Diversity in All Forms! discussion

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Members' Topics for Discussion > Books that you thought would be good for diversity - but weren't.

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message 1: by NancyJ (last edited May 14, 2018 06:20PM) (new)

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 143 comments Is there a book that really disappointed you in how it handled a diversity issue?

I'm not talking about the average thriller or horror story (these tend to be full of stereotypes, or simply lacking diversity). Rather I'm thinking about a book that you really thought might be good for opening minds, showing different cultures, or busting stereotypes.

,


message 2: by Kat (new)

Kat (katwiththehat) | 48 comments I don't like the message of "Me Before You," which is hugely popular and deals with a man who has been paralyzed and various medical and emotional issues. I feel it's maybe easy to read it one way if you or someone close to you hasn't been profoundly affected by disability or serious illness, but ultimately, the messages in the book (particularly the ending) feel very Ableist and seem to be written by an author who has no personal experience on the subject.


message 3: by NancyJ (new)

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 143 comments katwiththehat wrote: "I don't like the message of "Me Before You," which is hugely popular and deals with a man who has been paralyzed and various medical and emotional issues. I feel it's maybe easy to read it one way ..."

I can see that. I only saw the movie. It had a strong feel-good vibe which was at odds with the reality of the situation.


message 4: by NancyJ (last edited May 30, 2018 01:18AM) (new)

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 143 comments The book that inspired me to ask the question was Salt to the Sea. It's a YA book that takes place during WWII. I remember thinking - I hope teachers and librarians aren't recommending this as a good cross-cultural book, or if they do, I hope they point out the offensive stereotypes about Germans and Russians. Most people didn't seem to notice or care (based on the reviews). We don't often question our implicit biases or stereotypes about past or current enemies. That's dangerous because they can exacerbate conflicts. [On a political note, I'm glad someone got through to Trump to get him to tone down the offensive talk to and about North Korea, for the moment at least.]


message 5: by Kay Dee (new)

Kay Dee (kdf_333) | 67 comments katwiththehat wrote: "I don't like the message of "Me Before You," which is hugely popular and deals with a man who has been paralyzed and various medical and emotional issues. I feel it's maybe easy to read it one way ..."

i didn't like it either. it was like he was saying being paralyzed after being able bodied was so awful he preferred death than living with his disabilities. i hated that message. also hated the selfish act of suicide knowing he had loved ones who accepted him and loved him just as he was.


message 6: by Kay Dee (new)

Kay Dee (kdf_333) | 67 comments NancyJ wrote: "The book that inspired me to ask the question was Salt to the Sea. It's a YA book that takes place during WWII. I remember thinking - I hope teachers and librarians aren't recommend..."

that reminds me of watching 80's action movies and thinking why are the Germans, Russians, and Japanese always the bad guys?" then i grew up and learned about WWII and thought "but aren't they cool now?"


message 7: by ❄Elsa Frost❄ (last edited May 30, 2018 04:38PM) (new)

❄Elsa Frost❄ (elsafrost) | 4 comments Unfortunately, I have encountered quite a few. One book that comes to mind is Dreams of Significant Girls. I thought it was going to be a more feminist approach to diversity, based on how it was described and the main characters' origins (one was European, one was Middle Eastern, one was Latinx). Instead, to me personally, it read like a book with no compass and unsure where it was supposed to end (which might be why it was such a short read). The book brought up sexual assault at one point, but it was brought up and then it was "erased" from the rest of the book, leaving me confused. After all, I thought it was a feminist work. Why did it leave this part alone instead of actually approaching the issue of sexual assault? What was the point of it? The main characters also came from very privileged lives, and so it felt very unrelatable, especially as I am someone who's living a not-so-privileged life. It also didn't really approach the topics of race and ethnicity, like it seemed it would? Additionally, one of the minor characters came out as gay but, again, there seemed to be no point to this except to prove its "feminist" value, of which the value was lacking.

There's a lot more I could say about the book, but I'll leave it at that. It was confusing overall.


message 8: by NancyJ (new)

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 143 comments ❄Elsa Frost❄ wrote: "Unfortunately, I have encountered quite a few. One book that comes to mind is Dreams of Significant Girls. I thought it was going to be a more feminist approach to diversity, based o..."

Hmm, I wonder if a review of the books refers to it as "postmodern." The parts aren't expected to fall together to make a cohesive whole. They just are.


message 9: by Kat (new)

Kat (katwiththehat) | 48 comments Kay Dee wrote: "i didn't like it either. it was like he was saying being paralyzed after being able bodied was so awful he (view spoiler)i hated that message."

Yes. A terrible, Ableist slap in the face to those actually dealing with such circumstances, as was the message that (view spoiler)


message 10: by Ella (new)

Ella (ellamc) Kay Dee wrote: "katwiththehat wrote: "I don't like the message of "Me Before You," which is hugely popular and deals with a man who has been paralyzed and various medical and emotional issues. I feel it's maybe ea..."

"Funny" story - I read (well, read a bit then started skimming) an eBook version of this from my library's overdrive, returned it.

Then I saw it at the library one day and got so angry (I was having a bad day with my own differently abled stuff - which is not obvious on sight, and I tend not to share with random strangers. I'd overheard two women talking about someone else's kid - with dripping pity and "such a shame" and "she's so brave" nonsense as they "count[ed their] blessings" etc. So I'd heard that in the coffee shop before dropping by the library where I saw this stupid book. I picked up the physical book, checked it out, took it home and threw it at the wall a few times, then I returned it the next time I was at the library. I had the thought that I should just pay for "losing" the book, but my library has hundreds of copies and I'm not wealthy. I do "misplace" the recommendation of it whenever I see that - usually somewhere on my way to the far back corner of the library where the books on living with terminal illness are shelved.

Yeah - see, that's a book that someone who has never lived in a situation like that or been confronted with differences in ability would think is "touching" and "poignant" and "so brave and wonderful" etc. I would've disliked that book for a bunch of other reasons (I'm not a HEA person lately. I like them in RL, just not books.) But that book made me shake with anger - particularly when suicide is the leading COD in the US for so many age groups.


message 11: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lisarosenbergsachs) | 123 comments I haven't read the book and don't know what it's about. So I'm curious. What was in the book that got you so angry? In a way, it must have been written pretty well to have aroused such an intense reaction.


message 12: by Kat (last edited Jun 25, 2018 07:23AM) (new)

Kat (katwiththehat) | 48 comments Lisa wrote: "In a way, it must have been written pretty well to have aroused such an intense r..."

Wrong! Please see some reviews that explain why this Ableist book is a huge problem:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


message 13: by NancyJ (last edited Jun 24, 2018 10:00PM) (new)

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 143 comments SPOILERS about Me Before You.

I can't speak for Ella, and I only saw the movie (I didn't read the book), but this is what I think...

It's a hugely popular book, and you're right, it does elicit strong emotions. For most people it does everything a tearjerker is supposed to do, but for others it has all sorts of triggers, about suicide, and perhaps the value of living if you are severely disabled, in pain, or terminally ill.

(view spoiler)

This is a tearjerker targeted towards young women, with a combination of romance, possibilities, and tragedy that we've been eating up for years. A great tearjerker gives you an emotional ride, and it can help make your own problems seem smaller in comparison. If you identify with the young woman, it ends on a very sad but hopeful note. (Not, happily ever after in my opinion, but at least she gets to move on to the sequel.) The movie adds music, a gauzy filter, and a montage of a perfect night together to intensify that tragic (La Boheme, Camille, Moulin Rouge, The Way we Were) sort of pleasurable sadness. It also distances us from the stark reality of the situation.

(view spoiler) Depending on your current health and frame of mind, the book might trigger a sense of hopelessness and despair in someone who is focusing on their own challenges. But it might also have a very uplifting effect on someone who realizes that in comparison to the character, they really have a lot to live for.

It's not realistic to expect people to reject a book because it made someone feel awful. We're all affected by different things. But it is useful to communicate your perceptions and experiences. I often read reviews with "Trigger Warnings" to alert people to particular topics (like suicide, sexual assault) that someone might be susceptible to.

I don't think it romanticizes (view spoiler) but I could understand how someone might get that message watching the movie, because of the music and beauty of the cinematography. I wouldn't think that a book could amp up the manipulation in the same way.


message 14: by NancyJ (new)

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 143 comments katwiththehat wrote: "Lisa wrote: "In a way, it must have been written pretty well to have aroused such an intense r..."

Wrong! Please see some reviews that explain why this Ableist book is a huge problem:

https://www..."


Kat, I'm sorry that you had such a painful reaction to the book. It sounds like the book should have some trigger warnings, and I hope that your sharing this with people will help someone avoid that pain, or at least prepare themselves emotionally.

I hate to think someone would think that a disability is a reason to give up on life, because millions of people are living with disabilities and leading worthwhile lives.


message 15: by Sj (new)

Sj | 17 comments katwiththehat wrote: "I don't like the message of "Me Before You,"...the messages in the book (particularly the ending) feel very Ableist and seem to be written by an author who has no personal experience on the subject."

I haven't read this book, and am now very unlikely to (thanks for the review links, Kat).

I have direct, lived insight into various forms of disability on a few fronts.

As I continue to work through my own experiences (personal and witnessed) and try to make sense of the world I'm in, I've been coming to recognise how important it is to listen to people's lived experience. Also to seek out genuine voices of lived experience to reflect accurate stores back. Very few people without direct, lived contact (of whatever issues) seem to be able to inhabit that space in anything like an authentic, respectful manner - it just ends up an intellectual exercise (ie; fantasy vs reality) as well as an emotionally manipulative one (ie; tear-jerker) when the person doesn't actually know. It's like combining mental gymnastics with immature, narcissistic moralising.


message 16: by Kirsten (new)

Kirsten  (kmcripn) I always think about Harvey Milk. He believed that reforms wouldn't occur until people say gays/lesbians as PEOPLE. That is what diversity is good for. Showing us that the OTHER is not the other.


message 17: by Sj (new)

Sj | 17 comments NancyJ wrote: It sounds like the book should have some trigger warnings

Reading this comment raises concerns for me regarding a conflation between 'trigger warnings' and informed, negative, holding-to-account critique.

I recently added trigger warnings and positive critique for a book I gave 5 stars to - I felt it was a brilliant, respectfully handled story, but it referenced a number of very heavy topics which could easily trigger people who are in various stages of processing those types of experiences.

I have given 1 star reviews with negative, holding-to-account critique for books I recognised as being damaging, othering, entitled, etc.

I think this is an important distinction to make, especially in a group about diversity, and I hope this very brief contribution is useful, to some extent, in delineating trigger warnings from informed critique.


message 18: by Sj (new)

Sj | 17 comments Kirsten wrote: "I always think about Harvey Milk. He believed that reforms wouldn't occur until people say gays/lesbians as PEOPLE. That is what diversity is good for. Showing us that the OTHER is not the other."

You posted as I was writing. But it's interesting to see we have both referenced 'othering'.

Good reference.


message 19: by Sj (new)

Sj | 17 comments I just realised there is a Jojo Moyes recommendation quote (is there an actual term for those things?) on the front cover of the book-club book I'm about to read ...... given the informed, critical reviews of her own book, it makes me wonder about where she is coming from when she recommends something else ...... I will still read and decide for myself, but this is a small, interesting synchronous moment for me


message 20: by Kat (last edited Jun 25, 2018 05:38AM) (new)

Kat (katwiththehat) | 48 comments NancyJ wrote: "But it might also have a very uplifting effect on someone who realizes that in comparison to the character, they really have a lot to live for. "

With all due respect, Nancy, the remark you just made is part of the problem. People in the disabled community do not need representation where able-bodied people can read their stories (where they are so downtrodden they decide to commit suicide) and feel uplifted in comparison. That is objectification.

NancyJ wrote: "Not, happily ever after in my opinion, but at least she gets to move on to the sequel. "

Because the character with the disability could not POSSIBLY be given a HEA as he is? No, his true love must find her HEA with an able-bodied man in the sequel. This is just another variation on the "bury your gays" trope. It's problematic, and Ableist.

I also disagree with the idea that the problem here is a lack of trigger warnings. The problem here is Ableist representation.


message 21: by Kirsten (new)

Kirsten  (kmcripn) This is an interesting discussion. I am wondering, though, are all your book choices based on a diversity decision? I do read a lot of books showing me other cultures. However, I do also read a lot of books just because I want to.


message 22: by Sj (new)

Sj | 17 comments katwiththehat wrote: With all due respect, Nancy, the remark you just made is part of the problem. People in the disabled community do not need representation where able-bodied people can read their stories (where they are so downtrodden they decide to commit suicide) and feel uplifted in comparison. That is objectification.

yes

I just read an article by a woman with a health issue where, after being dismissed for a long time, her partner made it all about HIS experience and growth when her health issue came to a dramatic head

btw - she is relating her story to the context of culturally ingrained sexism, but I feel that many of these stories overlap because the dynamics of power and abuse are the same (so the title here could also be - Please, Able-bodied/minded people, don't make this about you)

https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/life...


message 23: by Kat (new)

Kat (katwiththehat) | 48 comments I read a little of everything. I'm also all for authors writing diversely. However, if you are going to write something from a perspective that isn't your own, you need to do a TON of research and have a team of relevant sensitivity readers to make sure what you're writing isn't inadvertently harmful.


message 24: by Sj (new)

Sj | 17 comments Lisa wrote: "I haven't read the book and don't know what it's about. So I'm curious. What was in the book that got you so angry? In a way, it must have been written pretty well to have aroused such an intense reaction."

No.

Abusive, poorly informed, badly written, inherently demeaning and dismissive content arouses legitimate, healthy anger.

The assumptions behind this comment - ie; it must have been pretty well written - are not based in lived experience, or respect for it.


message 25: by Sj (new)

Sj | 17 comments katwiththehat wrote: However, if you are going to write something from a perspective that isn't your own, you need to do a TON of research and have a team of relevant sensitivity readers to make sure what you're writing isn't inadvertently harmful. ..."

yes


message 26: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lisarosenbergsachs) | 123 comments katwiththehat wrote: "Lisa wrote: "In a way, it must have been written pretty well to have aroused such an intense r..."

Wrong! Please see some reviews that explain why this Ableist book is a huge problem:

https://www..."

I am gleaning from this review that the book justified the main character's suicide as his disabilities left him with nothing to live for. Is this correct?

If this is the case, it does a glaring disservice to disabled people. I am a retired social worker who worked a lot with disabled people. Some had some suicidal thoughts but that doesn't mean they should have been encouraged to carry out those thoughts. I now think that I see what I dislike about the book.


message 27: by Sara (Empress Pengy) (last edited Jun 25, 2018 11:44AM) (new)

Sara (Empress Pengy) | 1 comments It's been a while since I've read the book, so you'll have to forgive me if I don't remember certain things correctly, but I do have a bit of a differing opinion on Me Before You.

I definitely recognize problems already discussed above, and in many cases, do actually agree. I suppose my positive connection to the book comes from the point of view of being a 'bad' disabled person. I can be stubborn & bitter, I can get stuck in mourning for the life I might have had without my disabilities, and am often suicidal. I just kinda liked having this type of character represented instead of the usual inspiration porn.

I also appreciated the nod to how difficult it can be for disabled individuals to access certain places - restaurants, events, etc. I feel this is one of the main reasons that we often feel isolated - it's just hard to legit leave the house and go someplace, even to a friend's house.

That being said, I hated the ending, I actually hated the characters, and have no interest in reading the other books in the series. There was just something about certain aspects of this book that spoke to me.


message 28: by Ella (new)

Ella (ellamc) Yikes, somehow I got no updates for this discussion after I wrote my little freak-out scene, so I just thought I'd stop by to see if I killed the conversation again...

To be very fair, this trope of the helping woman and the strong suffering man who dies or kills himself or just goes away somewhere has been around for ages. It's nothing new. I remember being rather taken with a very early Julia Roberts movie where she was a ridiculously bad caretaker to a man with cancer. I was a teenager struggling with my own issues and found the whole thing very romantic. I also found the idea of suicide romantic back then. I also thought it was a good idea to take pictures of myself in the 1980s. What can I say?

There have been times when this super-pity thing (like I witnessed that day) happens, and I don't feel triggered in terms of my own safety, but I get hugely upset remembering what it was like to be a mixed up kid or hearing people say exactly those types of things about me/my family (aren't they saints.... and stuff like that - I love my parents, but they aren't saints.) Frankly, I'm glad my parents have their own issues b/c I became very self-sufficient. But it does trigger deep-seated anger that isn't connected to the actual present - it's rooted in feelings from the past. I work on this, but being totally positive all the time is beyond me. These things pop up, and the best I can do is get through them. Some days I'm good at it. Other days I borrow books so I can throw them at the wall. Even that seems fairly healthy at this point.

I, too, worry about the constant Trigger Warnings for subjects from the president's name to things that actually deserve a tip-off. I seriously worry about all the various ways we're self-censoring these days - be it about ageism, ableism, racism, or anything else. People are so afraid to say things lest we smack them down or we get smacked down ourselves. And nobody wants to sound stupid or poorly informed, but we also all can't be experts in everything - this is why having people with different lives and diverse experiences tell us when we may be seeing through only our very special lenses is good - if highly uncomfortable. (Lord knows, I get it a lot - and I give it to others.) There's a continuum. What I care most about is that people are interested in learning and just open to other viewpoints (even if they don't agree.)

Women seem to be especially good at this self-censoring, and I'd rather we all just say things and get corrected (nicely) than not say anything. Know why? Nothing changes if we don't say stupid stuff first. I'm sure I was an idiot thinking Julia Roberts help some guy run away from his treatment was romantic (puking and dying is not romantic - ever.) And I'd guess this is why JoJo Moyes' book is popular - everyone is in a different place. That's not to excuse the trope that someone who might complicate your life is better off dead (and I'm pretty sure that wasn't her planned message) she simply didn't understand why this would be so painful to some people - myself included. I didn't even rate the book b/c I didn't really read it fairly. I skimmed, realized it was messing with old wounds and decided to work on those rather than read the silly book. More recently, I freaked out when I read Eleanor Oliphant. I literally told my therapist that "some British woman wrote a book about me." He laughed so hard that he started coughing.

I just wouldn't want any books to be banned or people not to read them for PC reasons. I'd want them to read them and learn from them - even the bad ones, like Sj said above. Nobody has to read the books, but I wouldn't want this to become censorship because sometimes blatantly ableist or whatever-ist things can be a good teaching/learning tool.

Another one I had trouble with more recently was "My lovely wife in the psych ward" which was all about some poor rich guy whose wife has schizophrenia. I'm not sure how he ended up the hero of his own story, but he did - and the hero of most GR reviewers. I gave it a fairly low rating and also pointed out that we do need more books for people who love people with serious illnesses. All of these things are conversation openers to me, but I'm old and far from woke in every way. ~fin ~ I need to go read my book and get away from these threads!


message 29: by Kat (last edited Jun 25, 2018 03:40PM) (new)

Kat (katwiththehat) | 48 comments I think her book is popular because the majority of people are reading it from the perspective of Louisa. They are reading as the able-bodied person who is looking in on the life of a disabled man. They are able to close the book, skip around their house, go to the grocery store, blah blah blah, and not care about the representation. They do not have to read it from the perspective of Will.

It is a very sad and scary experience the day you realize you are never going to get well. That your body is sick or broken in a way that doctors cannot fix and that you are essentially "trapped" in the same way that Will is trapped. The people giving it five star reviews and calling it so romantic and swoon-worthy are not living that reality. I somehow doubt if they were the ones paralyzed, trapped in a wheelchair, that they would find the story uplifting if the character they were forced to identify with--becuase that's the body they were trapped in--ended their journey with suicide.

I don't think books need to be banned. I do think this is something that needs to be talked about. Just like the writing community is becoming aware that we need better diversity in books and to be aware of marginalizing tropes when it comes to POC and LGBTQIA, we need to be as aware when it comes to people with disabilities, and move past the "disabled person who conveniently kills themselves" and the "schizophrenic murderer" and "the migraine liar." I read a great book by Penny Reid last month that had a good PSA at the end about the problem of the "schizophrenic murderer trope." Kudos to her for calling it out. I have read 181 books so far this year. I love that we are seeing more characters of diverse ethnic backgrounds and more LGBTQIA characters, but I am still not seeing as much diversity in terms of ppl with disabilities. I'm trying to think if I've seen a single character in a wheelchair this year... Hopefully this will eventually change.


message 30: by Shomeret (new)

Shomeret | 26 comments katwiththehat wrote: "I think her book is popular because the majority of people are reading it from the perspective of Louisa. They are reading as the able-bodied person who is looking in on the life of a disabled man...."

I read A Different Kind of Hero which is an anthology with disabled protagonists. One of these was in a wheelchair. She could function better in virtual reality than other first time participants. It was one of the better stories in the anthology.


message 31: by Ella (last edited Jun 25, 2018 07:45PM) (new)

Ella (ellamc) We should make a list of these books or add to the ones that are already around, or make a list of lists.

EDIT: genre: disability on GR found me the following lists (warning - the books are not all perfect, but they're a starting place)

tagged disabled communities: https://www.goodreads.com/genres/disa...

tagged disability: https://www.goodreads.com/genres/disa...

tagged disability studies: https://www.goodreads.com/genres/disa...
and
https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/8...

new releases tagged disability: https://www.goodreads.com/genres/new_...

books w/ characters using a wheelchair: (guess what the top book on that list is?) https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/4...

disability in sci-fi: https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/1...

characters missing a limb/amputation: https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/8...

and something called "medical humanities" https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/7...


message 32: by Ella (new)

Ella (ellamc) katwiththehat wrote: "I think her book is popular because the majority of people are reading it from the perspective of Louisa. They are reading as the able-bodied person who is looking in on the life of a disabled man...."

I edited my "excellent post" Kat bit out there. I really think you've hit the nail on the head. Another thing I've been thinking lately is how people (on GR, twitter, other places I'm sure) jump all over one book (often without reading it) and name it "the bad guy" for a much bigger problem. I'm not defending any book, lord knows, but this happened with "White Savior complex" a while back (there was a big freak out involving Joyce Carol Oates, if I remember correctly.) I honestly didn't read that book, but I know it's not the only book like that. (And it sounds like the book just was a bad book in many ways beyond white savior tropes.) In any event, I just was thinking, what are other books that do a disservice to diversity? Could we also create a list of those (not to share with the world, just for us at first?)


message 33: by Kat (last edited Jun 26, 2018 09:24AM) (new)

Kat (katwiththehat) | 48 comments Yeah, I do not like the jump all over stuff without reading it one star mob mentality. That's not helping anything. By all means, if you hate it, say so. But have an informed opinion, not just because someone on twitter does your thinking for you.

I do like that I see more thoughtful discussion going into reviews about representation of minority characters and LGBTQIA characters. I think that's been a really positive effect of #ownvoices, as well as getting more diverse books out there. I do think characters with disabilities are lagging behind in terms of representation, even as other mentioned groups are starting to populate mainstream novels more. The last dozen books I've read, characters are in LGBTQIA relationships themselves or mention they have same sex parents like it's no big thing. (yay!) Characters are from diverse backgrounds and often in relationships with characters who aren't from their own background. (yay!) This is an awesome change. Now we need to see characters with disabilities worked into the narrative, also like it's no big thing, because those people exist and shouldn't be hidden.

And thank you for those book recs. I will try to check some out.


message 34: by Kay Dee (new)

Kay Dee (kdf_333) | 67 comments katwiththehat wrote: "I read a little of everything. I'm also all for authors writing diversely. However, if you are going to write something from a perspective that isn't your own, you need to do a TON of research and and have a team of relevant sensitivity readers to make sure what you're writing isn't inadvertently harmful."

yes to all this.


message 35: by Joy (new)

Joy (audioaddict1234) | 53 comments Interesting conversation. I didn’t like Me Before You bc of how it seemed to be the age old story of “helpless girl needs a prince to get her life together.” It never occurred to me that it was “Ableist” bc I didn’t view the disabled character as a fitting representation of disabled people in general. I saw him as a unique character in a book. Hmmmm.


message 36: by Kat (last edited Jul 25, 2018 05:30AM) (new)

Kat (katwiththehat) | 48 comments I didn’t view the disabled character as a fitting representation of disabled people in general. I saw him as a unique character in a book.

Unfortunately, that's the argument that a lot of authors make when they write something stigmatizing... that they wrote it but they didn't mean for it to represent everyone who is xyz, just that unique character. But the people who actually live that reality get really, really sick of that being their only representation, or the majority of their representation. Because it's not just one author randomly doing it, and everyone else is writing great representation. This is how you get crappy tropes like "kill your gays" or "angry black woman" or "magical Native American."

Most schizophrenics are non-violent. But guess how schizophrenia is usually portrayed in the media and books? Need a great excuse for why your character committed such and such crime? Give him schizophrenia and continue perpetuating stereotypes and stigma!

Same goes for migraine. Migraine is a disabling medical condition that affects 1 in 5 women and 1 in 11 men. One out of every four households has a migraine sufferer. There is a huge amount of stigma attached to it and other "invisible" disabilities. And how is migraine/headache portrayed in the media and books? You almost never see a true representation where a character has to live with the unpleasant reality of the disease. Instead, authors frequently have characters "lie about a headache" as a plot device to get out of doing something, which perpetuates the stigma that migraine sufferers are all liars.

How many books have you seen promoted recently where the hero of the story is a paralyzed man or woman in a wheelchair who is not miraculously cured? (or killed off.) I've recently been directed to a few and have them on my Kindle, but I'll tell you, main characters with serious physically disabling medical conditions are few and far between, and the kind of rep offered by Me Before You (a disabled life isn't one worth living) isn't the kind of message we need authors writing.


message 37: by Joy (new)

Joy (audioaddict1234) | 53 comments That is great food for thought, Kat. Honestly I can’t think of another fiction book I’ve read with a paralyzed character, so I didn’t know they were always (or often) portrayed that way. And that is actually why I am here, to gain perspective about issues that I cannot understand firsthand.


message 38: by Joy (new)

Joy (audioaddict1234) | 53 comments I’m curious what folks think about Crazy Rich Asians. The prologue itself deals with discrimination. But there is so much stereotype that I almost felt dirty reading it. Is stereotype ok when it is dealing with the rich? (Honestly it didn’t seem that far off from suburban American white women.

I’ve imagined a conversation with a Chinese coworker and I imagine it would go something like this.

Me: “are you concerned about the stereotypes?”
Coworker: “It’s just a book/movie. It’s funny.”

Am I going too far the other way and overanalyzing?


message 39: by Kat (new)

Kat (katwiththehat) | 48 comments Interesting question, Joy. I haven't read this one yet, although it's on my queue at the library. I have noticed quite a few GR friends tagging it for stereotyping and the like in the trigger warnings in their reviews.


message 40: by Mariah Roze (new)

Mariah Roze (mariahroze) | 1430 comments Mod
My friend and I are buddy reading Crazy Rich Asians. I’m waiting till he’s done with the book so I can borrow it. I’m excited for our discussion because he’s Asian and both of my brothers lived in Singapore for 5 years. We are both weirdly tied to this book but in different ways. I’d love to open up a conversation about that book!


message 41: by Messina (new)

Messina | 5 comments As an autistic woman, I used to automatically get excited when I heard that a book or movie had an autistic main character. I've become increasingly more reserved and guarded about that after having come to understand the ableist autistic tropes in fiction. Now I hear that a book has an autistic character and say, "Well, I'll look at reviews and read the book and see for myself whether this is really doing the autistic community any favors or if it just portrays us in yet another problematic way."

Example: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. Christopher is portrayed in such a stereotypical way and the book contains harmful messages about autistics, such as that we are somehow less than human and deserve to be abused.


message 42: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lisarosenbergsachs) | 123 comments I read the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime and I did not pick up on it having a message that autistic people are less human and deserve to be abused. I thought that it was very well written. But then again, I'm not autistic. What makes you feel that the book had that message?


message 43: by Kay Dee (new)

Kay Dee (kdf_333) | 67 comments Messina wrote: "Example: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. Christopher is portrayed in such a stereotypical way and the book contains harmful messages about autistics, such as that we are somehow less than human and deserve to be abused."

it's been many years since i read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

i remember i liked it a lot and was surprised it was a mystery. the main character reminded me of a couple coworkers- an autistic man and one who has Asperger's. my impression was that it was a typical mystery with an amateur detective that just so happened to have autism. so the MC had extra things he had to deal with besides just being young. i also remember i liked the style of the writing. i did not get the impression that the MC was abused or worthy of abuse. definitely didn't think he was less than human.

as far as being stereotypical... well stereotypes happen because a large number of people with the same characteristics do the same things. BUT everything i have ever been taught about autism says no 2 people are the same. that it's a very broad spectrum. you have to learn how autism affects the individual you know and what specific things you can do to help them or communicate with them better. the MC did not remind me of the children or women i know with autism, just my coworkers.

i really want to look at it now to see what you are talking about.


message 44: by Messina (new)

Messina | 5 comments The time that his father hit him, the tone of the story suggested that there was nothing wrong with that.

Also, the author leaned pretty heavily on the whole autistic with minimal emotional range stereotype.

Yes, stereotypes happen, but that's why you need to be mindful of the stereotypes out there so that you avoid repeating them. We autistics run the gamut from being pretty emotionless to being very emotional (I'd say I tend toward the latter) and everywhere in between. The emotionless straight (or one whose orientation is never spelled out) white male autistic trope has been done to death and that's what everyone thinks autism is. No two autistic people are the same, but the variety of people within the autism spectrum is not represented within fiction by a long shot. I should know--I've gotten to know quite a few of my fellow autistics online and in meatspace.


message 45: by Kay Dee (last edited Sep 08, 2018 08:13AM) (new)

Kay Dee (kdf_333) | 67 comments Messina wrote: "Also, the author leaned pretty heavily on the whole autistic with minimal emotional range stereotype. ...but the variety of people within the autism spectrum is not represented within fiction by a long shot."

yeah, i think that happens whenever folks start trying to include characters that are diverse. the first attempts are usually stereotypes. it gets lots of praise and attention. the folks it's supposed to represent say "but it's just a stereotype." the folks who have never met an individual described in the book think it's great. or like myself they know folks that are quite similar to the stereotype (my coworkers are white males but not emotionless to those they know. when we first met though, i did think they were lacking most emotions.)

i would think after all the attention that book got copycats would have been written, like all the YA books about black kids dealing with police violence. it's been years and autism is very commonly known and talked about. so i would have thought there'd be more novels gaining attention for having an autistic MC. yet only recently have i heard about another autistic MC. one is a short story (Lindsay Buroker – “Here Be Dragons” ) in the anthology Bridge Across the Stars: A Sci-Fi Bridge Original Anthology, i just read last night. the other is this romance called The Kiss Quotient that is getting either 5 or 1 star reviews from the folks i follow.

although i see a lot more autistc characters in tv and film. folks i would consider having apserger's were described as neurotypical in the tv shows. i forget the names. think they were BBC though.

i think as soon as more authors who have autism or have loved ones with autism get their stories published we will see variety instead of stereotypes. since that is what it took for POC, women, and LGBTQ to have variety. there are still a bunch of stereotypes written but there are just as many that are not stereotypes becasue POC, women, and LGBTQ are writing the stories.


message 46: by Messina (new)

Messina | 5 comments I'll keep an eye out for the books you recommended. They sound interesting.

Yes, that's true--what it's going to take for there to be less stereotyped representation of autistic characters is for more autistic authors to be published. I'm still in the planning stages of writing a novel with several autistic main characters, myself.


message 47: by NancyJ (last edited Oct 19, 2018 01:30PM) (new)

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 143 comments Messina wrote: "The time that his father hit him, the tone of the story suggested that there was nothing wrong with that.

Also, the author leaned pretty heavily on the whole autistic with minimal emotional range..."


I remember that scene and I didn't view it that way at all. The father expressed a lot of regret and shame after he hit his son. Perhaps Christopher's reaction seemed understated, but that doesn't mean he deserved it, or that it wasn't wrong. In fast, when you compare his reaction to that with his reaction to something else the father did, you can see that Christopher does distinguish between different levels of harm, and he is able to judge them objectively based on his own value system. I thought that distinction was a brilliant part of the story. Other people might have judged the situations more subjectively or selfishly.

I appreciate your comments about the emotional range. That's very important to recognize. It's interesting that most people saw christopher as being emotionless, because I saw him as very emotional inside. It's just that his external reactions were different than we might expect. I really enjoyed hearing his inner dialogue because it showed how he was processing information, and how he judged things. When his emotions started to get too intense though, he would just shut down. I think he was standing in one spot for hours not really thinking at all, because there was too much to process.

Regarding all the comments about stereotyping: I don't think the book presented a stereotype, it presented ONE CHARACTER. The stereotyping occurs in OUR heads, when we assume that the character is supposed to represent all characters with that condition or diagnosis. He's not supposed to represent all people on the spectrum, or all people with Asperger's. The author never even stated Christopher's diagnosis. Many readers recognized key behaviors consistent with certain diagnoses, and we "learned" about it. I think that's beneficial overall, as long as we keep learning that there will be many variations, just like in people with any other characteristic.

The way we can prevent stereotyping in our own brains, is to expose ourselves to a wider variety of people. I would love to see more authors present different characters, so that we don't assume if you're X, you must also be Y. I would love to read a story perhaps about a school or community center for kids on the spectrum, where we could see that people with the same diagnosis all have their own individual personalities and characteristics.


message 48: by NancyJ (new)

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 143 comments Kay Dee wrote: "Messina wrote: "Example: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. Christopher is portrayed in such a stereotypical way and the book contains harmful messages about autistics, such as that ..."

Well put Kay Dee!


message 49: by NancyJ (last edited Oct 19, 2018 01:43PM) (new)

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 143 comments Messina wrote: "I'll keep an eye out for the books you recommended. They sound interesting.


Yes, that's true--what it's going to take for there to be less stereotyped representation of autistic characters is for more autistic authors to be published. I'm still in the planning stages of writing a novel with several autistic main characters, myself.
"


I would love to read a book with multiple characters like that!

There is an animated video I used 20 odd years ago to teach stereotyping. It's still stuck in my mind. It showed the letter X, and then they drew many other variations of the letter X in different sizes, shapes, curvy lines, heavy lines, short, tall, etc. They described X as people who were all different. Then they introduced a letter Y, and suddenly all the X's looked more similar and Y was "different." If we only know one "Y" person, we assume all Y's are the same as that person, and stereotypes might form. If I'm an X, and I get to know more Y's, then I might meet some Y's who are more similar to me than other X's.

Your story could show several "Y" characters with different personalities, likes, values, etc. Showing different Y's can help X's see them as individuals rather than as a diagnosis. The trick is to provide something about each character that readers might relate to.


message 50: by Alana (new)

Alana (alanasbooks) | 18 comments NancyJ wrote: "The way we can prevent stereotyping in our own brains, is to expose ourselves to a wider variety of people. I would love to see more authors present different characters, so that we don't assume if you're X, you must also be Y. I would love to read a story perhaps about a school or community center for kids on the spectrum, where we could see that people with the same diagnosis all have their own individual personalities and characteristics."

I like this idea!


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