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The Right Way to be Crippled and Naked: The Fiction of Disability: An Anthology

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"I remember I believed all my problems would be solved, if only I were beautiful. Then I was beautiful."—Jonathan Mack, from his story "The Right Way to be Crippled and Naked." Welcome to the worlds of the disabled. The physically disabled. The mentally disabled. The emotionally disabled. What does that word "disabled" mean anyway? Is there a right way to be crippled? Edito "I remember I believed all my problems would be solved, if only I were beautiful. Then I was beautiful."—Jonathan Mack, from his story "The Right Way to be Crippled and Naked." Welcome to the worlds of the disabled. The physically disabled. The mentally disabled. The emotionally disabled. What does that word "disabled" mean anyway? Is there a right way to be crippled? Editors Sheila Black and Michael Northen (co-editors of the highly praised anthology Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability) join newcomer Annabelle Hayse to present short stories by Dagoberto Gilb, Anne Finger, Stephen Kuusisto, Thom Jones, Lisa Gill, Floyd Skloot, and others. These authors—all who experience the "disability" they write about—crack open the cage of our culture's stereotypes. We look inside, and, through these people we thought broken, we uncover new ways of seeing and knowing.


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"I remember I believed all my problems would be solved, if only I were beautiful. Then I was beautiful."—Jonathan Mack, from his story "The Right Way to be Crippled and Naked." Welcome to the worlds of the disabled. The physically disabled. The mentally disabled. The emotionally disabled. What does that word "disabled" mean anyway? Is there a right way to be crippled? Edito "I remember I believed all my problems would be solved, if only I were beautiful. Then I was beautiful."—Jonathan Mack, from his story "The Right Way to be Crippled and Naked." Welcome to the worlds of the disabled. The physically disabled. The mentally disabled. The emotionally disabled. What does that word "disabled" mean anyway? Is there a right way to be crippled? Editors Sheila Black and Michael Northen (co-editors of the highly praised anthology Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability) join newcomer Annabelle Hayse to present short stories by Dagoberto Gilb, Anne Finger, Stephen Kuusisto, Thom Jones, Lisa Gill, Floyd Skloot, and others. These authors—all who experience the "disability" they write about—crack open the cage of our culture's stereotypes. We look inside, and, through these people we thought broken, we uncover new ways of seeing and knowing.

30 review for The Right Way to be Crippled and Naked: The Fiction of Disability: An Anthology

  1. 5 out of 5

    Allie

    "Disability can be difficult to look at. Disfigurements ... can be unsettling in their strangeness, their out-in-the-open vulnerability. But rather than ignore it wilfully, the protagonist in "The Sitting" is forced - with her meticulous artist's gaze - to stare directly at what she's been conditioned not to, and to treat the disabled body as aesthetically valuable. And what she finds is that bodily difference is worth viewing - and worth viewing closely. It is sublime, and intimate, and deeply "Disability can be difficult to look at. Disfigurements ... can be unsettling in their strangeness, their out-in-the-open vulnerability. But rather than ignore it wilfully, the protagonist in "The Sitting" is forced - with her meticulous artist's gaze - to stare directly at what she's been conditioned not to, and to treat the disabled body as aesthetically valuable. And what she finds is that bodily difference is worth viewing - and worth viewing closely. It is sublime, and intimate, and deeply human. In a way, it is art." - Megan Granata, afterword to "The Sitting" I've been participating in the Read Harder challenge for the last two years. I love that the challenge has encouraged me to read more women authors and more authors of color, and read more often about experiences that different than my own. But what I realized a few months ago is that, for all the reading-other-peoples'-experiences thing, there really hasn't been a whole lot of emphasis on authors or characters with disabilities (though, to give credit where it is due, one of last year's challenge tasks was to read a book whose main character had a mental illness). Upon having this realization, I went in search of books about disability in general, because to be perfectly honest, I was not entirely sure what all was included under the umbrella of disability. I am thankful I had the opportunity to read this anthology of stories, and that the author of each short story wrote an afterword to follow about why their piece was meaningful to them and how it came into creation. Some authors wrote stories similar to their own experiences, while others made up stories that were only somewhat related - or completely unrelated to - their own disabilities (or the disabilities of loved ones or figures in history). It's sometimes hard to review collections of stories by different authors, but ultimately, I thought this was excellent. While I did not love every story, most were so wonderfully told, absolutely breathtaking. These stories covered such a broad range of topics: facial and body deformities (as mentioned in the quote above, one of my favorite stories, "The Sitting"), blindness, dementia, mental illness, diabetes and kidney failure (ohhh, "Bombshell Noel" by Thom Jones was so, so good, and so, so hard for me to read), birth defects, quadriplegia, deafness, recovery after a stroke (another favorite, "please, thank you" by Dagberto Gilb) and more and more. So many different perspectives. I'm really glad I read this one, and I'd highly recommend.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kitty

    I'm going to be totally honest and say this: Reviewing anthologies are hard because it's not one story by one author, it's multiple stories by multiple authors and I feel that will just DRAG. ON. FOREVER. thus boring you, the reader of this review and myself, the writer. This anthology though? Amazing. Why? Because you don't see many stories from writers that are disabled, be it mentally, physically or emotionally. Disabled writers have a tendency to fall through the cracks, much like disabled p I'm going to be totally honest and say this: Reviewing anthologies are hard because it's not one story by one author, it's multiple stories by multiple authors and I feel that will just DRAG. ON. FOREVER. thus boring you, the reader of this review and myself, the writer. This anthology though? Amazing. Why? Because you don't see many stories from writers that are disabled, be it mentally, physically or emotionally. Disabled writers have a tendency to fall through the cracks, much like disabled people in general. Some of the stories even feature disabled characters in which their disabilities are made clear and others where there disabilities are more invisible, or not even mentioned at all. There even was a story featuring characters that struggled with addiction and it made me so sad. These stories are hard hitting, and they will give you a glimpse of what people like me struggle with day in and out in a world that isn't none too kind to us.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Sydlik

    This anthology breaks from traditional cliches and stereotypes to show the possibilities of what fiction can do productively with disability without reinforcing stigmas and misconceptions. It includes varied approaches to disability by authors who (in one way or another) identify as disabled. There are a whopping 26 stories plus an afterword by editor Michael Northen (who also edits the literary journal for disabled authors, Wordgathering). It's surprising that this is the first anthology of its This anthology breaks from traditional cliches and stereotypes to show the possibilities of what fiction can do productively with disability without reinforcing stigmas and misconceptions. It includes varied approaches to disability by authors who (in one way or another) identify as disabled. There are a whopping 26 stories plus an afterword by editor Michael Northen (who also edits the literary journal for disabled authors, Wordgathering). It's surprising that this is the first anthology of its kind, given that it was only published last year (2017). Many of my favorite stories in here focus on telling the story of a single character, and incorporate their disability/impairment/illness (the editors accept a very broad definition of what constitutes "disability" for this book's purposes, which is a good thing) in an organic way. In fact, most of these stories are more or less character studies, though some of them do also flesh out other characters, and a few are more plot-driven. Disability isn't necessarily the focus of every story, though it guides the action or narration in some more than others. But the characters are always treated as multi-faceted people with identities and interests beyond their disability. The stories run the gamut of eroticism, humor, anger, pain, loss, tension, and introspection. There's a science fiction tale, and a mystery (sort of). There are nonlinear, stylistically innovative pieces, and more traditional narratives. The authors explore a number of disabilities, from more commonly represented ones such as blindness, deafness, depression, and paraplegia, to less frequently portrayed ones such as Alzheimer's, chronic pain, and diabetes. Some of my favorites are: "Winter Eyes" by Raymond Luczak - A photographer describes her and her husband's adjustment to her degenerative blindness. A beautifully-written tale of how one be heroic without falling into the tropes of "inspiration porn." "The Right Way to Be Crippled and Naked" by Jonathan Mack - Told epistolary-style as a letter from a gay man with a deformed leg who vows to become a Jain monk (a sect that has taken a vow of total nakedness). Full of acerbic wit and playfulness. "Twinning" by Joe Vastano - Twins with bipolar disorder who struggle with addiction comfort each other in times of crisis. The characterization was especially evocative, and it was interesting to see how the dynamics play out between the siblings. "Deep End" by Nisi Shawl - Aboard a prison ship sent to colonize a distant planet, one of the prisoners starts to feel mysterious pains. This story was a bit more mysterious, but I appreciated the sci-fi setting, as most of the stories are told as traditional "realistic" dramas. (In other words, they fit what is usually called mainstream literary fiction, rather than occupying genres like sci-fi, horror, fantasy, romance, or Western, though some play with a postmodern approach.) "Trauma" by Christopher Jon Heuer - A deaf teenager struggles with family and friends as he starts to develop symptoms of his father's alcoholism and abuse. A poignant story that shows how multiple pressures can provoke a character's emotional crisis. These descriptions just give you a taste of all that's between the covers in here. There's something for most readers who enjoy short fiction. It's a very solid collection that goes against the grain of 99% of representations in fiction. You won't find sentimental portraits of suffering figures to pity (ala Tiny Tim) or deformed villains angry at the world and bent on revenge for their disability (ala Richard III). You won't find the inspirational figure whose perseverance in "overcoming" their disability proves that with just enough hard work, your disability won't hold you back. What you WILL find are stories full of sass, sensuality, trauma, and multiple disabled characters (something surprisingly lacking in fiction). My one criticism is that a number of the stories are very short pieces, some of which are solid flash fiction, others which feel more like incomplete sketches or vignettes. I love flash fiction, but I'm not as much a fan of the sketch/vignette style (lacking any kind of real narrative). I can appreciate their inclusion for the sake of variety, but I guess I was feeling hungry for more narrative-driven stories. The first few entries seem to be an odd starting place, as they worried me about the narrative element. A reader who skips around might have a better experience, but I tend to be a cover-to-cover reader, regardless of format.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Leah

    This collection of short fiction presents a variety of perspectives on disability. In literature, disability has often been used as something to elicit pity, or as a vehicle to show someone overcoming hardship, or as a metaphor for moral disability. This collection does not do that. Rather, it presents the various reality of living with physical or mental disability.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Nuri

    This anthology has 27 stories of disability fiction, challening the stereotypes and negative attitude towards physical, and intellectual disabilities. Just as the literature of illness is found to be impoverished, so is the literature of disability. The anthology fills that gap by presenting realistic portrayals of disabled people, through fiction. It is not to be suggested that a sighted person should not write about a blind protagonist or an abled body should not write about a disabled person. This anthology has 27 stories of disability fiction, challening the stereotypes and negative attitude towards physical, and intellectual disabilities. Just as the literature of illness is found to be impoverished, so is the literature of disability. The anthology fills that gap by presenting realistic portrayals of disabled people, through fiction. It is not to be suggested that a sighted person should not write about a blind protagonist or an abled body should not write about a disabled person. But, by bringing to the fore, voices of those who live with disability themselves, we nourish the literary domain and the narrative of disability is accurately represented. It establishes a strong case against inspiration porn. Disabled people are not heroic for conquering their disabilities nor are they to be pitied because they can no longer cope up participating in the able bodied world. While some stories are a first hand account, others are inspired from a loved one's disability. The disabilities covered are extensive, physical as well as psychological — limited mobility of limbs, paralysis due to polio, dwarfism, quadriplegia, cripple, bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia, Alzheimers, trauma, blindness, disfigurement, cancer, albeism, deafness, overgrowth of warts, tumors, genetic disorders, bone tumors, chornic pain, epilepsy, hearing impairment, and disability of political figures, diabetes, brain injuries, malfunction and compromised memory. These are stories that show you the journey to deliverance or others that highlight the civil rights violation from being termed unfit for continued employment because of a condition or surgical recovery. It is also valuable to mention that the stories are about how the personality is altered from chronic pain as an ill-result of accident, surgery or trauma. Although I don't read fiction very well and often got lost in some stories, I like this book nevertheless. I'll include a list below of the stories that I liked. • Virus on Fire, Tantra Bensko (overgrowth warts) • Winter Eyes, Raymond Luczak (vision loss) • The Protective Effects of Sex, Bobbie Lurie (cancer and effects of chemotherapy) • The Right Way To Be Crippled And Naked, Jonathan Mack (a cripple man's inward journey to seek deliverance from the world) • Plato, Again — Stephen Kuusisto (a woman recovering from cancer surgery faces harassment at workplace and loses her job) • Twinning, Joe Vastano (I absolutely loved this one about bipolar disorder and depression) • The Sitting, Megan Granata (about disfigurement — totally compelling) • Deep End, Nisi Shawl (about Fibromyalgia, chronic pain, which is what I have, so it hits home) • In the Waiting Room, Kara Dorris (genetic disorder and chronic pain) • Two Really Different Things, Ellen McGrath Smith (Hearing Impairment. Very interesting) • Riding the Bus, Paul de Anguera (elders in nursing homes waiting to return home) •Trauma, Christopher Jon Heuer (when trauma eats the soul) • Rocks and Processes, Ana Garza G'z (blindness doesn't stop her mind from excelling) • Hospital Corners, Alison Oatman (on schizophrenia) • Alzheimer's Noir, Floyd Skloot

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jeffsroses

    Some really amazing stories are in here. Loved loved loved this. Some pieces needed to be edited a bit more tightly because there were some obvious errors in misspelling or formatting, but good stories overall.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Erin Lipman

  8. 5 out of 5

    Alexis

  9. 4 out of 5

    CBSD Library

  10. 4 out of 5

    Crystal

  11. 4 out of 5

    Get Booked Fans

    Episode 107: 5. I suffer from a chronic pain condition and would like to find books that have conditions similar to mine (or other disabilities). Memoir or fiction would be great. I’ve read both of Jenny Lawson’s books and cried when I found out that she had arthritis because I do not get to read about people with similar experiences much. (No Me Before You please!) –Emily Recommended by: Jenn

  12. 4 out of 5

    Stuart

  13. 5 out of 5

    Anne-Marie Crawmer

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mattias Grahn

  15. 4 out of 5

    LJ

  16. 4 out of 5

    Beth Bendtsen

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Watkins

  18. 4 out of 5

    Greg

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lorelei Armstrong

  20. 4 out of 5

    Emily Ackerman

  21. 4 out of 5

    Amer

  22. 4 out of 5

    Heather Butterworth

  23. 4 out of 5

    Saiygy Yaho

  24. 4 out of 5

    Grant

  25. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ellie Wilson

  27. 4 out of 5

    Christie Gilson-Graves

  28. 4 out of 5

    JP

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jana Hall

  30. 4 out of 5

    Anna

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