(TW: This post talks about filicide and about the devaluation of disabled lives.)
Today, March 1, is the Disability Day of Mourning. People will be holding vigils across the US and other countries to remember disabled people who were killed by their families.
I’ve been quiet on previous Days of Mourning. I care, but I don’t always know what to say. My family never tried to kill me, of course – which is not to say that I’m not sensitive about the value of my life.
Cases of filicide sometimes make the news – they seem to especially get news coverage when they involve disabled children and white, American mothers with a martyr complex – but they are more common than you might realize if you only see those highly publicized cases. On the Disability Day of Mourning website you can see that ten disabled people, all adults, died from filicide in the first month and a half of this year alone.
In the US, measures are being taken to dismantle programs like Medicaid and the ADA which have previously protected disabled lives (among others). It seems that valuing our lives is not in vogue among the powerful.
I wasn’t sure what else to say. I’m not good at the kind of essay where I powerfully insists to you that disabled people DO deserve to live. I doubt that anyone who doesn’t already understand that message, on some level, is reading this blog. And in any case, other bloggers will write it better.
I am a fiction reviewer, though, and I suppose I can bring that skill to bear for this purpose.
Media shapes the stories that we tell ourselves about real life – often without us realizing. So media has a role to play in reminding us that disabled lives are worth living. Often the media doesn’t do this job; sometimes it does the reverse. I rarely see media brazen enough to suggest that we should kill disabled people, unless they are terminally ill and asking for death. (I can think of one published SFF short story I read that did kind of do this. I won’t link to it here.) But more often I see media fail by accepting our preventable deaths with a sad shrug. With a sort of, “Well, of course that’s how it is,” and an immediate return to the concerns of our able-bodied heroes who never think about the dead disabled person again. I see this kind of fail far more often, including in popular blockbuster movies, like Rogue One or Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
Here are some stories that do better.
(This is a list focused on autism because autism is… kind of my wheelhouse, but please do post your own recommendations, for any disability, in the comments!)
Corinne Duyvis’s book On the Edge of Gone is about an autistic girl trying to prove that she is worth saving in an apocalypse – and eventually realizing that her whole mindset of having to prove it is wrong.
Rose Lemberg’s novelette “Geometries of Belonging” celebrates an autistic teenager’s ability to defy their violent parents, refuse non-consensual medical treatment, and survive. Tina Gower’s “Twelve Seconds” also centers the autistic protagonist’s ability to choose in this way. Meda Kahn’s short story “Difference of Opinion” is about a non-speaking autistic woman’s struggle to survive in a society that is seriously considering killing her.
Finally, Bogi Takács’s Iwunen Interstellar Investigations, and other stories in the Eren universe, imagine a thriving autistic society far in the future, where nobody’s right to exist as a disabled person is questioned. C.S. Friedman’s This Alien Shore also imagines a powerful and inclusive planet full of non-neurotypical people, generations after the original Earth tried to eradicate them.
If you’d like to support telling stories about disabled lives in ways that value those lives, perhaps consider supporting these authors today – especially Duyvis, Lemberg, Kahn, and Takács, who are autistic themselves.