I'm a little bit obsessed with some of the observations in Simi Linton's disability studies book Claiming Disability, and was very eager to get into her memoir. Linton is a disability rights advocate who has been a wheelchair-user since she was paralyzed in the seventies. I honestly expected to have a little bit of difficulty empathizing with parts of her story, because she had a "normal" body before she was disabled. However, so many of her words resonated with me and my own journey, potentially because she became disabled in her mid-twenties, the age I am now, and faced similar issues of identity.
She claims her disability in a way I'm not sure I've learned to do yet. She disgardes the people-first language I've been trained to adapt, preferring not to shunt disability to the side. She writes of leaning to own being a "disabled woman" in a time when curb-cuts weren't standard. Some of her experiences were incredibly familiar, like when she first went into the Center for Independent Living office in the 1970s. "CIL isn't a place, it's a universe. Entering the door that summer in 1975 I discovered a disability underground." I felt the same way walking into the Boston CIL offices forty-odd years later. Like I'd found a place where I could be reminded that disability didn't make me a patient. It made me a person.
Sometimes it's hard to remember that the disabled life can be as enriching as it is challenging--and as challenging as it is enriching--and Linton's memoir does that. It's an importnat book, I think, to remind disabled people that we're not alone and to remind able-bodied people that disabled people are complex people. The disability community is widespread, sometimes too widespread, and it's in places like the CIL, and Simi Linton's book, that I can remember how many other people are out there encountering the world in ways similar to the way I do.
Here's the trailer for the upcoming documentary based on the memoir: