I’m sure this won’t be news to you; we need better disabled characters. Portrayals of people with disabilities tend to misinform, sensationalize, stereotype and outright villainize them. There are thousands of articles out there on harmful disability tropes and more still to be said.
But you know what I’d rather do than write another one of those articles? Talk about some disabled characters I love. I think that, when talking about disability representation, or any other kind of representation, it is easy to get bogged down in the difficulty. I don’t just mean the labor of research or the ethical questions about which stories are yours to tell; I also mean the emotional consequences of submerging yourself in pain. It is not creatively energizing. It puts you into that “everything sucks” mentality, and going straight from that to writing can turn into the toxic editors “everything I write sucks” mentality. This is especially damaging when it comes to diverse characters, because, on the way to writing awesome representation, you will probably write some shitty representation. Not because you’re a bad person, but because all your writing is shitty when it’s on it’s way to being awesome. Representation isn’t different, it’s just extra emotionally charged.
I also think writers need “dos” as well as “do nots.” While it’s good to be aware of problematic tropes, I think that when you actually sit down to write it’s better to have an idea of good representation to focus on. You don’t hit a bullseye by focusing on the people in the crowd who you are hoping not to shoot. You know the bystanders exist, but you keep your eyes on the target.
Besides, this has been a rough year for all of us, and it’s nice to spend a little time dwelling on happy thoughts. Continue reading Disabled Characters Who Rock
What It’s About
An anthology coming of age stories, with both authors and protagonists from a diverse range of identities.
Why I Recommend It
Individually, these stories are all great. Though a few touch on sad content, like losing a parent or social isolation, for the most part they are fun and happy. That in and of itself is cool. It’s incredible to see a queer first crush that isn’t angsty, or a disabled kid connecting with his father over wheelchair sports, without anybody pitying or handwringing. And even when I have no personal connection to the identities represented, the stories touch on something fundamental human experience, in a moving and delightful. One of my favorites was the one where the Choctaw uncle tells his nieces and nephews with a tall tale. Folklore plus weird but kindly old people bonding with small children; that is now you make a Lane happy.
Collectively, this is a great introduction to marginalized authors who have long, award winning careers telling diverse stories. None of these stories are overtly political, but the combination tells a message that shouldn’t be political, but sadly is; anyone can tell a human story, and anyone can be the star of one. There is no one way to be the everyman, and isn’t that awesome?
Note: the release date for this book is October 31st, and it is still available for pre-order at the time I am publishing this. Get it at a discount and support an awesome new writer!
- YA, Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Magical Realism
- Plot Summary
- The story of two damaged teen boys who love and support each other. If by love and support you mean become entangled in a quest to save an fantasy land which might only be a sign of their impending madness. It’s sweet, in an “oh god no what are you doing stop it with the fire” kind of way.
- August and Jack are so lovable. On the surface, they’re both a couple of foul-mouthed, troublemaking assholes, but the deeper you get the more you see the kind, caring natures beneath. And not the fake kind of jerks with a heart of gold either. All too often I’m informed that I’m going to get jerks with a heart of gold, but I actually get jerks who are mildly less mean to the narrator, and then act like they deserve a cookie for it. Jack and August aren’t like that. They are both, at times, intentionally off-putting in ways that make sense for the defense mechanisms they’ve developed, and the wounds they have received. They also make terrible decisions that make sense for the level of mental and emotional maturity they have reached. They also try very, very hard to help those around them, as well as each other, albeit sometimes in the most misguided of ways. It’s impossible not to care intensely for them.
- Tone: What’s it Like to Read This Book?
- I wanna say punked up Hitchcock.
- Not the spiky haired kind of punk, but the attitude that lies underneath. The adolescent cynicism that half wants to rock the world and smash the system and half wants to be proven wrong about how broken they think everything already is.
- And Hitchcock in the sense of deep, raw dread that has nothing to do with bombs or bullets, and everything to do with being being made aware of the fragility of the human mind, and then given just enough information on how this could all go terribly wrong.
- Not to mention the incredibly wry sense of humor that both styles have in common. It’s a great read.
- Other Shiny Stuff
- Bisexual representation!
- The format is cool as hell. Each chapter is short but unnumbered. They have short titles, and sometimes the connection between the title and the chapter text can be a bit of a puzzle (but when you get it, a whole new level of cool is added). Mixed in are police reports, news stories, notes from the characters, and even mix CDs, all adding levels of insight into what’s going on. Then there’s the evolving art on the pages themselves… they start out as plain paper, but gradually acquire smudges, margin doodles and burn marks. Sometimes the entire page is black with white text. It’s intriguing and atmospheric and looks absolutely stunning.
- I was impressed by the level of research into mental health and relationships. It’s a big topic, and the author went into some areas that I’m unfamiliar with, but in every place where this book and my experience overlapped, she was dead on.
- I also felt, as a person with mental health issues, that the issues that were used for suspense weren’t glamorized. I love psychological horror, but I have read all too many where the authors made the pain of mental illness or abuse something romantic to endure. Here, I actually felt the most romantic bits were the fragments of normal teen life, which was a welcome change.
- Content Warnings
- Parental neglect, scenes of drowning and burning, hallucinations. Altogether, nothing too graphic, so unless you have specific traumas associated with those things, you’ll probably be fine. If you love suspense but not gore, this is the book for you.
- “Sometimes, especially when he was cooking, he felt like maybe the Great Big Sad took his mom so he would be ready for Jack. Like the fear and depression that choked her until she couldn’t move made it so that when Jack stumbled into his house three years ago and admitted that he hadn’t seen his own mom in weeks, August was ready to sit him down and make him some soup.”
- “‘They have stories about you, songs. They call you the Raven, the Golden Bird, the King’s Lionheart. Women smile at you as we walk in the streets; men talk about you over their fires. It’s written all over the walls. They love you and you can’t even see them… my Lionheart. Can you imagine?'”
- “‘The Buildings fade to trees, the trees fade to bramble, the bramble fades to dust, and beyond is the land of forgotten kings. The Wastes. Where nothing lives, nothing grows, and nothing dies.'”