As they always say, third time's the charm, right?!
When I decided to write this review, it was shortly before my second time reading this book. And I have to say, maybe I just read it too quickly the first time. I couldn't get into it. A sporadic mix of stories about a woman's life who is neither of my locale nor my generation. The end made me smile at times, but as a journalist, none of the narrative made sense. It wasn't chronological. Maybe that was my problem. But that was the point.
Harilyn Rousso's memoir, Don't Call Me Inspirational: A Disabled Feminist Talks Back, is not full of the funny, relatable stories of not being able to put pants on, or of kids laughing at you, it is more philosophical and introspective than that. I only started to realize what each of these vignettes the other people of the story when I reread it for the third time starting last week.
I think what struck me is that this is a book about a person who largely was not comfortable with herself. Why would you write a book intended to relate to other people when you as a person were having a hard time figuring this out? Well, as I said, that is part of the mystery of this book when you read it again.
The second time around, I read it as a disability studies analysis, and the distinct parts began to emerge. The chapter about looking at yourself walking in the mirror. The one about painting your "bad" hand for the first time. I began to see the empowerment from these seemingly negative perceptions of oneself.
Last week, when I read this book for the third time, I realized that the relatability only comes from having experienced a routine that has been completely disheveled or fallen apart. You have to have this experience of chaos before you find the organization in this book to be relevant at all. Looking back on how positive my view of my formative experiences of myself is compared to an older generation's fear of difference makes me realize how fortunate I am, but someone else had to fall apart first.
For all the seeming chaos in this book, I don't want to say that it is not relevant because it is clear that this format is entirely on purpose. And for all the self-doubt that Rousso expresses in these pages, I cannot say that this book is negative, although it may seem that way on first read. From the great fortune I had of meeting her a couple years ago, I can say that she is a lovely woman, very engaging to talk to. not wanting to be motivational, or dare I say-- the I word -- she is very much real, and speaks with a purpose. And in all those awkward movements and strained muscle features with which she finds fault, I see someone else. I see me, here in all my spastic glory. And behind those loud and breathy sentences, I have something to say. And so does she.
I can't wait to see how my thoughts on this book evolve throughout the next phase of my life. Definitely recommended and a great addition to any disability studies library!