Showing posts with label disability. Show all posts
Showing posts with label disability. Show all posts

Friday, May 19, 2017

Q&A with Hannah Moskowitz: Writing Deaf Characters, Catfishing, #Ownvoices, and Wild

After absolutely loving Hannah Moskowitz' newest April 2017 release WILD, a bisexual romance between a Filipino boy and a Jewish and Guatemalan Deaf girl, I jumped at the chance to ask Hannah a couple of questions. Hope you enjoy!


Is there anything in particular that inspired you to write WILD?

Hannah: Actually yeah, you know the TV show Catfish? There was one episode where they were talking about how a person someone met online refused to get on the phone, and why that's usually a bad sign...and they were saying "Someday it's just going to be that the person's actually mute," and I thought...what if the person was Deaf and didn't want to tell them?

That actually ended up being a very small part of the story--for obvious reasons, I didn't want it to be some big twist that Jordan was Deaf, because ew--but it is where the idea originally came from.

What was the research process like?

Hannah: I spend most of my time right now in ASL classes because I'm working towards getting my interpreter license, so most of my life functions as research at this point. Really just watching interviews with Deaf people, reading what they have to say...but also using my own perspective as a hearing person who feels outside of it, since that was my POV character. Zack was a pretty easy guy for me to get to know, though it was weird at the beginning of the story trying to get into the perspective of someone who doesn't know much about Deaf culture and who has some ableist baggage about it.

I actually asked some of my friends who don't know any ASL, "Can you just describe ASL and Deaf culture to me?" to try to remember what people think about it who aren't willfully ignorant or anything like that, but just who haven't been immersed in it for ages.

What advice would you give writers who want to write about Deaf characters?

Hannah: Just get to know Deaf people, learn their language and their mannerisms, and don't think of yourself as some savior here to give them a voice or something. And really, really strongly consider staying in the perspective of a hearing person if you're not Deaf. Many Deaf people who are raised in a strong Deaf culture think visually in a way that we don't, and that's not a point of view that we can really will ourselves into.
Someone with ASL as a first language is probably not going to think in English words the same way we do. And if you try to directly translate that into English, you're falling into a lot of traps right there. 

Try to know the tropes of Deaf characters and decide how you want to proceed knowing those tropes are out there. Most Deaf people in fiction are really flawless lip readers, because it makes the story go more smoothly...and that's just not realistic.

The Disability in YA blog has a lot of great reviews and articles by Deaf and hard of hearing writers that are super helpful. Because like...why are you listening to me, a hearing person, blather about Deaf people for this long, ha.

What made you want to write a Deaf romance? 

Hannah: I'm a hearing person who signs, so I've wanted to work ASL into a book in a more comprehensive way than I did in my 2011 book, INVINCIBLE SUMMER, since...about 2011. I wanted to stay in the POV of a hearing person and kind of play with some of the same stuff i did in NOT OTHERWISE SPECIFIED--how it feels to be so connected to a community while still not feeling like you fit in. And writing about learning sign language from a hearing perspective was something I knew I could do well.

Cross-cultural relationships are one of my favorite tropes, and I feel like while we've gotten more Deaf/hearing relationships on TV--they did it on Switched at Birth, they did it on the L word, etc. etc.--it hasn't crossed over into YA as much yet.

What was your favorite part about writing WILD?

Hannah: My goal for WILD was really just to write a healthy relationship, because I feel like we just don't see enough of those in YA. So any time I got to a place where my natural inclination for drama was to have Jordan and Zack not be honest with each other about something, or not be willing to work through something...I subverted it and had them just TALK to each other. And that was such a thrill to write.

Which character was the most fun to write and why?

Hannah: Definitely Jordan. She's got a lot of attitude and she speaks her mind, but she's also very vulnerable and not well guarded...so her dialogue flowed the most easily.

Was the process of writing WILD any different than the process of writing your other books?

Hannah: I put this one down longer in-between drafts than I usually do, just by virtue of how my scheduling worked out. So there was about six months in-between drafts 3 and 4, I think, where I didn't touch it at all, and that's weird for me.

Are any of the elements in WILD #ownvoices? (If so, why did you choose to include them?)

Hannah: Both Zack and Jordan are bisexual, like I am, which was important to me even though I was writing a m/f love story, largely because of some of the bisexual backlash that's happening right now in the community. There's no REASON for Zack and Jordan to be bisexual. But they still are, despite being with each other, and neither of them has any crisis of identity from being in what looks to outsiders like a heterosexual relationship. 

Jordan's Jewish just because, I dunno, if I don't have at least one Jewish character I break out in hives or something.

I'm disabled, so a lot of the thoughts about ableism in WILD were very true for me, even if they don't relate to Deafness specifically in my life.


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Hannah Moskowitz is a tank top-collecting, tv-obsessing, Rocky Horror-performing woman of mystery. She's a '90s kid, a mezzo-soprano, and a professional Sims-breeder. If she's not writing she's probably eating. Her cats are better than your cats. She'd choose a good haircut over a good wardrobe any day. And no matter where she's living, she's a clear-eyed, full-hearted Maryland girl with Old Bay for blood.
Website | Twitter | Blog
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WILD, out on April 26th 2017 Goodreads | Amazon


"Zack Ramos is training for two things: being a parent to his twelve-year-old sister once his mother's early-onset Alzheimer's (the same kind he and his sister each have a 50% chance of developing--but let's not think about that) progresses too far, and running a one hundred mile race through the mountains of Tennessee. His support system is longtime girlfriend Jordan Jonas, who's sweet, sarcastic, and entirely virtual. They've been talking for years but still have never met in person. Because Jordan, it turns out, was still waiting for the right time to tell him that she's Deaf.

The revelation brings them closer together, and Zack throws himself into learning sign language and trying to navigate their way through their different cultures. But with the stress of a tumultuous relationship, a new language, a sick mother, and his uncertain future, there's going to be a breaking point...and it might be out there in the Tennessee wild.

From the author of critically-acclaimed books like TEETH, BREAK, and A HISTORY OF GLITTER AND BLOOD comes a story about what happens when love takes you off the beaten track...way, way off."


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Friday, April 7, 2017

Recommendation: Girl Out of Water - Laura Silverman: Surfing and One-Armed Skaters

In GIRL OUT OF WATER, surfer girl Anise has to move from Santa Cruz to Nebraska when her aunt has an accident.
What intrigued me: Always there for cute contemporaries!

Bittersweet and Unique

GIRL OUT OF WATER hit me out of nowhere. With lyrical prose and a voice that packs a punch, it reads like it's written from the heart. Silverman's narration is captivating, sassy, essentially teen, and just an absolute delight. 

I'm especially happy to see a protagonist in YA contemporary that I'm very sure I've never seen before. When was the last time you read about a surfer girl-turned skater? So interesting to read about and the nuanced way Silverman writers about the bittersweet experience of leaving home hit very close to home for me personally.

GIRL OUT OF WATER is a story about family, friendships, and growing up. It's quiet, it's funny, it's bittersweet - it's just the perfect read for spring and summer and I'm very happy that I chose to give this one a shot. However, don't expect fast-paced action when picking this one up, GIRL OUT OF WATER is quiet first and foremost and capitalizes on its fantastic characters. If you fall in love with them, this will be even more fun for you and I can wholeheartedly recommend this if you like character-driven contemporaries.


Diversity Done Right

I was especially happy about the casual diversity. Anise's best friend Tess is Samoan, there are sapphic background characters, and the love interest is a black one-armed skater. It's very rare that you'll find a book that doesn't capitalize and advertise with its diversity, but uses it as a given. Our world is diverse. People are diverse. 

I absolutely enjoyed about these characters who just happen to be marginalized and whose marginalizations don't involve huge plot complications or are used as plot devices - I have to remark that because unfortunately a lot of books do this. Not this one though. GIRL OUT OF WATER reflects our diverse world beautifully in a quiet manner that just made me squeal with joy. I wish this was the norm. More like this please.


Rating:

★★★★★

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

GIRL OUT OF WATER is quiet and fun contemporary with a sassy narrator that I'm sure teens will love. If you like Ashley Herring Blake and Jenny Han, you'll adore this. With a black amputee love interest, a Samoan BFF and sapphic side characters, the background diversity made me really happy. That's so nice to read.



Additional Info

Published: May 2nd 2017
Pages: 320
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: YA / Contemporary
ISBN: 9781492646860

Synopsis:
"Anise Sawyer plans to spend every minute of summer with her friends: surfing, chowing down on fish tacos drizzled with wasabi balsamic vinegar, and throwing bonfires that blaze until dawn. But when a serious car wreck leaves her aunt, a single mother of three, with two broken legs, it forces Anise to say goodbye for the first time to Santa Cruz, the waves, her friends, and even a kindling romance, and fly with her dad to Nebraska for the entire summer. Living in Nebraska isn’t easy. Anise spends her days caring for her three younger cousins in the childhood home of her runaway mom, a wild figure who’s been flickering in and out of her life since birth, appearing for weeks at a time and then disappearing again for months, or even years, without a word.

Complicating matters is Lincoln, a one-armed, charismatic skater who pushes Anise to trade her surfboard for a skateboard. As Anise draws closer to Lincoln and takes on the full burden and joy of her cousins, she loses touch with her friends back home – leading her to one terrifying question: will she turn out just like her mom and spend her life leaving behind the ones she loves "
(Source: Goodreads)


What's your favorite contemporary?

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Friday, March 17, 2017

[Review] Optimists Die First - Susin Nielsen: Anxiety and Amputees

In OPTIMISTS DIE FIRST, Petula meets and falls in love with a disabled boy whom she meets in therapy.

What intrigued me: I always enjoy reading about neurodiverse and disabled characters!

Juvenile and strange narration

Welp. OPTIMISTS DIE FIRST is a classic it's not you, it's me pick when it comes to the writing.

I really enjoyed the whimsical narration at first, but very much did struggle with the extremely juvenile writing. And with juvenile I mean that it doesn't read like YA, but like Middle Grade. I'm not a MG reader, so this was extremely exhausting for me and severely impacted my reading experience, considering that Nielsen writes in very short repetitive sentences that do not complement the story or POV in any way.

Petula is a quite interesting main character, but unfortunately the voice is absolutely unable to reflect that and just makes this read weirdly staccato-like, throwing you out of the story all the time.


Problematic Disability Rep

Beyond that, I had issues with the disability rep in this one. I neither have anxiety nor am an amputee, though I do have a disability, so take this with a grain of salt. 

Petula's anxiety is very much portrayed as this quirky thing that she can turn off and on whenever she wants, which is in itself very problematic. The problematicness gets doubled knowing that her relationship with love interest Jacob is the thing that enables her to do things she couldn't do before and basically turn off her anxiety. 

This is a "love cures all" kind of story, that I think has no business in the hands of marginalized readers or people who aren't versed in disability discourse, because it provides dangerous misinformation. This is bound to do immense harm. Beyond that, neither the story, the writing, or the characters are even remotely intriguing enough to warrant me giving this one a star more. OPTIMISTS DIE FIRST is one of those stories about anxiety that make it seem quirky and cool and capitalize on disabled characters instead of actually representing.


Rating:

☆☆☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

OPTIMISTS DIE FIRST could've been great with a fabulous premise and anxious and disabled characters, but at the end of the day very much ventures into romanticizing territory and strikes me as having pretty harmful representation. Be careful with this one.



Additional Info

Published: March 2nd 2017
Pages: 272
Publisher: Andersen
Genre: YA / Contemporary
ISBN: 9781783445073

Synopsis:
"Petula has avoided friendship and happiness ever since tragedy struck her family and took her beloved younger sister Maxine. Worse, Petula blames herself. If only she'd kept an eye on her sister, if only she'd sewn the button Maxine choked on better, if only... 
Now her anxiety is getting out of control, she is forced to attend the world’s most hopeless art therapy class. But one day, in walks the Bionic Man: a charming, amazingly tall newcomer called Jacob, who is also an amputee. Petula's ready to freeze him out, just like she did with her former best friend, but when she’s paired with Jacob for a class project, there’s no denying they have brilliant ideas together – ideas like remaking Wuthering Heights with cats.
But Petula and Jacob each have desperately painful secrets in their pasts – and when the truth comes out, there’s no way Petula is ready for it."
(Source: Goodreads)



Have you read books with great disability rep?

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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

[Review] Noteworthy - Riley Redgate: A Cappella and Crossdressing

In NOTEWORTHY, Jordan struggles with getting accepted in the musical theatre world because she's an Alto 2, and then applies to the male a cappella octet.

What intrigued me: I just heard bisexual. I'm ready.

Quiet and Melancholic

NOTEWORTHY is that kind of quiet bittersweet story that you have to have a sweet spot for. Looking at the cover I was expecting a loud, joke-y book full of puns and fanfares but this is actually quite the opposite. NOTEWORTHY does have its funny moments but at heart this story is very much a coming-of-age contemporary that doesn't sugarcoat anything about growing up.

A lot of the themes are very melancholic in nature, I especially loved reading about Jordan's past relationship and her feelings for her ex-boyfriend. There is so much heart's blood poured into this story that it figuratively drips with authenticity. NOTEWORTHY is one of those books that you have to put down sometimes because it got too real.

I think it's also worth mentioning that this an #ownvoices book about a Chinese girl written by a Chinese author. In general I was very positively surprised by the amount of non-white characters and especially by the depth and care that went into creating them.

A Love Letter to A Cappella

NOTEWORTHY especially impressed me with its nuanced discussion of gender, sexuality, and disability. I certainly didn't expect to find this in this book, but it's absolutely necessary considering that crossdressing is a huge part of the plot, but not necessarily in a trans or drag context. I'm glad that Redgate included a passage about this because this initially worried me when I heard about the book for the first time. Crossdressing is a tricky thing to write about.

I initially picked this up solely for the bisexual representation and was a little disappointed to see that NOTEWORTHY doesn't really discuss Jordan's sexuality a lot.  This is neither a romance nor a story about Jordan and her growing up, in my opinion it's a love letter to a cappella. NOTEWORTHY is set at college and you definitely don't get a break from that while reading this - this is a specific type of book that you need to be prepared for in order not to be caught off guard. While it is very unique, I think NOTEWORTHY absolutely delivers. This is the book for you if you're a singer, if you like a cappella, if you like stories set at college. NOTEWORTHY definitely stands out positively in the world of books about music.

Note: Despite NOTEWORTHY featuring a scene where the protagonist addresses that she's putting on a performance act as a cis person, and explicitly states that this is different to being trans, trans reviewers have pointed out that NOTEWORTHY neither features non-binary/trans characters, nor addresses the trans aspect enough. I don't feel comfortable speaking about this, but do be aware that this is 100% a book about a cis character crossdressing and does not include any trans characters. Here is a twitter thread that describes the issues a little more.





Rating:

★★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

NOTEWORTHY reads like a love letter to a cappella and is a fairly quiet and calm type of Contemporary. Do be aware that it's a book about a cis character crossdressing and does not feature any trans characters.



Additional Info

Published: May 2nd 2017
Pages: 336
Publisher: Amulet Books
Genre: YA / Contemporary
ISBN: 9781419723735

Synopsis:
"It’s the start of Jordan Sun’s junior year at the Kensington-Blaine Boarding School for the Performing Arts. Unfortunately, she’s an Alto 2, which—in the musical theatre world—is sort of like being a vulture in the wild: She has a spot in the ecosystem, but nobody’s falling over themselves to express their appreciation. So it’s no surprise when she gets shut out of the fall musical for the third year straight.

Then the school gets a mass email: A spot has opened up in the Sharpshooters, Kensington’s elite a cappella octet. Worshiped ... revered ... all male. Desperate to prove herself, Jordan auditions in her most convincing drag, and it turns out that Jordan Sun, Tenor 1, is exactly what the Sharps are looking for."
(Source: Goodreads)


What's your favorite Contemporary?

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Monday, February 13, 2017

The Difference Between Romanticized Mental Illness and Romance with Mental Illness | YA Talk



Today I've brought Leah from While Reading and Walking on the blog to talk a bit about mental illness romanticization. Enjoy!

As writers, readers, and reviewers, there is a lot of responsibility on our shoulders when it comes to the representation of mental illness. 

Bad representations of mental illness can do real damage. Teens especially in the midst of anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and more, can be influenced by what they read in books that they believe are faithful representations of what mental illness looks like—and what healing can look like.

I’ll be talking specifically about the relationship between mental illness and romance in fiction. romanticizing mental illness can mean a lot of things. Here, I’m talking about the common trope where someone has a mental illness and then falls in love. 

I am a novelist and book blogger who has depression and anxiety. There is obviously a range of experiences when it comes to these issues, and there are many more forms of mental illness that I can’t personally speak to. I am a cis white woman who has a privileged life in many respects, and others who do not have those privileges might have a different experience.

The Example

You have a character. Let’s call her Leia. She has anxiety and is susceptible to panic attacks. She often obsesses all day about small things. Her anxiety can arise from real-life issues or from nothing at all. 

She meets a girl. That girl is cute and funny and makes her laugh. What next?

  • The Right Path:
There is a lot of truth to the idea that anxiety and depression are easier to get through when you have someone by your side who will make a conscious effort to support you, listen to you, and understand what you’re going through. 

If every time you have a panic attack, there is someone on the end of the phone who is ready at all times to talk to you and talk you through that attack, then anxiety becomes just that little bit less scary to face. The world gets a little more secure when you have someone you can depend on, who can ground you and remind you that they aren’t going anywhere. That's absolutely okay to reflect in your writing.

  • The Wrong Path:
The problem is that many novels seem to imply that mental illness can be fixed and healed by being in love. That if Leia just finds this girl, her anxiety will melt away and never come back. She’ll never have another panic attack. These YA novels make it sound like love makes everything sunshine and rainbows, and mental illness flees from relationships like opposite ends of a magnet.

But having someone in your life you love doesn’t mean that your mental illness goes away. Saying it does implies that anxiety and depression are not real illnesses. But they are. Mental illness is physical, and chemical, and while it can be triggered by things in the outside world—for example, the death of a loved one or a break-up can lead to depression if you’re susceptible—it’s still a genuine illness. This is the same reason why Leia could be the sunshine optimism of her friend group, have an amazing job, pets, supportive family, and a new beautiful girlfriend and still have panic attacks. 

The Impact

When a person with mental illness reads a novel that implies that their conditions would melt away if only they had someone who loved them, it can have serious implications on their psyche and emotions. 


They can think, 'I have a boyfriend. I'm in love. Am I not in love? Or is something just wrong me?' or they can get into a headset where they believe that chasing love is the only way they'll ever get better. Teaching young people that the right way to heal is to fall in love and then things will get better ignores the real causes of mental illness, and can make people think that things won’t get better after all. 

Like I said: A person who makes you laugh can help to make a day with depression less awful. A person who grounds you can remind you that you have a handle on things in the midst of your panic attack. A person who makes you laugh might be able to get you out of the house on a day when you can’t leave your bed. 

  • But having Leia fall in love and then her panic attacks never return sends the message that loneliness is what causes mental illness. 
  • It implies that you need a savior to get better, and that you have no control over your own healing. 
  • It implies that mental illness is a neatly solved problem if you would just fall in love.

So what do I do? 

Write well.
Call out novels that clearly romanticize mental illness.
Be reasonable, but be vigilant too.

A romance in which the character has mental illness is not “romanticizing mental illness,” but it is a huge problem in the book community where we conflate the classical tale of being lost and completing your life with the addition of another person who balances you (classic love story) with the idea that a mental illness can be 100% healed if you would just find your soulmate.



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Sunday, February 5, 2017

How to Recognize Ableism in Books: The Sufferer, Magical Disabilities, and Cures | Book Blogging Etiquette (#8)

Due to harassment and lack of allyship, this post has been removed. Why?

More on problematicness:

HOLD UP if you plan on commenting: 

Please do not ask advice about specific books or examples in your own writing. I will not answer them. This post took an immense amount of emotional energy to write, so let's be respectful, okay? If you have detailed questions, feel free to submit them to my Patreon, nothing's off limits there. 

If you want to say thanks, consider buying me a virtual coffee through ko-fi here.  It's a nice gesture and will make this feel appreciated. Also will contribute to me taking the time to make more posts like this.

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