Anchor Staff Writer
Those who have been clinically diagnosed with either a physical disorder, such as fibromyalgia, or mental disorders, such ASD or Autism Spectrum Disorder, are in many respects just as strong, empathetic, capable, creative, perseverant, loyal and overall incredible as anyone who does not struggle daily with the same problems. As someone who has been diagnosed with ASD, I will say there is a part of myself that resents a society that constantly looks down on me for being “different” and assumes that I can’t handle certain tasks as well as the average person. “Sitting Pretty" by Rebekah Taussig is a book that speaks to that side of myself, that gives a voice to the concerns and thoughts of a growing underrepresented part of communities worldwide.
Taussig was paralyzed and diagnosed with cancer from an early age. Since then, she went on to earn a Ph.D. in creative nonfiction and disability studies from the University of Kansas. Taussig has played a crucial role in helping people understand what it is like to live with a physical disability. Hm … now that I think about it, let's address that word right there and the main problem I am now seeing with it, that word being “disability”.
While its accurate terminology wise, I think the problem with the word “disability” is that it implies that the person with that condition needs to be put into a group separate from the rest of society simply because they don’t have the same bodies or, as in my case, minds. Worth mentioning is that some things that people may classify incorrectly as “disabilities” are actually disorders, as is the case with ASD. This unfortunately tells people who have been clinically diagnosed with these conditions that they don’t “fit in” because they seemingly aren’t as capable. It doesn’t matter if these consequences are unintentional on the part of those who fuel these misconceptions, because they happen regardless.
All of that is to say that Taussig, with her sharply witty and blisteringly caustic rhetoric, fights back against all of these misconceptions every single time she pens another line of this absolutely brilliant memoir. She proves single handedly that a person that has been unfairly deemed “disabled” or “different” can push through the challenges posed to them with just as much grit and effort as those who are sometimes referred to as “abled” or “normal”, if not more so. Those with that label have to fight until society learns to fully accommodate and accept them for who they are. Now, I should clarify here before I go any further that just as it is wrong to group all people with disabilities into one category, it is equally inaccurate to say that every person that has not been diagnosed has been far from supportive. I have met plenty of people in my life who don’t have ASD or aren’t physically afflicted and yet have been incredibly supportive, helpful and understanding and I can’t thank them enough for that. However, I do think that Taussig has a point that there are still wider societal problems when it comes to how disabilities and disorders are perceived that need to be confronted head-on.
Taussig addresses these problems with an admirable bluntness instead of repeatedly dancing around them. She makes it perfectly clear that people like her deserve proper respect as human beings who are capable of some astounding feats. We deserve our place in society and we are not gonna stop pushing until we earn that recognition. Everyone is equal in the end, no matter how much their bodies and/or minds aren't considered the norm. Screw the “norm.” This idea of the “norm” is what landed us in this mess in the first place.
Pick up “Sitting Pretty” today as Taussig explains these concepts better than I ever could. Be ready for her to shake up your world.