Saturday, October 26, 2013

Disabled Protagonists

Usually by the time we get to my Saturday post for the Whores, I get to be all stream of consciousness, mildly snarky, humorous around the edges... or I go with amusing quotes or pretty photos. This week the subject is so serious in nature I can only write a straightforward post myself.

As usual I think my fellow Whores have covered the topic thoroughly all week, have mentioned most of the disabled heroes or heroines I was aware of in the genres I tend to read, or to write, talked about visible versus not-visible disabilities or conditions...(I have a few of those myself but not being as brave as Allison Pang, I'm not going to discuss them publicly, other than my migraines which I sometimes think the entire World knows about because I do complain about them.)

One of my best friends in college was a person who had been blind since birth. C. was amazing in her determination to tackle everything and back down from nothing. I learned a lot of life lessons from her and in return I taught her to sew, which was something I was good at (poor college student, newlywed, made all my own clothes) and she always wanted to learn.  I had to lay out the patterns on the fabric for her but after that she cut and pinned and stitched. Going fabric shopping with her was an amazing experience. She selected material by touch but relied on me to help her pick fabric that would look good on her and work for the garment she was sewing. So, in tribute to C. I've had a science fiction romance/adventure in the works for a long time, with a blind heroine, incorporating just a few of the many things C taught me. I might get that out next year. I wouldn't even have attempted it, had I not known her so well, for fear of not "getting it right" and being unconsciously disrespectful in some way.

At that same college, we had a class where for twenty four hours we each had to navigate the campus in a wheelchair. This was before the requirements for better access to buildings, bathrooms, etc. Let me tell you, in about five minutes I started to understand how much I did not know about physical challenges and disabilities. And it just got more daunting from there as I rolled up to each new obstacle that I could have easily surmounted on any other day. Of course such a short term, artificial view of life in a wheelchair couldn't possibly do more than give a faint, surface level picture of being disabled, but still I came away from the experience a changed person. I was still "me", but wow, in that wheelchair everyone else pretty much treated me as "someone else." Extremely eye opening and consciousness-raising.

I did write one physically disabled character - Tyema, the younger sister in "Priestess of the Nile", who was born with  a twisted leg. SPOILER ALERT: at the end of "Priestess" Sobek the Crocodile God does heal her leg, and I can only plead that it's Ancient Egypt and magic is very much in evidence through the entire story. I'm currently writing the sequel, which revolves around Tyema as an adult and I hope I'm doing an honest job of portraying the psychological aftereffects she suffers from having been disabled for half her life then physically healed with a wave of the god's hand...which leaves her "invisibly" disabled in an entirely different way, in a time and place where there was no understanding of such things. Certainly no therapy or treatment. Both Sobek the god and Sahure, the warrior in love with Tyema, struggle to understand what she's going through but neither has the power to "heal" her. She has to find a way to manage her life on her own terms.

My personal heroes will always be the disabled American veterans, who made such sacrifices for our Country, to keep us all free....those men and women are the true heroes in my humble opinion.

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