Friday, March 16, 2018

Able-bodied/Neurotypical Writers and Our Stories

A lot of disabled and/or neurodivergent people don't want able-bodied/neurotypical people writing stories with us in them.  I understand why.  Writers tend to cling onto stereotypes, write about real people without getting permission from the people they're writing about, don't interview people with the actual disability/neurodivergence, and on and on.

The writers who aren't willing to do what it takes shouldn't write our stories.  Some writers will spend weeks researching cars from the 1960's but not interview one person with the disability their protagonist has.  The writer checking off "diversity boxes" is less likely to do what it takes to create authentic neurodivergent characters.

But, there are some writers who are able-bodied/neurotypical who will do the work involved.  They will hire sensitivity readers.  They will interview actually disabled/neurodivergent people.  They will make balanced characters and listen to feedback at all stages of manuscript creation.  They are compassionate.

I know that able-bodied/neurotypical authors who write disabled/neurodivergent characters often make it bigger (obtain higher advances, get more movie options, etc.) than disabled/neurodivergent authors writing our own stories.  It sucks.  But, any author who is doing things "right" will also be a passionate advocate in the publishing industry for brilliant disabled and/or neurodivergent writers; any writer who uses a marginalized group in their work and fails to promote and fight for that group shouldn't touch that group's narratives.  They won't ally themselves with ableist organisations and will struggle with us to widen doors for our success in any way they can (that includes putting clauses in their movie contract that disabled and/or neurodivergent characters will be played by disabled and neurodivergent actors).

While we don't need books with ableist, problematic portrayals and tropes, we do need more books that reflect authentic, whole experiences of our community.  If the next book with a disabled/neurodivergent protagonist that makes it big comes from a diligent, passionate author who does things right?  I'm okay with it.

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