Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that should absolutely be put at the top of your TBR pile. Recommended books will vary across genre and age category and include shiny new books, older books you may have missed, and some classics I suggest finally getting around to.
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Today’s pick is a backlist title that should be required reading for nondisabled readers.
Sitting Pretty: The View From My Ordinary Resilient Disabled Body by Rebekah Taussig
Rebekah Taussig tells very personal stories and through them, teaches readers so much about her experience as a person who uses a wheelchair and about ableism and how ableism punishes all of us. The author does not pull punches when she writes about how awful people can be. She breaks down a lot of really crap behavior in films and television, such as when a character with a disability has that dream sequence where they suddenly don’t have that disability anymore which is based on the audacious assumption that all people with disabilities would be happier without them. There is also the common thinking that they would do anything to get rid of them, even evil things. I’m looking at you, Detective Pikachu.
She also tears into “inspiration porn” such as the promposals of the captain of the football team asking the disabled girl in class to prom. “Inspiration porn” is a term for using disabled people as props for videos for likes and clicks because “everyone” wants to see the heartwarming videos of these heroic people being so heroically kind. The rest of that chapter is absolute fire as well. Kindness is complicated and this book makes readers take a step back and think about acts of kindness and when they are actually selfish acts versus when they are something someone actually needs. Taussig gives the example of seeing a person using a wheelchair trying to reach a napkin from a pile of napkins on a high counter. The world doesn’t need the sort of kindness of another person handing them a single napkin. We need someone who will move the whole pile of napkins to a place where they are accessible to everyone all the time.
The author talks about how she was around a group of women and they were talking about experiences that are assumed universal experiences for women, such as catcalling or being told to smile; however, the author hadn’t because what, she’s less of a woman? Because the assumption that a person in a wheelchair has no reason to smile? This is not the author saying all women deserve to be harassed but what she is saying is that we really need to think about all women when we start to assume things about all women.
In another chapter I really appreciated she writes about the capitalist equation that hours + production + wages = value but when a person is disabled, their production amount might be different, the hours you can work might be different, and the wages you’re getting paid are likely to be different which, in a capitalist society, means they are valued less.
This book was thoughtful, enraging, and an absolutely essential read.
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That’s it for now, book-lovers!
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