A few days ago I stumbled onto Ali Isaac’s blog, specifically the post where she’s promoting two contests to win free copies of her Conor Kelly books. As I read about these books, I knew I’d be writing a blog post about them and putting them on my To-Read list. The Conor Kelly books (…and the Four Treasures of Eirean; …and the Fenian King) tell the story of Conor who cannot move or speak or otherwise let the world know he’s aware and engaged and who is recruited to save Tir na Nog, a land of Irish legend. So first of all, I love Irish mythology. But I mainly want to read these stories to see how the author develops the character of Conor.
Before I go further, let me backtrack…
Two years ago almost to the day, I severely sprained my foot and ankle, injuries that took about six months to heal. That semester, I was taking a psych course on cultural awareness in psychology. For the class we had to think about our culture and to do an activity that introduced us to an unfamiliar cultural group. I ended up using my sprains as my activity because I was basically forced (albeit temporarily) into disability. Although I’ve thought about my ability status significantly more since than, ability is one of those cultural groups that I and I’m sure many other’s take for granted.
With the ongoing push for diversity in writing, I have to wonder how often ability status is considered. Sure, there are plenty of stories out there in the fantasy and sci-fi genres with characters that have supernatural abilities, but what about characters who have a mobility impairment, or deafness, or even an invisible disability like depression or epilepsy or a learning disability? And how often are these characters shown in a positive, non-condescending or pitying light?
I suspect two reasons why people wouldn’t write about differently abled/ disabled characters. 1) People tend to not write about things they don’t know or don’t think about, and it’s really easy to not think about disabilities if you’re able bodied. 2) I know I would be nervous writing an MC that had a disability I had not experienced. I’d want to get that character’s experiences just right. Without living with a disability yourself, or having a loved one/friend/colleague/student, etc. who can help show you what their life is like, writing about a differently abled character is daunting.
Also, mini-rant and then I’m done with the post. Pretty much every main character in every major sci-fi or fantasy series I’ve seen or heard about recently should seek counseling help. PTSD, anyone? Harry Potter’s gonna need years of therapy, y’all. How did Dumbledore not send him to at least one meeting with the Hogwart’s school counselor after book 4, if not book 1 when someone tried to murder him at school?