The Disability Slur That Stopped Me in My Tracks


The Disability Slur That Stopped Me in My Tracks; Removing the Stumbling Block

I haven’t written in a while. I think the main reason is that with the slower days of summer I really appreciate the change of pace and relish the opportunity to get outside, exercise more, spend time with my kids, and I especially love having the time to read more. 


I read a mix of things in the summer. I tackle a few professional books, I read some young adult fiction, often my own kids’ summer reading assignments along with a few disability inclusion themed selections, and I read some good ole’ beach reads. I tend to gravitate toward light mysteries and popular fiction. 
 
So I picked up a freebie called “Sweets and a Stabbing” by Harper Lin and expected to finish it in a day or two at most. Except that I was barely into chapter one when I stumbled into this:

“Mr. O'Malley would never have confessed his infidelity at Gatto's Restaurant, causing the scene of Amelia blubbering and stammering away like someone suffering with Tourette syndrome.”

It stopped me in my tracks. 

I was so stunned that I reread it a few times and then put the book down. I will not keep reading.

But the thing is, I am not sure why I was so stunned. Maybe what I felt was more outrage than shock because this shouldn’t have surprised me (sadly). Statements like this (and worse) are out there, and are a lot more pervasive than many of us realize. I have written about the outrage I felt when reading Paper Towns by John Green. His use of the word “retarded” was gratuitous and unnecessary.

As was this author's use of Tourette syndrome as a way to describe someone’s behavior when learning about a husband’s affair. The line would have been just as effective had she written, “Mr. O'Malley would never have confessed his infidelity at Gatto's Restaurant, causing the scene of Amelia blubbering and stammering away." Adding Tourette syndrome is offensive, period. 

I have written the following message to the author:

“I recently began reading your book "Sweets and a Stabbing" and was deeply offended by your use of Tourette Syndrome to describe the main character's negative behavior of "blubbering and stammering away". The use of a known disability that causes behaviors that are uncontrollable to describe negative behavior in this way is inappropriate and unnecessary. As an inclusion advocate, I want to encourage you to issue an apology for this to the disability community. I would also hope that you will reconsider the use of such language in the future. Your phrasing would have been just as effective without this gratuitous slur. I will not be reading this or any other novel you have written. I think other readers should be made aware of this offensive language choice.”

Do you think she will reply?
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