Friday, March 11, 2016

Book Review: Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern: Chapters 17-20


Chapter 18:

Matthew asks Amy to prom, after she all but prompts him to do so.  That night, she has an elaborate fantasy about being transformed by the dress and the dance - being able to smile for a photo when the photographer asked.

Maybe I am just bitter, but growing up with CP is a reality for those of us with it.  I know that I, for one, never fantasized about being nondisabled because having CP was normal for me.

The fact that Amy fantasizes this way is the result of her being written by an author who is able bodied, and likely, with no direct input from anyone with CP, during the writing process.  Fantasizing about being able bodied while disabled is something able-bodied people turned disabled might do, but most likely, not those of us who have been disabled from birth.


Chapter 18:

In chapter 18, we have another reminder of just how affected Amy's face is by CP.  She stands in front of the mirror trying to mimic the pose and facial expression of a model she has seen in a magazine.  She says she only has about three expressions to convey every possible emotion, and none of them are subtle.  The only exception, she says, is a picture her parents had taken of her while she was sleeping, so it looked "like she didn't have CP at all."  She wonders why that's possible while she sleeps and not when she is awake.

You can't tell me that Amy is that clueless.  Living with spastic CP you learn pretty quickly that the spasticity releases when you relax.  When we sleep, we are most relaxed, so it makes sense that her face would as well.

She wonders why her parents get school pictures of her when they show her "inability to smile."

Again with the totally limiting commentary here.  If Amy has hemiplegia, that means half of her face is unaffected.  That half of her face can smile and likewise, should be able to convey more emotions than she claims she can.  I'm just confused at this persistent aspect of the storyline.  When I would think that having grown up as she has, she would be used to her face.  Yes, it's different from her peers', but I would expect this level of insecurity in a younger child - say nine to eleven years old - or someone who has sustained a brain injury later in life and had to adjust to a difference in her face and body.

Chapter 19:

Matthew arrives to take Amy to the prom and receives a list of instructions from her dad, written out by her mother.  This list is given to Matthew completely outside of Amy's presence.  Amy's father jokes they will just need an hour to take pictures and then the two are free to go.  Matthew figures it is a joke because Amy's parents take no pictures of their daughter on prom night.

Reading that, I felt incredibly sad.  I don't know any parents who don't happily photograph their children before going to a special event, especially prom.  I feel like, if Amy were able-bodied, there would be no question whether there would be pictures taken, especially with both parents home, and Amy looking as lovely as she did.

Matthew tells Amy about a dream he's had where they were swimming together and Amy swam "perfectly."  And that the only thing Matthew wanted to do in the dream was "stay close" to Amy and "get stronger" himself.  He thinks the dream is about how strong she is and how much he has gained from being around her.

I feel like that, more than anything, is really a comment on some nondisabled people's experience of disabled people.  We seem to exist for them.  To teach them lessons or make them stronger people.  To some of them, our life does not have inherent value on its own, only as it relates to them and their experience of us.

Chapter 20:

We are back to Amy, getting ready for prom with her mother, when Nicole tells her they don't want her seeing Matthew over the summer.  Amy assumes this is because Matthew isn't going to college.  Now, maybe Amy's mother would do something like this, regardless of Amy's ability level, but Nicole seems quite used to making decisions for Amy without talking to her first, despite the fact that she is very nearly an adult, and should be able to make the call about who her own friends are, assuming they are not actively putting her in danger.

We also learn that Sanjay (another one of Amy's peer helpers) has come up with a way - don't ask me how - to stash "a quart of booze in her walker so they could sneak it into prom."  Apparently Sanjay thinks this would all be "very funny."  This is an example of someone quite literally using Amy as an object.  The fact that Amy goes along with this is even more abhorrent - though a part of me does understand that desperation for acceptance - at any cost.

I'm honestly wondering how Amy, who struggles to use her walker on her best day, manages to use it with no one the wiser when it is "two quarts heavier."  She uses it for who knows how long before prom, already all filled up with Vodka.  How is she not exhausted?  How does no one smell the Vodka?)

Ironically, Amy's mother would rather she go to prom with Sanjay because "he has a good head on his shoulders" and because "he doesn't need your help or your pity."

My mind is blown.  If Amy's a caricature, at this point, so is Nicole.  She is beyond clueless and just operating out of who knows what instinct.  It's ridiculous.  Later, at prom, Sanjay wants Amy "hidden for a little bit" and places her behind a potted plant so that no adults will catch onto what they're up to.


Chapter 18:

Amy is looking at a fashion magazine and opens it to the picture of a model.  Matthew says Amy is a lot prettier.  When Amy presses, asking what Matthew is interested in - as he says he is not into too much make up or too little clothing - he says "Their soul, of course."

Of course, Matthew would rather be interested in Amy's soul.  He is petrified of her body.

Chapter 19:

Matthew has a dream about swimming with Amy.  She's not wearing a bathing suit in the dream, but he insists the dream is about how they are good friends.  He can't explain why she was naked in the dream, and rejects it when Amy tells him water actually symbolizes sex in dreams.

God forbid, Matthew's subconscious mind might actually be telling him he is attracted to Amy.  Much safer to "just be friends" with the disabled girl...

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