Imagination and Empathy in the Age of Story-tellers With Disabilities

Crip Lit, Entertain. Don't explain. www.talesfromthecrip.orgWhat is it like to live with a disability? What do I want other people — younger people — to know? What do I see ahead? What are the ethical boundaries for telling other people’s stories?

These are some of the excellent questions posed by DearJulianna, #CrippingtheMighty, and #TheFutureIsDisabled. (Carrie Ann Lucas’s blog post currently carries the coveted — by me — title of, The Blog Post I Love Because It’s So Well-Written I No Longer Feel Like I Need to Take On This Difficult Topic Until I Want To.) People with disabilities are writing, reading, producing, performing, and arguing like nothing I’ve witnessed in 50 years. It’s wonderful and it makes me want to hide out under a blanket for a while and just let my mind wander.

When I can get enough mind-wandering time clocked, I work through stories that are the made-up kind: fiction. They’re stories that are “about” my life the way jambalaya is “about” sausage, rice, and a whole bunch of other stuff. I can’t seem to tell the truth without lying, which is “fiction” in a nutshell and why Hermes, that liar (and inventor of lyres), is the god of storytelling.

In terms of privacy, even badly written fiction is different from posting a detailed or disparaging description of your child who has a disability. But in thinking about who gets to write about who, and how, and why, I remembered a problem I’d had with conveying certain information about my main character, an adult woman with a disability. Me! Not me!

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When It Comes to Inspiration Porn, “Role Model” Is My Most Effective Anti-Inspirant*

Meme that uses a Ban anti-perspirant photo with the words: Role Model Anti-Inspirant Prevents Inspiration Porn Odor

“I’ve found that being inspirational is a lonely business and
unconnected to true efforts or achievements. Being a role model has the pleasure of an honor that’s earned.”

I was asked a few years ago about how I felt being called an “inspiration” based on my identity as a woman with a disability. This was my response, based on events over three decades in the workforce, the majority spent in progressive, community-based nonprofits in the Bay Area where the cross-disability community still remained invisible and therefore marginalized:

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