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Today’s pick is perfect for March, which is Disability Awareness Month in the U.S.
Being Seen: One Deafblind Woman’s Fight to End Ableism by Elsa Sjunneson
I love a book with footnotes and even more than that, I love a book that uses most of the footnotes just to add snark and sassy comments. This book does exactly that and more.
Elsa Sjunneson is a four-time Hugo Award finalist, a professor, a sword fighter, a dancer, and very, very witty. She is also a Deafblind woman with partial vision in one eye and bilateral hearing aids. Every time I read something from a disabled writer, whether it be a memoir, essay, or Tweet, I realize how my perceptions of certain disabilities have been shaped by media, which is tremendously shitty at portraying disability! Sjunneson really digs into this as this book is part memoir and part examination of how disability (primarily characters who are Deaf or blind) are portrayed in the media. She also writes about the intersections between Deafblind, being a woman, and being queer. I appreciate that before digging in, Sjunneson lays some groundwork and really asks readers to examine what we think when we hear that someone is Deaf, blind, or Deafblind, such as the assumption that all Deaf people speak ASL or that all blind folks can read braille. Both are far from true.
This is not a book to look to if you’re looking for inspiration porn. The only thing you should be inspired to do after reading this book is to tear down systemic ableism. It was an intense read, each page making me angrier and angrier (and then laughing at the author’s snark) and then breaking my heart.
Sjunneson tackles the subject of Helen Keller right near the beginning of the book which makes sense considering that Helen Keller may be the only Deafblind person many people know of. This chapter alone is worth the price of admission. I can be nothing other than absolutely horrified by The Miracle Worker. The author doesn’t shy away from calling out even the most beloved properties like Star Wars, Star Trek, and Daredevil.
She also talks about things like dating, catcalling, and sexual assault when a person is disabled. Content warnings for explicit depictions of ableism, school bullying, sexual assault and abuse and references to caregiver murder, police brutality, emotional abuse, and physical abuse.
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That’s it for now, book-lovers!
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