Wednesday 11 February 2015

Spoonie Writer: Idenitifying As A Spoonie Writer

Spoonie Writer: Identifying As A Spoonie Writer

I've thought long and hard about this piece. It's been something on my mind for a while and it's something that ties in with two of my other posts: Being A Disabled Writer (found here) and Why Is Representation Important? (found here) If you're aware of who I am, then you're probably also aware that I am disabled and I identify as a "spoonie" (an explanation can be found here as to what the spoon theory is). I firmly believe that there is nothing wrong with being disabled and letting people know about it and how that disability affects your life, however, there are other people who think that by being so outspoken about disability, I'm asking to be treated differently, or to get special treatment. I'd like to address both of those in turn and explain why I have decided that being open about my disability is the course for me.

When I tell people that I am a disabled writer, I am not asking to be treated any differently than any other writer, indie or otherwise. I welcome reviews, regardless of who they are from. I'm aiming to get my books on other people's e-readers and have their honest feedback and I'm not telling you I'm disabled to garner sympathy. In fact, sympathy is the last thing I want. I do what I do because it's something I love, and the fact that I'm disabled has little bearing on my choice of profession.

Then why do I bother to identify as disabled, to have it on my blog, to have it in my bio? The answer to that is simple. The world is filled with people who are all different, from skin colour to religion, to ethnicity to social class and everything in between. I know that when I was growing up, I identified with other writers who were like me. Female, white and writing about difficult young adult subjects. I didn't become disabled until I was in my late teens and it was only then that I realised that writing was the career path I wanted to be on. When I was first starting out, I wanted to look at other authors and see myself in their fiction. Even now as a fully grown adult, it's still nice to be able to relate to a character (or their creator) because we have something in common.

For me, that's relatively easy because I'm white, but for other people of different skin colours, it's harder to see people like them in all forms of media. Be that books, films, plays or TV shows. This goes back to the point I wrote about in the representation piece, which is linked above. As someone who has what would seem to be the "default" skin colour for the majority of literary and fictional characters, I can't imagine how it would feel to not see yourself in those forms. For the black girl who wants to read about other black girls kicking ass and taking names and saving themselves/the world and/or their friends. I have been lucky enough to have had that representation growing up and there lies the reason I am open about my disabilities.

Say you have one hundred female book characters. Now, you take out the white, able-bodied ones and you're left with maybe say twenty. Out of that twenty, you'll have about nineteen able-bodied people of colour. The one disabled character out of that one hundred characters represents one of the most under-represented people in fiction, and that's even before you factor in intersectionality. Now, this is just my own judgement, but it's backed up here, here and here. Those are the first three that came up when I searched Google for "disabled women in fiction".

What does this have to do with my own choice to identify publicly as both disabled and a writer? Simple. There are a number of young people, some teenagers, some younger, who may come across my name or my book and be able to see that people with disabilities, in my case, white women, are able to achieve their dreams. They are able to do wonderful things and that they don't need to be ashamed of who they are, or what their disabilities are or anything like that. I want the next generation of writer's to grow up knowing that they can be disabled and they can be proud of that fact. I want them to know that it's not a shameful thing to say "Hey, I'm a disabled writer". Until we start to show that there is nothing wrong, they will remain hidden from view and no one deserves that.

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