Posted on 10/01/2018 at 08:00 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek
A few months ago, an author and Fussy reader reached out to us with a special request.
Tracee Lydia Garner invited us to interview authors with disabilities and post them in October, in honor of National Disability Awareness Month.
(The month is also National Disability Employment Awareness.)
She also mentioned that she and several other authors are publishing an anthology of stories featuring characters with disabilities.
Boundless Love comprises five stories in which "love knows no limits and everyone gets a happily ever after."
The anthology, which benefits charities, can be preordered now on Amazon for November 1 delivery.
Not all of them have disabilities themselves, but they’ve all provided much-needed diversity in their work by creating heroes and heroines who happen to be disabled.
We had hoped to find a statistic on how (in)frequently characters with disabilities appear in literature, and instead, the Internet turned up some thoughtful essays worth reading.
Susan Nussbaum is a playwright, novelist, and longtime disability rights activist.
Back in 2013, she wrote about avoiding books and movies with disabled characters, pointing out that these characters exist in the plot solely for how their disability can affect the central, nondisabled characters.
“The disabled characters we’re presented with usually fit one or more of the following stereotypes: Victim, Villain, Inspiration, Monster,” she writes.
“And the disabled character’s storyline is generally resolved in one of a few ways: Cure, Death, Institutionalization.”
Why does this happen? Nussbaum theorizes it’s because disabled people have been marginalized for centuries — they weren’t given the opportunity to even be seen as regular people, let alone to write.
Certainly, progress has been made in expanding access and reversing some discrimination.
By no means is that fight done, however.
Author Kenny Fries reflected on the changes — or lack thereof — twenty years after he edited Staring Back: The Disability Experience from the Inside Out, the first commercially published multigenre anthology of writers with disabilities writing about disability.
His conclusion was ultimately similar to Nussbaum’s issues.
“This typical narrative promulgates disability as something from which the nondisabled learns and profits; the disabled character dies,” Fries wrote on Medium.
“Through such depictions we learn little about the actual life lived with a disability, but a lot about how our culture uses disability for its own purposes and disvalues disabled lives.”
So, prompted by a conversation about the Bechdel Test with another writer, Fries came up with what his friend dubbed the Fries Test:
Does a work have more than one disabled character? Do the disabled characters have their own narrative purpose other than the education and profit of a nondisabled character? Is the character’s disability not eradicated either by curing or killing?
All of the authors in Boundless Love could pass the Fries Test, and we’d love to feature other authors who do the same.
Feel free to send Q&A suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Categories: Author Interview