718-857-6830   |   Get Deb’s Newsletter   | [email protected]

Stories can differ completely depending on who is narrating them as well as the point in time that is seen as the “beginning” of the story. In her book, The Thirteenth Tale, a mystery about a family, Dianne Setterfield speaks to this:

“I shall start at the beginning. Though of course the beginning is never where you think it is. Our lives are so important to us that we tend to think the story of them begins with our birth. First there was nothing, then I was born. yet that is not so. Human lives are not pieces of string that can be separated out from a knot of others and laid out straight. Families are webs. Impossible to touch one part of it without setting the rest vibrating. Impossible to understand to understand one part without having a sense of the whole.” (p. 58).

What Setterfield is saying in relation to individual stories within families is also the case for cultural groups and their histories (or as is often the case his stories). Just as a human life is not a piece of string that can be separated out, no cultural group story can be separated from all the others. Trying to understand the human story by focusing on only one cultural group narrative is like trying to get a sense of what the Quilt of Humanity looks like by looking at merely one or two pieces of the cloth that make up the quilt. Looking at the stories in isolation makes it impossible to see the patterns and interconnections that tell the larger, more inclusive story.

So, we can’t look at the story of the founding of America in isolation from the story of the genocide of Native Americans or the enslavement of Africans that continued to exist despite the promises of liberty and justice for all. We have to understand that each story is merely a part of a larger story.