I have written this post no fewer than four times. Each time I write it, read it about thirty minutes later and then delete every last word. I think I’ve finally figured out why.
You see, this month long event came from an idea and a hope that someone out there would want to participate and discuss a topic that doesn’t seem to ever be talked about. After several people backed out, I was very nervous that Special Needs in Strange Worlds was a pipe dream. Then, an amazing thing happened. Email started to pour in with fantastic, thoughtful, touching articles written by people brave enough to broach such a sensitive topic. And I’m left here wondering how I could possibly follow up a month of posts that have riveted me, and fundamentally changed my understanding of disability in a profound way.
After a month of incredible insights and fantastic posts I’ve realized that the word “disability” is a misnomer. The characters that have been highlighted aren’t disabled. They just have different ways to accomplish incredible things. That doesn’t make them any less; in fact, I think it makes them something more. These differently abled individuals are exactly that, differently abled. And these different abilities should be celebrated. These characters, and all the amazing posts highlighting disabilities during this month’s event, show the incredible triumph of the human spirit – our fundamental urge to refuse to become victims of circumstance. Instead, we make circumstance become a victim of our desire.
The fact is that we all have a story and our own mountains to climb and we’ll each do it in our own ways. Books that feature differently abled characters tend to resonate with us in powerful ways. We remember these characters. We love these characters. We learn from these characters and see a bit of ourselves in all of them. What is it about Tyrion Lannister that is so incredibly compelling? He’s a small man who does giant things, and I see some of myself in him. What is it about Lucian from Miserere, or Liam from Of Blood and Honey? One man walks with a limp and a cane, and the other is dyslexic. They are both amazing characters that I have internalized in some fundamental way because I see some of myself in each of them.
I guess that’s the bare roots reason I did this event. I feel so inspired by these individuals and I’m shocked that the things that make them so incredible aren’t a greater topic of discussion. I’m astounded that we don’t celebrate how these characters overcame what could hold them back to become something more. They aren’t disabled. They have problems, just like you and I do, and they overcome them to accomplish wonderful things. They are shockingly realistic. They give me hope for the battles I face in my own life. These individuals accomplish amazing things in some very creative ways. They overcome trials and do whatever they can with what they have.
This month hasn’t been about special needs. It’s been about a triumph of the human spirit told in powerful literature and I’m absolutely humbled that I could be part of it.
And there really isn’t anything more for me to say about Special Needs in Strange Worlds. Each and every post speaks for itself and I humbly thank everyone who participated, whether you emailed me encouragement, wrote a fantastic article or left a comment. This event grossed slightly more than 50,000 hits, which means I wasn’t the only one hungry to hear more about this topic, but a vast amount of web surfers were as well. I appreciate all of your time, and I’m so glad a topic as worthy as this got the kind of attention it did. I sincerely hope that, in some way, I helped shed light on a very important, very deserving aspect of literature. It could have never been done without any of you.