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Disfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space by Amanda Leduc

Source: Public Library
Paperback, 251 pgs.
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On Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space by Amanda Leduc, which was my next pick for my work’s book club, is a series of essays examining the myths, fables, and the comic book universe through the lens of disability exclusion and how some of the characters in these stories are often disfigured or disabled in some way and must embark on a quest or journey that transforms them into an able-bodied, perfect version of themselves in order to obtain their happily ever after.

“But it is never society that changes, no matter how many half-animals or scullery maids are out there arguing for their place at the table. It is almost always the protagonists themselves who transform in some way — becoming more palatable, more beautiful, more easily able to fit into the mould of society already in place.” (pg. 41)

“For many able-bodied people in the world today, the idea of disability comes shrouded in darkness. It is inconceivable to so many that someone could be disabled and also happy, because we as social beings have been taught, through the books we read and the films and television we watch and the music we listen to, the stories we tell one another, that to be disabled is to be at a disadvantage: to be a lesser body, to be a body that cannot function at the same level as other bodies in society.” (pg. 48-9)

While the Beast in Beauty and the Beast is under a spell to look unpleasing and Ariel in The Little Mermaid wants to have legs like humans to meet her prince, these characters are disabled because they do not fit into society’s version of who they should be, according to Leduc. But, they can be their best selves as they are, even without societal approval and achieve happiness to a certain degree, like all of us. She reminds us, “I was never there in fairy tales. I never saw myself.” (pg. 89) Representation matters.

The text, however, gets a bit dry in some parts, which forced me to skim over some of the historical details that I don’t think made her points any more poignant than they were in the first place. I wasn’t sure why she included her medical notes from her surgeon and doctors, except to provider her own background. I think for me, it interrupted the flow of her essays. I would have preferred her to parse out the relevant parts and included them in the narrative of each chapter rather than add-ons.

Leduc raises a number of points through her essays on disability as seen in fables and other stories, including Disney interpretations of those princess stories. Her parallels are solid, and she admits that charity is a societal way of excluding the disabled because it focuses too much on helping individuals, rather than embarking on larger societal change. “Fairy tales and fables are never only stories: they are the scaffolding by which we understand crucial things. Fairness, hierarchy, patterns of behaviour; who deserves a happy ending and who doesn’t. What it means to deserve something in the first place; what happy endings mean in both the imagination and the world.” (pg. 233-4) On Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space by Amanda Leduc provides a great deal to think about, particularly as we continue to expose our children to fables and fairy tales. We need to think how these stories will skew their worldview.

RATING: Tercet

About the Author:

Amanda Leduc is the author of the novel THE CENTAUR’S WIFE (Random House Canada, 2021) and the non-fiction book DISFIGURED: ON FAIRY TALES, DISABILITY, AND MAKING SPACE (Coach House Books, 2020), which was shortlisted for the 2020 Governor General’s Award in Nonfiction and long-listed for the 2020 Barbellion Prize. She is also the author of an earlier novel, THE MIRACLES OF ORDINARY MEN (ECW Press, 2013). She has cerebral palsy and lives in Hamilton, Ontario, where she serves as the Communications Coordinator for the Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD), Canada’s first festival for diverse authors and stories

Mailbox Monday #750

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has its own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Emma, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received:

Fixer by Edgar Kunz for Gaithersburg Book Festival consideration.

Temp jobs, conspiracy theories, squatters, talk therapy, urban gardening, the robot revolution: this collection fixes its eye on the strangeness of labor, through poems that are searching, keen, and wry. The virtuosic central sequence explores the untimely death of the poet’s estranged father, a handyman and addict, and the brothers left to sort through the detritus of a life long lost to them. Through lyrical, darkly humorous vignettes, Kunz asks what it costs to build a home and a love that not only lasts but sustains.

Disfigured on Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space by Amanda Leduc from the library for my October work-based book club.

If every disabled character is mocked and mistreated, how does the Beast ever imagine a happily-ever-after? Amanda Leduc looks at fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm to Disney, showing us how they influence our expectations and behaviour and linking the quest for disability rights to new kinds of stories that celebrate difference.

Love After the End: an Anthology of Two-Spirit & Indigiqueer Speculative Fiction edited by Joshua Whitehead from the library for my November work-based book club.

This exciting and groundbreaking fiction anthology showcases a number of new and emerging 2SQ (Two-Spirit and queer Indigenous) writers from across Turtle Island. These visionary authors show how queer Indigenous communities can bloom and thrive through utopian narratives that detail the vivacity and strength of 2SQness throughout its plight in the maw of settler colonialism’s histories.

Here, readers will discover bio-engineered AI rats, transplanted trees in space, the rise of a 2SQ resistance camp, a primer on how to survive Indigiqueerly, virtual reality applications, motherships at sea, and the very bending of space-time continuums queered through NDN time. Love after the End demonstrates the imaginatively queer Two-Spirit futurisms we have all been dreaming of since 1492.

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear from the library.

No matter your goals, Atomic Habits offers a proven framework for improving – every day. James Clear, one of the world’s leading experts on habit formation, reveals practical strategies that will teach you exactly how to form good habits, break bad ones, and master the tiny behaviors that lead to remarkable results.

If you’re having trouble changing your habits, the problem isn’t you. The problem is your system. Bad habits repeat themselves again and again not because you don’t want to change, but because you have the wrong system for change. You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems. Here, you’ll get a proven system that can take you to new heights.

Clear is known for his ability to distill complex topics into simple behaviors that can be easily applied to daily life and work. Here, he draws on the most proven ideas from biology, psychology, and neuroscience to create an easy-to-understand guide for making good habits inevitable and bad habits impossible. Along the way, listeners will be inspired and entertained with true stories from Olympic gold medalists, award-winning artists, business leaders, life-saving physicians, and star comedians who have used the science of small habits to master their craft and vault to the top of their field.

Learn how to:

  • Make time for new habits (even when life gets crazy)
  • Overcome a lack of motivation and willpower
  • Design your environment to make success easier
  • Get back on track when you fall off course
  • And much more

Atomic Habits will reshape the way you think about progress and success, and give you the tools and strategies you need to transform your habits – whether you are a team looking to win a championship, an organization hoping to redefine an industry, or simply an individual who wishes to quit smoking, lose weight, reduce stress, or achieve any other goal.

What did you receive?