Friday, March 4, 2016

Book Review: Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern: Chapters 4 and 5

Today, I'm sharing two chapters worth of my review on Cammie McGovern's Say What You Will.  Unfortunately this means look in depth at two chapters worth of ableism.  For anyone who missed the past chapters, you can find them by clicking the Cerebral Palsy tag.



ABLEISM:

Chapter 4:

One of the most offensive things in this book, to me, is that the author uses Matthew's OCD in which to couch terrible levels of ableism.  Matthew narrates that he is "afraid of everything about Amy, especially her body, which had the terrible problem of being crippled and attractive."

Perhaps no one has told young Matthew that for an able bodied person to use the C word about a disabled person is a huge no-no.  He goes on to say that Amy is "pretty now, in a bent, crooked sort of way."  The overarching message that comes through via these excerpts is that it is impossible to be both disabled and attractive.  For anyone reading this, who may not be aware: that is a myth.  Disabled and ugly are not synonymous.  But young people reading this book for the first time would not know it, given the difficult time Matthew has holding this reality in his head.

We also have the reference to Amy's mom insisting that all the peer helpers introduce Amy to a certain number of friends each day and keeping track of the data on a spread sheet.  Amy is seventeen.  She doesn't need Mommy arranging play dates for her, my goodness.

Mom also says, they want to convey a message to all those peers who may have been hesitant to interrupt Amy, as walking is difficult for her.  She wants them to "go ahead! Interrupt her!"  Or, Amy's mom, these kids could hold their horses until Amy is seated somewhere to talk to her.  I'm bothered that Mom's priority seems to be easing the other kids' discomfort and not making sure her daughter is not totally exhausted from multitasking all day.

To finish, Nicole says she wants Amy to have friends she shares common interests with and she also "wants Amy to get a little practice deciding for herself who the jerks are."  You know what could have helped that problem?  Amy being taught how to relate to her peers when all the other toddlers were learning to share and make friends, too!

Chapter 5:  

Amy talks about her AAC device and how her newest has an "honest-to-God human-sounding voice."  Now, maybe I'm nit-picking here, but comments like these only widen the gap between physically disabled nonverbal people and everyone else.  Maybe it's because I've been around AAC devices all my life that this comment gets under my skin.  I'm a big fan of showing off new adaptive technology, don't get me wrong.  Maybe it's knowing that Matthew has already pointed out that he is freaked out by "her computer" talking to him.

Matthew remembers later in the chapter, that back in second grade, Amy ate cupcakes "like a baby."

A fair assumption for a seven year old to make, but even so, the more that class of kids was around Amy while she ate, the more normal it would become for all of them.  As it stands, Amy's character has been holed up in that resource room eating lunch for who knows how long.  Maybe if she hadn't been hidden away, she wouldn't be in the position now where she feels like a single can of Boost is all she can consume in front of her peers.  Even in this, Matthew seems relieved.

He also mentions that her hand had "freakish control over her talking board."  Matthew, it's not freakish if you consider the way CP actually affects Amy's body.  (And you can't tell me they didn't at least touch on that at the presentation about Amy to all the second graders...)

Matthew also has a mom who understands his OCD and gets that it is something beyond his control.  This, in my opinion, makes OCD "okay" for the readers.  I found myself resenting that a bit, especially given what a complete opposite Nicole is, as Amy's mother.  She cannot accept Amy's CP, which we'll see explored later, but to me, as someone with CP, it made it seem like having it was "not okay."  Matthew's OCD was normalized in the text.  Amy's CP never is.

Chapter 6 is coming tomorrow.

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