eat this? They're a protein-packed, environmentally friendly meal. And, believe it or not, more and more Americans are consuming crickets. How scientists are protecting your O. The citrus industry is in peril and scientists are preserving seeds to keep orange juice from fading from your breakfast tables. And they often struggle to take care of themselves and their families because of limited resources. In the s and s, an HIV diagnosis often equated to a death sentence, with many given weeks or months to live.

Much of the public health focus in the early years was on white gay men in urban centers. Early stories of women living with HIV focused on sex workers and injection drug users, those who were highly stigmatized by society for behaviors it deemed immoral.

Conversations about women with HIV were silenced and shamed, causing delays in testing and treatment for women. Even today, women represent less than a quarter of clinical trial participants for HIV medications, and prevention strategies for women lag far behind those for men. As a result, African-American women living in places like Washington, D. Many who were in their 20s and 30s when they were first diagnosed were in a state of shock and denial, certain that they would not live to see their next birthday. My research, which has involved ethnographic and oral history interviews with 45 women over five years, reveals that HIV for African-American women has never been a single issue, separate from histories of addiction, trauma and poverty.

For some, an HIV diagnosis signaled death and an end to the future they had imagined for themselves. While for others, diagnosis was a form of redemption and a second chance at life. Regardless of how HIV altered their lives, these women, now in their 50s and 60s, suffer from debilitating health problems, a result of living a lifetime with HIV and the toxic effects of long-term medication use. Many rely on fragmented public safety nets and will need even more health and disability benefits as they age. While public health officials and politicians are focused on ending HIV in the next decade, very few resources are available to those already living and aging with HIV.

Amid the uncertainty that life with HIV brings, African-American women, like those featured here, live with hope and strength. Marcella Wright was born in Washington, D. She has suffered from debilitating asthma for as long as she can remember. When she was growing up, her neighbors grew wild cannabis and treated her with the vapor. She eventually learned to smoke cannabis to ease the pain of her asthma. She later added alcohol to the mix.

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After graduating from high school, she found out that her boyfriend of two years was going to marry an older woman. She became pregnant by a man who would eventually end up in jail, and she gave birth in a home for unwed mothers. It seemed like one of the most horrifying moments of my life. And I have had guns to my head, I have been choked, and all that.

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  • But this particular time, having this baby. All alone. She turned to crack cocaine to cope and became hooked. You wanted it all the damn time. She began to get sick. Even though she knew something was seriously wrong, she was either too high or too scared to go the hospital. She decided to get clean in for her children. A few years later, she found out that she had HIV.

    She was recruited into one of the earliest treatment programs for people living with HIV. She was the only woman when she enrolled. Most of the other participants who began the program with her, mainly gay men, have since died. They were not starving. Therefore they were not authentically African.

    The Grand Schemes of the Petty Grifter

    But I must quickly add that I too am just as guilty in the question of the single story. A few years ago, I visited Mexico from the U. The political climate in the U. And, as often happens in America, immigration became synonymous with Mexicans. There were endless stories of Mexicans as people who were fleecing the healthcare system, sneaking across the border, being arrested at the border, that sort of thing.

    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. So that is how to create a single story, show a people as one thing, as only one thing, over and over again, and that is what they become.

    It is impossible to talk about the single story without talking about power. There is a word, an Igbo word, that I think about whenever I think about the power structures of the world, and it is "nkali.

    American Stories

    Power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person. The Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti writes that if you want to dispossess a people, the simplest way to do it is to tell their story and to start with, "secondly. Start the story with the failure of the African state, and not with the colonial creation of the African state, and you have an entirely different story.

    I recently spoke at a university where a student told me that it was such a shame that Nigerian men were physical abusers like the father character in my novel. I told him that I had just read a novel called "American Psycho" —. But it would never have occurred to me to think that just because I had read a novel in which a character was a serial killer that he was somehow representative of all Americans.

    This is not because I am a better person than that student, but because of America's cultural and economic power, I had many stories of America. I had read Tyler and Updike and Steinbeck and Gaitskill. I did not have a single story of America. When I learned, some years ago, that writers were expected to have had really unhappy childhoods to be successful, I began to think about how I could invent horrible things my parents had done to me. But the truth is that I had a very happy childhood, full of laughter and love, in a very close-knit family.

    Scary True Stories That American Horror Story Should Make A Season About

    But I also had grandfathers who died in refugee camps. My cousin Polle died because he could not get adequate healthcare. One of my closest friends, Okoloma, died in a plane crash because our fire trucks did not have water. I grew up under repressive military governments that devalued education, so that sometimes, my parents were not paid their salaries.

    And so, as a child, I saw jam disappear from the breakfast table, then margarine disappeared, then bread became too expensive, then milk became rationed. And most of all, a kind of normalized political fear invaded our lives. All of these stories make me who I am. But to insist on only these negative stories is to flatten my experience and to overlook the many other stories that formed me.