As a reader:
I used to only care about the story. Almost every author I was introduced to in school was able-bodied and neurotypical and, if a writer wasn't, it wasn't discussed. I went through most of my childhood with a scant handful of famous disabled/neurodivergent in my head; I just thought there were too few of us doing great things. I didn't think that a great person's disability wouldn't be talked about.
Reading books with disabled protagonists was (and often still is) unsatisfactory. A disabled person is used as the obstacle in a nondisabled person's life. A neurodivergent person is a villain. We can't be regular people. Well, we can, we just have to be miserable. Or hateful.
A book by an Own Voices author is an invitation to explore a story without trepidation. And, while a novel by someone who is disabled/neurodivergent writer isn't a guaranteed enjoyable experience, I don't have to worry as much about ableism or botched portrayals.
As a reviewer:
I review books by both disabled and nondisabled writers. My review process is the same regardless of the writer, though I ponder motive a bit when a nondisabled/neurotypical author writes disabled/neurodivergent narratives: Did the main characters come to the author on crutches, or is it a gimmick?
It is important to me to review Own Voices books and I try to give them priority. Publishing (and related industries) tend to "innocently" neglect books by minorities and I refuse to add to that problem. But, I can't turn my back on nondisabled authors who write disabled characters; I'd lose out on some great reads if I did.
As a writer:
Reading Own Voices books and connecting with disabled/neurodivergent writers is nourishing. One of the best things for anyone's art is being around those who "get it" without a mile of footnotes. Picking up a novel and knowing there's a landscape inside that doesn't erase you, or twist lives like yours into something lesser, is a thing of beauty and comfort.
I like knowing there are other disabled/neurodivergent writers succeeding. And holding the proof of it in my hands.
I like how you divided your take on this subject to include how it influenced you differently in different roles of the reading/writing process.ReplyDelete