Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday Five!

1. There are flowers outside, and birds chirping.

Also it's supposed to snow tomorrow.

I know that's how Boston does things, but it makes me miss my Georgia days. It's pollen-central there this time of year, and already on the crux of way-too-hot, but I miss days of lying on the grass, feeling the gentle breeze and smelling the azaleas. I wish I could live somewhere with a Boston autumn and an Atlanta spring.

2. Due to a change in course schedules, I'm probably going to do my independent study in disability and children's fiction in the fall. Expect a lot of posts about books that are inappropriately titled by modern sensibilities. (I cannot wait to sink my teeth into "Retarded Isn't Stupid, Mom!"

3. My friend Kendra visited all of last week, and we watched approximately umpteen episodes of Gilmore girls. I forgot how much I love that show. I have now made it a goal to finally go through and watch the whole thing--including season six *shudder*.

4. Because it worked to find a roommate: my roommate and I are looking for a third person to sign onto the lease for this AMAZING Cambridge apartment. If you know anyone in Boston/Cambridge/Massachusetts who needs a room, hit us up. In-unit laundry! AC! Dishwasher! Deck!

5. Two of my favorite TV shows (Grey's and Buffy) recently had anniversaries. I only started watching Buffy last year, but it struck me that two of my favorite shows were mid-season replacements. Now I almost never watch those, and it made me think I should be giving more a chance. I just don't have the time to reconfigure my TV schedules come spring....

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Library eBooks

There is much discussion in the literary world about the conflict between libraries and eBooks. Issues about how many times a book can be leant, and how much a library should pay for each copy have resulted in entire publishers pulling their books from eshelves. This, combined with the dangers to physical libraries as eBook popularity increases has caused people to object to library eBooks in general.

To these people, I say fie.

I read copiously. Between my school readings and my personal readings I probably average six books a week. I have an iPad specifically because I'm not supposed to carry much weight, but broke grad student that I am, I get most of these books from libraries. I lug them back and forth every few weeks.

It is killing my back.

I guarantee you I would still spend time in libraries if I could get the majority of books on my (light) Kindle. I wouldn't object to there being a waiting period, the way there is when you have to pick up a physical book from a library. I am all for limiting the number of copies that can be checked out.

But I wish they were more readily available every day.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Guide Dogs Behaving Badly

Today I got treed by a guide dog on the T.

I have a friend visiting me in Boston. We took the subway up to the Commons (the park) today. When we boarded, I noticed a guide dog sitting under his owner's seat. He was very good for the half hour we spent traveling a mile (Oh, MBTA). Then we pulled into Park Street Station. (NB my friend and I ended up separately by a few people, so she saw the following situation from a distance).

The doors on the train open on both sides at this station, and I went right, heading toward the door near the driver so if my cane got stuck or something the train wouldn't try to go with me hanging half way out of it (I think about these things). The man with the dog headed the opposite way. It took a moment for the doors to open, putting me up against the dog.

I am TERRIFIED of strange dogs. But not guide-dogs, in general, because they are not supposed to bother people.

This one bothered. He started out sniffing me. He nudged the cane, which I don't begrudge--I often think strange dogs mistake it for a stick. Then started licking my leg.

LICKING my leg.

I squirmed in the opposite direction, twisting around the pole I was hanging on to (context is everything) practically ending up on the lap of the nice lady next to me. To get my leg out of his reach, I lifted in onto the seat. He opened his mouth, and I really thought he might eat me. (Okay, he was yawning, whatever). Finally the woman on my other side petted him to get him to leave me alone. The doors opened, and my friend listened to me have a panic attack.

Now, I know the woman shouldn't have petted a working guide dog, and that's why I didn't try to do this to distract him--oh, no let's face it I'd never have touched him--but the owner wasn't holding the harness. This is why I think Fido thought it okay to get all up in my business, he wasn't being signaled that he was on duty. My friend pointed out, he had a choke collar. So, that's not a thing you expect to see on a guide dog.

Also, she said it looked like I was going to climb up on the chair. Like a badger climbing a tree to get away from this guide dogs' ancestors. (Do German shepherds hunt?)

I am all for guide dogs in public. His owner was genuinely blind, so it wasn't a fake service dog. But this should not have been a thing that happened.

I got treed like a badger, by a guide dog on the T.

Everything is wrong with that sentence except the prepositions. Everything.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

When is Problematic Too Problematic?

I'm revising a manuscript that involves a lot of Shakespeare, and I just had the random thought that it would be an interesting casting choice to have a character in a wheelchair play Richard III. In the text he is described as a "rudely stump'd," "deformed, unfinish'd" hunchback. Having an actor with a disability would be a good way to be true to the text, and it's a complex, intriguing part.

It's also problematic. For Shakespeare, and a lot of other writers up to the modern day, it is easy to give the villan a visible ailment that turns people off of them--in this case a hunchback. Disabled characters are often antagonists, because having an abnormal body is something that automatically--so the thought goes--repulses an audience, particularly an audience who did not understand disability.

At what point do we stop sanitizing things like this to change the image of disabiltiy in the world? Do we cut the lines to appeal to contemporary sensibilities and always cast an able-bodied actor? Or can Richard III be played by an actor with a disability without causing the negative connections?

Just a thought I had.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Friday Five!

1. Time changes are the Devil's work. I have been so tired/nocturnal/lazy this week, it is insane. Having switched from Central to Eastern to Eastern Daylight time in three days just did not work out. Possibly because I simply do not understand why Northwest Florida is in Central time, or why we still have Daylight Savings Time or why the whole world doesn't have a noon-to-midnight awake cycle.

2. Is anyone else (besides Aunt Josephine in the Lemony Snicket books) afraid of realtors? I mean, not like run away from them on the street afraid, but genuinely intimidated? I am. I think it comes from the time I attempted to find a one-bedroom here (Oh naive, new to Boston me) and had a realtor at a way-out-of-my-price-range apartment ask if I "Wanted to make this my new home?" like I was planning to adopt a kid or something.

Yeah. Not a fan.

3. It's that time of year when my whole life is in flux. In March every year for the past three years, I've had no idea where I'd be living come May 15th. This is not a fun thing. It's also the time of applying for summer jobs, tentatively making plans to travel to camp and working really hard to live in the moment, because the future is scary yet sweet.

4. I think my headphones have called it quits. They're just at a year old, which seems to be the longest amount of time I can make nice things work. I use the heck out of them, but they don't show any physical damage so I'm not sure if it's in my head. Either way, I'll be saving up for a new pair of SkullCandy, because my last pair of those lasted a year and a half, until my parents' dogs got ahold of the cord.

5. Look, I am not the only one with these opinions:

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Gaze

Mild Spoilers for The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I am not Hazel Grace Lancaster. She has a certain gracefulness (ha) that I will never have. To illustrate this, I provide the following scene. Hazel is sitting on a bench at the mall when:

"[T]his little girl with baretted braids appeared in front of me and said, 'What's in your nose?' And I said, 'Um, it's called a cannula. These tubes give me oxygen and help me breathe.' Her mother swooped in and said, 'Jackie,' disapprovingly, but I said, 'No no, it's okay' because it totally was..." (46).

I've had my share of encounters with random children. They stare and point and ask their parents what's wrong with me. My mother always encouraged parents to tell their children to ask questions rather than stare, the way Jackie does in this passage.

I don't like that either. Maybe because I moved through my school days with little attention given to my differences by my classmates--and still do--the tendency of strangers to blatantly notice bothers me. In Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity sociologist Erving Goffman quotes a young woman who "suddenly realized that I had become so self-conscious and afraid of strange children that, like animals, they knew I was afraid and the mildest and most amiable of them were automatically prompted to derision by my own shrinking and dread" (17). 

I know this terror. I get it in line at airports. I refuse to go into Wal-Mart. And yet, often, children are staring at me because they like Henry my monkey hat, or my tendency to have pink in my hair. I have become tainted by the ones who ask their parents if I am a monster, who wonder aloud why my arms are like that or who--the one true memory I have of childhood teasing--whisper to a friend "she looks old" while I pass on my way to the cafeteria.

And why? Why can't I accept, as Hazel Grace does, that children are naturally curious? I have a tendency to let my gaze linger on other people with disabilities--trying to figure them out, offer solidarity--isn't this just as bad?

Unlike Hazel, I have no frame of reference to understand life as a child for whom disability isn't a daily thing. I don't understand not knowing that a person may not want to explain their wheelchair, cane, or cannula to you. My immediate thought is that it's not my job.

Until people with disabilities are not an unusual sight out in the world, though, it falls to me. I have to admit, it worries me that even if the day comes where people in wheelchairs do not have to explain themselves to any form of stranger, I still will. But the issues of being one of ten in the world are topics for another post.

I plan to work on it, using Hazel as my guide, but I may never get to the place where it's totally okay.

And maybe that's totally okay, too.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Wanderlove Winner!

The winner of a copy of Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard is:

Bonnie Regan


Email me at chelseyblair (at) gmail (dot) com with your address!

Also, the first ten people to email me with their addresses and the subject line WANDERLOVE will get a bookmark signed by Kirsten Hubbard! 

Wanderlove is out today! Also, YA Highway is doing a massive giveaway here!

Monday, March 12, 2012

An Open Letter to Ryan Murphy

Dear Mr. Murphy,

I wrote this some weeks back, but held off on sending it into the ether, because I hoped things would get better. 

They haven't. 

I have been a fan of Glee since it aired in 2009, but have always been seriously disappointed in the way the show treats its characters with disabilities. Your storylines dealing with everything from LGBT issues to virginity to teen pregnancy have never forsaken honesty for comedy. They have never relied on stereotype—in fact they’ve gone far in the opposite direction. Kurt Hummel is not a cardboard cutout and never has been.

Yet from his first appearance on the show, Artie has been the nerd in the wheelchair. His relationship with Brittney helped to alleviate this, as well as his directing storyline this season, but I don’t understand why it existed in the first place. I understand that there are teens in wheelchairs who dress as though their mothers dressed them, but this is a stereotype the world of disability has fought against for quite some time. Why couldn’t the boy with a disability have been the bad boy, for instance?

There is also the issue of Artie’s obsession with being able to walk. When asked where he thinks he’ll be in 2030, he says “walking,” and his imagining of storming out of Mr. Schu’s class automatically involves walking. Why is the show so desperate to draw attention to something that draws attention to itself by definition?

But my major problems don’t lie with Artie. While I did resent the fact that Kevin MacHale isn’t disabled, when you had the chance to do some truly world-changing casting by casting an actor with a disability, I understand. I also have come to terms with the filmic justifications for Safety Dance, as well as Brittney’s wish that Artie can walk—as if he’s not enough without it—but the character of Becky Jackson is the one who most bothers me.

Yes, often students with disabilities are the managers of their school sports teams, and this is considered inclusion. But on a TV show you have the chance to provide a larger-than-life example of inclusion. If Becky were a full-fledged cheerleader, like the young woman with dwarfism featured in the Glee film, think of the power this would give young girls with Down Syndrome. She might not be the most physically-able cheerleader, but she could be something more than Sue Sylvester’s lackey, one who was unjustifiably demeaned by being shunted into the role of a dog on the Christmas episode two years ago. I understand the comedic homage to The Grinch, but I had never seen such an offense for the sake of comedy in the show before or since.

Her brief attempt to date Artie this year could have been done well, had his reason for not wanting to date her explicitly been her Down Syndrome. If there had been a hint that this conclusion was a misunderstanding on her part, the episode might have been far more effective. Lest you think I completely disagree with her portrayal on the show, her role in The Spanish Teacher was wonderful. Kudos for that one.

The two young women with disabilities featured in the Glee Concert Movie were such wonderful examples of achievement and honesty. I hope to see this attitude portrayed on the show in future. I know Glee can handle tough stories with love and grace—I just it wasn’t reserved for every character except the ones with disabilities.

All the best,

Chelsey Blair 

PS. I hope some positive disability-related storylines will come out of Quinn's accident. But if not, I may be storming out, Artie-style. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Friday Five!

1. I have arrived back in Boston from spring break. For possibly the first time in my life, I am not more injured now than I was leaving my parents' house this morning.

I am the genius who forgot that it's still technically Spring Break even though I have returned to slave away on a paper/presentation, and thus the places that give me food are closed. Hence the Chinese food. I swear, every time I DECIDE to be good and go to the dining hall, the world conspires against me.

2. SO many books I want come out this week, and as per grad school, I am broke. My money goes toward getting books I need for class on my Kindle, but because I get all my "fun" books from the library, I say I don't spend money on books, so what's one or two I'm dying to own? Oops.

3. If you live in or around Boston, or know someone in Boston, or know someone's cousin in Boston--I need a roommate. The plan is to get out of this tiny tiny dorm room by May 15th. I'm looking to live in the Cambridge area, preferably betwixt Harvard and Central squares. Just, you know, putting it out there.

4. Other things are moving a head this week, writing-wise and school-wise. I feel like I might be on the right track with both, a rare feeling for me. Also, I'm interning for a lit agent, and I have realized that I do know how to do some things right, at least.. (If you know whom, please don't mention it in comments. Confidentiality things).

5.  I am wearing a t-shirt and jeans (a Buffy and the Scoobies t-shirt which rocks). I had this thought in the airport that right now this look says "student". How long will I be able to pull that off? When, if ever, will it say "slovenly"? I go through periods where I try to dress up for normal life, claiming it's more "adult", but I've really come to love expressing myself with my clothes in a casual way--t-shirt, jeans, maybe a plaid shirt and Chucks (I am a 90s throwback, I know). What does it say that we associate forms of dressing with age groups? And why even in my messy ponytail do I totally judge the snowbirds wearing Crocs?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Say No to the R-Word

Today is Spread the Word to End the Word. I posted about it last year, so I'm not going to repeat myself much, but for new followers:

Today is the day we take a stand against the word "retard," a slur that insults people who cannot always fight back. I see it frequently in YA fiction, used not to make a point about the way in which we are flawed human beings who sometimes use words without thinking about the, but because authors know teenagers use the word and want to sound "authentic."

This is more than not okay. It's lazy writing.

For more information about spread the word to end the word, and to sign the pledge letting everyone know you are aware that the r-word is not okay, please visit

To win a copy of Kirsten Hubbard's Wanderlove, comment on this post. Winners will be chosen next Tuesday.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Wanderlove Contest

My favorite book of 2011 comes out next week.

Are you a Global Vagabond?

No, but 18-year-old Bria Sandoval wants to be. In a quest for independence, her neglected art, and no-strings-attached hookups, she signs up for a guided tour of Central America—the wrong one. Middle-aged tourists with fanny packs are hardly the key to self-rediscovery. When Bria meets Rowan, devoted backpacker and dive instructor, and his outspokenly humanitarian sister Starling, she seizes the chance to ditch her group and join them off the beaten path.

Bria's a good girl trying to go bad. Rowan's a bad boy trying to stay good. As they travel across a panorama of Mayan villages, remote Belizean islands, and hostels plagued with jungle beasties, they discover what they've got in common: both seek to leave behind the old versions of themselves. And the secret to escaping the past, Rowan’s found, is to keep moving forward.

I read Kirsten Hubbard's Wanderlove as an ARC through NetGalley and fell in love. I can pretty much guarantee you will too, if not for the gorgeous South American setting, than for Bria, who is one of the most interesting, realistic YA characters I have seen in a long time.

To celebrate it's official release, I'm giving away several bookmarks and a copy of the book. Winners will be chosen from comments, so tell me about your favorite off-the-beaten- track places below to win!

After you've entered, check out Kirsten Hubbard's tumblr where she's showcasing other reader's favorite places (including mine!) as well as beautiful locale from Wanderlove!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Friday Five!

1. I'm home for spring break and there are things I should be doing that aren't surfing Craigslist and blogging. Guess what I'm doing?

2. I sent out my first query for the next project today. It's kind of nerve-wracking to start this all over again so soon, but I'm moderately confident about it. Not cocky like last time, but confident.

3. I had this thought yesterday at the eye doctor that if I ever lost the ability to wear contacts or glasses *shudder* I'd be sitting somewhere tapping novels away on my iPhone. It's a strange image, but it's totally true. My phone and my Kindle are the only things I can see without adaptive devices, so that'd be my solution. At least they exist to give me that reassurance.

4. I'm working on applications for various writing awards and grants. It's strange to think of people you don't know judging your writing in that way, against hundreds of others. Why it's stranger than the same thing happening at the agent level, I'm not sure, but I'm always warier about these things. (Warier is a strange word)

5. Current video obsession: