Monday, July 14, 2014

Monday Musings: Characters with disabilities

After experiencing the better part of three days with no voice, I've thought a lot about how little I know about people who have to deal with this day in and day out.  If you haven't experienced it, I can't possibly express to you how isolating it feels to be unable to communicate with people.  It kind of weirds people out to have a conversation where their voice is the only one that is heard - so they stop talking to you, as your answers are limited to how well they understand your sign language.  So not only can you not communicate your thoughts to them - you're forced to the edges of society by default.  Three days of this was enough to make me quite depressed actually, as I tend to turn a bit morbid if I have time to reflect.  This in combination with seeing How to Train Your Dragon 2 and reading The Autobiography of Ms. Tom Thumb made me think a lot about how disabilities are treated in books.  I know mental health awareness month just ended, but I wanted to talk in broader terms to include physical disabilities as well (and to focus on them in this post).

The only books I can think of that deal with either deafness or muteness is Speak and The Raging Quiet.  And I'm honestly not coming up with any books with physical disabilities at the moment.  I'm sure I've read a couple more (I feel like there might have been a mute character in one of the Redwall books) but taken in comparison to the 1,320 books I've read and multiplied by the dozens of characters in each book...that's a drop of water in an ocean. 

I really, truly loved both Speak and The Raging Quiet - but you know what I want more than anything? I want books like How to Train Your Dragon, where the focus isn't on the disability. I want characters who simply have one, and I want to live in their world and know how that effects them - but I don't want that to be what the story is about. I tend to procrastinate greatly on more serious novels, particularly sad ones (...I still haven't read TFIOS...) so I want funny stories, and bittersweet stories, not just the sad stories.  I want historical and contemporary stories and FANTASY stories with characters who have some form of disability.  I want to be able to read about these not only so that I can try and be an ally to everyone who has to deal with these issues every day, but so that I can try and understand what it is to go through it.  I want books that will make me aware of all the issues I don't know about, and to make me more sensitive to the ones I do know about.  I want books out there so that when I am isolated from the world, I have a character who can relate to me. (...I guess they don't relate to me. That I can relate to?)  And that makes me think about all the people in the world who do have some form of disability and don't have these characters there for them.  Where are the characters with wheelchairs, or thyroid inbalances, or Tourret's, or hearing aids?  Where are the characters who have to read braille or have epilepsy?

I do know there are way more books out there that I am either forgetting or haven't read - any suggestions?  (Particularly on the not sad front)

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