Showing posts with label ableism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ableism. Show all posts

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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Sunday, March 5, 2017

[Review] Soundless - Richelle Mead: Ableism and Cultural Appropriation





In SOUNDLESS, Fei, who grew up in a village of Deaf people who are slowly also losing their eyesight, suddenly is able to hear when her village is in danger.
What intrigued me: I really liked her Vampire Academy series.

How to offend disabled people: the book

You have to be very, very, very, very careful when writing about disability. Especially when you're not disabled yourself. SOUNDLESS is the story of a girl that lives in a village of Deaf people and suddenly starts hearing.  Mistake 1: Don't "cure" disabilities for plot. 

I was hoping for a book that celebrates disability and portrays it as the absolutely normal thing it is - but nah. Disabled people in Mead's fantasy world are the losers of this story because they can't hear unlike special snowflake protagonist Fei who was magically cured. This book certainly would've dearly benefited from a sensitivity reader, anyone with a disability would have whipped out their pitchfork when coming across this book.

SOUNDLESS is proof that you shouldn't write about marginalized people if you have no experience whatsoever with the things they go through and aren't willing to put the research and resources in to make sure that the portrayal accurate.

Who needs world building?

My bitterness aside - I signed up for the typical fantastic Mead writing with a great voice and I got it. The writing truly is exceptional. Mead's storytelling is flawlessly effortless. It's very descriptive, but I personally like this, because it adds to the calm and withdrawn atmosphere of the book. The world building may be easy to understand, but that's because it doesn't exist. Nothing in this book makes sense and we just have to deal with it. 

The signed conversations between Deaf people are a little difficult to read and get used to because there is no indication that's dialogue.

Mead put an equal amount of research into the Chinese folklore part as she put into the disability part. Exactly zilch. The only thing that's sort-of-Asian is the nature surrounding them, their names, and their clothes. Here and here are some reviews by Chinese reviewers who went into more detail on this.

Still, as much as I admire the writing, SOUNDLESS is just an epic fail overall because of how Mead handles disability and the Chinese characters, and a massive disappointment. 


Rating:

☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

If you have a disability or are very educated and passionate about disability issues, do yourself a favor and don't read this. It will only lead to high blood pressure. SOUNDLESS may be the most ableist book I've ever read, but let's not jinx it.



Additional Info

Published: November 10th 2015
Pages:  266
Publisher: Razorbill
Genre: YA / High Fantasy
ISBN: 9781595147639

Synopsis:
"In a village without sound…

For as long as Fei can remember, no one in her village has been able to hear. Rocky terrain and frequent avalanches make it impossible to leave the village, so Fei and her people are at the mercy of a zipline that carries food up the treacherous cliffs from Beiguo, a mysterious faraway kingdom.

When villagers begin to lose their sight, deliveries from the zipline shrink. Many go hungry. Fei and all the people she loves are plunged into crisis, with nothing to look forward to but darkness and starvation.

One girl hears a call to action…

Until one night, Fei is awoken by a searing noise. Sound becomes her weapon.

She sets out to uncover what’s happened to her and to fight the dangers threatening her village. A handsome miner with a revolutionary spirit accompanies Fei on her quest, bringing with him new risks and the possibility of romance. They embark on a majestic journey from the peak of their jagged mountain village to the valley of Beiguo, where a startling truth will change their lives forever…

And unlocks a power that will save her people.
 "(Source: Goodreads)


Have you read books about deaf characters?

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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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Monday, January 30, 2017

[Review] Magonia (#1) - Maria Dahvana Headley: Bird Humans and Ableism





In MAGONIA, Aza has a chronic lung disease and suddenly hallucinates (or not?) a ship in the sky.

What intrigued me: Chronic illness and magical realism! Sign me up!


Strange narration and no structure

MAGONIA immediately surprised me with an incredibly unique voice. Aza's narration is very reminiscent of a stream-of-consciousness. It's hard to keep up with the plot, with her thoughts, with everything really, because there is hardly any indication of scene changes. I struggled a lot with the narration, even though it is undoubtedly very memorable and unique. 

MAGONIA uses the justification "it's magical realism, I don't have to explain anything" way too much. It desperately lacks descriptions to even begin to create images in the reader's head. This book can't hide that it has no structure whatsoever, doesn't make sense, and is absolutely weird. The weird thing isn't necessarily something negative, but it isn't a good kind of weird. I had no idea what was happening half of the time, and struggled to even understand the scenes because of the strange narration. It's really a novel that you have to pay attention to very closely to even be able to keep up, and I find that extremely unappealing and not very entertaining at all. 

Disabled people are not your plot device. Stop.

The problem with this book is that it starts out with a fantastic chronically-ill character and instead of celebrating the character's disability - decides to cure them. Could we just not do this generally. [highlight for spoiler]
  Yeah, I get it, she dies and ascends to another plane of existence and then it all makes sense why she was disabled in life because she's secretly a superhuman bird humanoid. Can we just not.
[end of spoiler]

What's the point in writing about disability if you magically cure it halfway in? Imagine how chronically-ill people feel when reading this book. Why couldn't Ava remain sick? This would've made for such a powerful read and I would've celebrated the crap out of this!

Even though MAGONIA technically doesn't deserve such a low rating because of the sheer skill, creativity, and unique voice, I am not supporting this behavior. Don't cure disabled characters for your plot, in fact don't even write about disabled characters at all if you only think it would make for an edgy blurb and brownie points! Just because it's fiction, you aren't allowed to write whatever you want, especially not if it involves marginalized people. Disabled people are not your plot device. Don't write about them if you just think it'll make for a good pitch.

Well, I should've known from the blurb. Describing chronically-ill people as "weak and dying thing[s]". NEXT!

Rating:

☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

Absolutely not, I would even go as far as to actively advise against reading it because it's so incredibly, incredibly insensitive. MAGONIA lures with an interesting idea, but is absolutely ruined through its insensitivity and ignorant ableist message. So, at what point do real-life chronically ill people get invited to Magonia so everything will be rainbows and butterflies again?



Additional Info

Published: April 28th 2015
Pages: 309
Publisher: HarperCollins
Genre: YA / Magical Realism
ISBN: 9780062320520

Synopsis:
"Aza Ray is drowning in thin air. 

Since she was a baby, Aza has suffered from a mysterious lung disease that makes it ever harder for her to breathe, to speak—to live. 

So when Aza catches a glimpse of a ship in the sky, her family chalks it up to a cruel side effect of her medication. But Aza doesn't think this is a hallucination. She can hear someone on the ship calling her name.

Only her best friend, Jason, listens. Jason, who’s always been there. Jason, for whom she might have more-than-friendly feelings. But before Aza can consider that thrilling idea, something goes terribly wrong. Aza is lost to our world—and found, by another. Magonia. 

Above the clouds, in a land of trading ships, Aza is not the weak and dying thing she was. In Magonia, she can breathe for the first time. Better, she has immense power—and as she navigates her new life, she discovers that war is coming. Magonia and Earth are on the cusp of a reckoning. And in Aza’s hands lies the fate of the whole of humanity—including the boy who loves her. Where do her loyalties lie?(Source: Goodreads)


Have you read MAGONIA?

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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Let Me Be Your Racism Tutor- I'm Starting a Patreon! | Blog News

So, as you may or may not know I have a very severe chronic illness. And any financial help I can get would very much make my life easier.

Since this blog takes up a LOT of my time, I will probably on the longrun be unable to make any more posts without financial support. That's the chronic illness life.

I decided to launch a Patreon specifically because I've noticed that SO MANY allies approach me with very detailed questions about writing diversely or recognizing problematicness that I physically cannot answer all of them without repercussions to my mental and physical health. 

These kinds of posts take a lot of energy, especially to a chronically-ill person like me. Patreon is the perfect place for even MORE posts about problematicness, racism, ableism, homophobia, and also a nice way to help you with your own writing and ensure the next generation of writers gets some help.

This will be mostly a feature for the allies and social justice advocates-in-training. I will be making several posts every month answering questions that you may have. 

THE IMPORTANT STUFF - What you can expect from this Patreon

  • !new! posts every other day
  • exclusive writing advice in terms of writing diversely
  • exclusive advice on recognizing problematicnesss and allyship
  • exclusive educational blog posts
  • in-depth book talks about problematic books
  • accessability: as a patron, there's a way for you to read posts from higher tiers. Choose which content you'd like to support.
  • submit questions that I answer periodically. Choose your content.
  • up to 35% discounts as a patron if you want to book my editing and sensitivity reading services
  • a safe space to ask questions about writing diversely and being a good ally, and interact with other allies
I'm also African, living in Germany, biracial, bisexual, disabled, ace-spectrum, and neuroatypical - so if you have any questions in regards to writing characters that are one of these things, you can totally ask me for advice.

BIO - Who am I

I'm a chronically-ill book blogger, writer, and aspiring publishing professional. I've been blogging on my book blog The Bookavid since September 2014, primarily focusing on promoting and reviewing diverse reads. 
I'm also trying to get a foot in the door in the publishing industry where my main goal will be to help diversifying and doing everything I can to get marginalized readers the representation they deserve. Unfortunately this proves very difficult despite lots of experience, because I cannot work in-person. And even beyond that my chronic illness makes it pretty much impossible for me to have a regular job without facing a severe health risk because my health keeps steadily declining and symptoms keep getting worse.


FOR WHAT - What will I do with the money


Any money received through this will go towards living expenses. My chronic illness makes it incredibly difficult for me to live normally - I cannot physically work and any time I put into creating content online of course takes away from that. This is why I'd love your support, because without it I won't be able to continue blogging and promoting diverse books for marginalized readers, serving as a resource for more than 20,000 people online. 

Any financial help would make it possible for me to continue to promote diverse reads and continue making blog posts and book recommendations that are very much
 needed.

<3

So here's the Patreon link. Stop by if you like.


If you'd still like to support but can't afford becoming a Patron, a virtual coffee through ko-fi is always nice. 

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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

[Review] Angelfall (Penryn & The End of Days #1) - Susan Ee: Angels and the Apocalypse




In ANGELFALL, the world has been destroyed by angels and people are forced to hide in the ruins of their cities. 

What intrigued me: Angels. I missed the angel hype a couple of years ago and am now in full obsession mode.


A typical post-apocalyptic dystopia

The setting of ANGELFALL isn't much different from what you'd expect from a dystopia, and the only thing that makes this world differ from the usual apocalyptic wasteland in YA, is the occasional angel flying above their heads.

It's a survival story at the core, a lot of walking, a lot of stalling time. Naturally, this isn't always easy to read, I caught myself skimming the generic descriptions of building ruins and empty streets and litter. The scenery is so generic that it almost doesn't need any descriptions at all if you've ever seen a post-apocalyptic movie in your life.

I longed for every little bit of explanation about the angels that didn't quite come. With novels with supernatural elements that are out there in the open in the real world, it's very important to me to understand how this happened. The only glimpse we get is that Penryn mentions that the messenger of God Gabriel came down to Earth and was immediately shot. That's it. Very frustrating, generally the book just throws things that happen at you and doesn't explain a lot, probably a technique to make people buy the second book. And yeah, I shamefully have to admit, it works.

Thank the heavens (or not?) for a realistic romance plot

Ee absolutely had me hooked through the character of the angel Raffe. Penryn's and his dynamics are hilariously wonderful and his dry humor and arrogance incredibly entertaining. Of course we have some obligatory side romance, but it's very subtle. 

The first time in a long time that I actually thought to myself that this story could really happen. It's very realistic, they actually take time to even just not be awkward in conversation. No premature declarations of love here. They don't even really care about the other one surviving this whole ordeal until 60% in. It's refreshing to see a relationship and friendship(!) develop at a realistic pace.

Another thing that absolutely needs to be mentioned is the ableism in this one. I was so happy to see a wheelchair user in the form of Penryn's little sister. This is a magical cure narrative. If you're a wheelchair user looking for representation, this isn't the book to pick. I'm extremely disappointed with Ee making that decision and it severely impacts my rating and opinion of this book.


Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

ANGELFALL is easily one of the better dystopias out there, however it could use some more world building and is ableist. Leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.



Additional Info

Published: August 28th 2012
Pages: 288
Publisher: Skyscape 
Genre: YA / Dystopia
ISBN: 9781444778519

Synopsis:
"It's been six weeks since angels of the apocalypse descended to demolish the modern world. Street gangs rule the day while fear and superstition rule the night. When warrior angels fly away with a helpless little girl, her seventeen-year-old sister Penryn will do anything to get her back.

Anything, including making a deal with an enemy angel.

Raffe is a warrior who lies broken and wingless on the street. After eons of fighting his own battles, he finds himself being rescued from a desperate situation by a half-starved teenage girl.

Traveling through a dark and twisted Northern California, they have only each other to rely on for survival. Together, they journey toward the angels' stronghold in San Francisco where she'll risk everything to rescue her sister and he'll put himself at the mercy of his greatest enemies for the chance to be made whole again."(Source: Goodreads)


What's your favorite book about angels?

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