Fiction at the Dis Lit Booth

Although the  Disability Literature Consortium  booth at the AWP  conference will have a huge variety of poetry, we will also have fiction by writers with disabilities as well – a much more difficult genre to come by.  Below are brief excerpts from three of the books that will be available at the booth.

 

“I landed at JFK and was bumped in the head by an elbow while trying to retrieve my luggage from the conveyor belt. The man didn’t say anything. He was too busy. I’d been once before to the city. It was a lot of rushing around and stairs and ruts in the sidewalk and dogs on leashes and people walking into you. It was an obstacle course for anyone, but especially someone wearing a fake leg. My fake leg had a computer inside it and was very smart, but I didn’t like to test it for fear of falling on my face. It was infinitely more reliable than humans, or human parts, but still I regarded it with suspicion. I wasn’t the only one.   A boy, maybe five or six, tugged on the bottom of his mother’s shorts and said, “What’s wrong with that lady’s leg?”

Jillian Weise, The Colony

 

“I did not speak until I was four, right before the surgery.  My mother was driving, and I was in the back seat. I said, “Where are we going today, Ellen?” Not a word before this, and then complete sentences. At least this is the way my mother tells it. If this is true, that I did not speak until I was four, then I am by definition autistic, although I have never been diagnosed as such. In my mother’s telling, the doctors always say I will never walk or talk. I will be completely dependent. “Dumb as a box of rocks,” she always says, so that I believe this was the doctor’s diagnosis: “Dumb as a box of rocks.” And then, right before the surgery, some electric light wormed through me, and I awoke.  Or something. I was a miracle child, a testament  to God’s work. I was to me my mother’s Job.”

David Rawson, Fuckhead

 

“’Who’s the biggest spaz in this school?’  My seventh grade nemesis and his pal circled around me like drooling hyenas as I trudged back home, limping and lurching to the left to offset the weight of my clunky briefcase filled with textbooks.

‘Yeah, who’s the biggest spaz.’ repeated his pal as he contorted his wrists, then waved them wildly, and stuck his ugly, acne-scarred face in my face. My verbal assailants didn’t touch me. They were probably too scared to touch me. Maybe they thought spazziness was contagious.”

Robert Rudney, Lover’s Lame

These are just a sample. If you are coming to the conference, stop by and see all of them.

Fiction at the Dis Lit Booth

The Importance of Caregiving Narratives in an Ableist Society

As a caregiver, I know that being able-bodied and neurotypical gives me enormous privilege in our ableist society. I’m also aware that caregiver narratives have access to media, or are picked up by media, much more so than the narratives of persons with disabilities themselves. This is concerning, yet it ought to be remembered that the caregiving narratives that are published or promoted tend to fit societal norms of discourse about persons with disabilities and caregivers: that caregivers are “heroic,” “selfless,” or that they come to recognize difference for “what it is”– otherness, or even that acts of murder, for example, can be excused as stress.
I think it important that in conjunction with the narratives of persons with disabilities, the narratives of caregivers have a chance to broaden in the public imagination and become much more nuanced. My own experiences make me feel much like a conjoined twin with my son–while my able-bodiedness gives me access to things he has no access to, at the same time, I will never have full civil rights and civil liberties until he has them, given the privatization of social services and supports, which is another way of saying that the state can not only shut down the lives of persons with disabilities, but the people who care for them as well, especially those who care for people who are medically fragile. “Care” is a nuanced word when it comes to the State–it means both loving attention and administrative labor as well as physical labor. It does not mean, in my experience, “parenting,” something I wish I had more time for with my child.
Given how broad disability is with regard to the population, I do have concerns that at a venue like AWP, the voices of persons with disabilities who have fewer cognitive disabilities will be privileged at the expense of those who have more communication disabilities, including cognitive disabilities. The writing world is that way among typical populations: privileging “intelligence” when it comes to the evaluation of art (a competitive endeavor that needs metrics). Or that the ableist writing community will impose that sort of metric upon the disability coalition–that the only writing of value produced by persons with disabilities is by those who are “smart.” Personally, given what I’ve observed with a communication-impaired child, human expression is pretty broad and I would like to broaden poetry and literature from its current unqualified acceptance of the beautiful and perfect as the basis of anything acceptable as “art” using the written word–even the most terrible experiences needs be “lyrical” to many editors. This is not the case, for example, when you experience the visual arts.
Anyway, sorry for the length. I have found I’ve had a lot to say where disability and the arts are concerned.
– Jeneva Stone, Contributing Editor to Pentimento
The Importance of Caregiving Narratives in an Ableist Society

Jillian’s Tips for AWP Writers

Jillian Weise, author of the poetry collection The Amputees Guide to Sex and the satiric novel The Colony – both of which will be at the Disability Literature Consortium booth at the AWP  conference – has been on prior panels at AWP, but this year as a response to the rejection of all disability panel proposals, Jillian has filed a video response.  In her words:

“This year, the biggest conference in my field, AWP (Association of Writers
and Writing Programs), received 1,781 panel proposals, accepted 550 panels,
and rejected all panels focused on disability aesthetic.

In response, I present this video. [It has captions and a transcript. It
shows a woman in a home office with a ridiculous blonde wig and a lap dog.]
Please watch, share, post, tweet, if it resonates.”

Here is link to the video. Jillian Weise Video .   It is only the first in a series that is now up to about six, but if if you like it, tweet it out.

 

Jillian’s Tips for AWP Writers

Disability Caucus at AWP

AWP conference attendees who stop by the Disability Literature Consortium or attend the exciting reading of disability literature authors on the evening of Thursday, March 31, should also seriously consider attending the Disabilities Caucus meeting from 6-7:15 PM on Friday, April 1.

As many of you know, disabled writers had a difficult time being represented in the panel discussions, presentations and readings at AWP this year, as well as having requests for accommodations for those who attend being taken seriously. The disability caucus was formed to address these issues. The caucus describes the purpose of the caucus this way:

“The Disability Caucus will allow for disabled individuals to network and discuss common challenges related to identity, writing, and teaching while professionally leading a literary life. We aim to archive our interests, challenges, and concerns in order to increase our visibility and emphasize our importance to this organization, along with our social and creative significance to the academic and literary communities where we live, teach, and work.”

The caucus is lead by dynamic leaders like Sheila Black, Meg Day, Jennifer Bartlett, Ellen McGrath Smith, and Jillian Weise. It should be a wonderful event.

Disability Caucus at AWP

Listen to Some of the Dis Lit Poets

The Disability Literature Consortium booth at AWP will be offering a lot of great books of poetry for sale by writers with disabilities. As a preview to some of the work, listen to some of the writers whose books will be on sale read sample poems below.

Karyn Lie-Nielsen

Sheila Black

Lisa Gill

Listen to Some of the Dis Lit Poets