. First I'm going to rave about how shiny awesome this book is, and then I'm going to have a bit of a screaming rant and kick it repeatedly until it stops whimpering. Okay? Okay.
So this book is awesome! It's a whacky weird skiffy thriller about a father and daughter, and family secrets, and time travel, and Einstein, and ESP, and Israel, and just, stuff. Wildly creative and totally absorbing, with some funny tucked in around the edges. And it's not perfect – the thematic movement about determinism and choice doesn't quite come together in the end – but you know, it was just so much fun.
This book also made me so angry, I'm about to try and tell you but I already know I really can't. See, there's a character who does a series of morally despicable things, and who at one point literally begs to be erased from the timeline so she never would have existed, because, wait for it, she would rather never have existed than be blind.
I am so fucking sick of this, I am choking on it. It's not that this doesn't happen to people who acquire disabilities, it's that this sort of characterization is the default assumption of literature. And this narrative in particular validates her in a number of implicit ways, even while it hands her an abortive sort of redemption story. And I just. I can't even!
It's not that it doesn't happen, like I said. Actually, when I finished this book I went back and read some of my journal entries from three years ago, right after I lost my eye. I wanted to remind myself just how bad it was, and yeah, I was a huddle of feral, shaking black terror for months. But I'm not anymore. And here's the thing that's really lit my fuse.
The dominant narrative construction of acquired disability – in literature as derived from general social life – is of heroism, and I am telling you right now that it is bullshit. The person who acquires a disability and who copes and goes on with life isn't heroic; the person who acquires a disability and fails to cope is a failure. A failure of ingenuity, of thoughtfulness, of curiosity, of adaptability. I get this all the time from random people on the train who are all, "I couldn't live like you do, you're so brave!" And I'm like, okay, first of all, contrary to your lovely implication there, my life is a close relation to fucking awesome. And secondly, yes you could. That's what we do, we deal. And thirdly, stop othering me, because when you turn me into a hero you're making sure you don't ever really have to deal with the fact that I'm just like you, and what happened to me could happen to anyone. I am, and it could, so pull up your big girl pants and deal with it.
This book didn't, at all, and it is a measure of how otherwise crazy cool it is that it's getting three stars out of me.