Academy Activities. Cultural Studies. Anne Finger discusses the tropes of disability in the Third Reich. Twitter Facebook Vimeo Youtube. All Rights Reserved. Patenting the Sun: Polio and the Salk Vaccine. Syll, Monita Imbert. Victors All. Wikholm, Marion S. Bitter or Better, It's Up to You. Masterpiece Productions: Metairie, LA.
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Book Review: Elegy for a Disease: A Personal and Cultural History of Polio
McLaughlin, Ann L. Lightning in July. O'Brien, Patricia I. ISSN Contact info post-polio. Smith, Diane Rice. My Two Cents Worth collection of poems. Self-published: IL. Swan, Frances Mueller. Once Upon a Rhyme collection of poems. Self-published: USA. Tate, Hermine. Self-published: Layfayette, LA.
Zola, Irving Kenneth. Banister, Betty. Chaput, Richard. All I Can Give. Bottom High to the Crowd. Walker and Co. Marx, Joseph Laurance. Sandness, Grace Layton. Brimming Over. Sayers, William F. Don't Die on My Shift. Strauss, Elaine M. Self-published: New Rochelle, NY. Tarnowski, Arthur. The Unbeaten Track. Harvill Press: London, England. Horizontal Man. Longmans: London, England. Cappaert, Lael. And God Said No. Not to Doubt.
Pageant Press, Inc. Higgins, Elizabeth Twistington. AR Mowbray and Co.
Elegy for a disease : a personal and cultural history of polio
Holdsworth, Irene. Polio Is Not for Pity. Kingery, Kenneth. As I Live and Breathe. Marshall, Peter. The Raging Moon. Hutchinson and Co. Two Lives. Robinson, Luther. We Made Peace with Polio. Broadman: Nashville, TN. Schwab, Charles J. Man in a Wheelchair. Winter, Roger with Kenneth F. Point After Touchdown.
Warner Press: Anderson, IN. Hawkins, Leonard C. LeComte, Edward. Beacon Hill: Boston, MA. Walker, Turnley. Journey Together. David McKay Co.
Rise Up and Walk. EP Dutton and Co.
About Acute Polio. PHI's mission is supported by its Membership. May Membership renewal notices are in the mail. AF: Yes, and very specifically there, I'm thinking about a lot of the loneliness that people experienced. The lack of connection, and the isolation that people feel, and the lack of a sense of community, and the way that freedom can sometimes feel like more isolation, more being cut off, creating so many choices that you end up alone.
JL: The end of "Abortion" goes through the metafictional analysis that will become one of the glories of Call Me Ahab. It talks about the drama of the story, explains how real-life events were altered to turn it into a work of fiction, and ends with "a slogan, an image, a moral: and with a plea to reimagine our language, to tell and tell our stories again, until we have words to echo our lives. I keep hearing that in connection with what Occupy and other radicals today are trying to do. Can it be done? Can new narratives reach people?
AF: Oh absolutely. I just think we always have to be off-balance. We always have to realize that whatever story we tell, it's never going to be the final story. Until the end of the human race, which I guess will be the final story, but only by happenstance. I think of it in terms of disability studies, that whatever point we come to, we're never going to come to a final understanding, we're never going to come to a final resting point, we're always going to be needing to see that, whatever we've created, it's silenced some people, it's excluded some things.
And to just constantly be aware of that exclusion. And I think the same thing in terms of finding that language to speak. It's always going to be partial, there's always going to be a kind of yearning at the edges, a sense that we haven't fully articulated things. I've been involved in an online forum where somebody was discussing a book and used the term "mental illness," and somebody else fired back, "You know, this is a really offensive term, and people in the mad pride movement or the psych survivor movement don't like this terminology" ;and there's been a very interesting conversation about terminology.
The idea that we're going to come up with the perfect term — I understand why people can have a very strong reaction to the term "mental illness," and the dangers of it; and I understand that maybe at times it makes rhetorical sense to deploy that, and that we always have to be aware and we always have to be negotiating those things. JL: We need words for things, and the dream of a pure language isn't going to happen; and so we'll always have our scare quotes and brackets and strikethroughs and footnotes and the like. JL: There's a story in Basic Skills called "A Tragedy" — originally published as "Our Tragedy" — which has the line, "We were no short-haired, thin-lipped Maoists out to offer ourselves up as the vanguard to Providence's working class.
AF: And I have mixed feelings about that. Because any revolutionary change has to come about by being really unreasonable. It has to come about by people being driven. It has to come about by people being grandiose. And at the same time that grandiosity and that unreasonableness has to be tempered. And the work of tempering that has to happen within movements. And it's hard to live with. JL: There's some lines about "internalized oppression" in "A Tragedy" — and that becomes, under different names, a lovely theme in your later work. AF: I so remember that period of my life where there was no way for me to talk about my disability.
There was just no common language, no sense of shared experience, and that utter isolation and void in my life, in terms of language. I really did have a nascent disability consciousness. But I did not have any words and I didn't have any shared experience. And I had so much shame about other disabled people. So much sense of "I am not like them. And we shared this experience where we used to cross the street if there was another disabled person walking on the same side of the street as us.
Because I didn't want people to think that we were on an outing from an institution. And I would literally cross the street not to be identified with them. JL: And now there's not only disability community, there's integration between disabled and nondisabled youngsters such that many people aren't growing up with that kind of aversion. The title story, "Basic Skills," that appeared in Thirteenth Moon in …. AF: I find that story a little bit embarrassing now. You know, the "retarded" language.
And they were basically aides. I think they made a hundred dollars a week, doing an extraordinarily difficult job. I wrote that story 'cause when I was at Stanford in the writing program, somebody else had written a story that had a, what was then called a mentally retarded character in it. And I found it such a sappy but at the same time dehumanizing presentation that I wrote this story that was really about my housemate's mother and Thanksgiving dinner. Because I wanted to make things more real and more explicit and more difficult.
Bone Truth – Coffee House Press
And I didn't want to have this kind of like, "Oh, here's this retarded person, and they're kind of saintly and inspirational. It's like, I have many people in my life who talk about death as passing , and death as transition , and I want to shout, "No. It's dying. It's a really physical process. And this idea that our soul is kind of wafting off, it's not what's happening. JL: There's the line, "Independence is one of her big ideals," about the mother in "Basic Skills," and the idea of independence and toughness and autonomy threads through all your books. And independence is a disability ideal, inasmuch as it's independence from paternalism: Independent Living Centers.
But it's also used to justify voluntarism and to deny interdependence. AF: As with anything, I think that's a concept that we need to be enormously critical of. But certainly as a kid growing up, independence was such a value in my family, and for me as a disabled person — I got one of my Mom's diaries for the years when I must have been five or six, and my mother is just writing dates and things that happened on them, and there's some saying, "Anne swam with the flutterboard, all by herself!
Anne swims! And there was no such thing as a wheelchair-accessible school, or a wheelchair-accessible this or that, and so there was also a very concrete material reason for that push for independence. But the whole normalization movement was at the time an advance. It really was an attempt to work with people who were severely institutionalized, as I think of it, and think: How can we move beyond a custodial model, How can we work with people to maximize their community participation.
JL: In Past Due , you present the post-polio conference in Berkeley as an early consciousness-raising stage. AF: I was talking earlier about crossing the street so I wouldn't be on the same side of the street as a disabled person. It was a wonderful thing for me to go into a room full of disabled people, and just say to myself: What do you know, you didn't die. And not only did you not die, but these were interesting people to talk to! I'm part of a community. To discover that community was a really wonderful thing for me.
JL: I love the line, "The world tells me to divorce myself from my flesh. But in some of the feminist and even the gay liberationist opposition to somatophobia, that "Let's embrace our bodies" does not recognize disability. AF: No, it often becomes "Let's embrace what we can do, let's go hiking. And also it doesn't acknowledge the very real pain that's happened to a lot of people around being desexualized, around not being looked at. When I read a lot of the formative texts of the feminist movement, they're very much from the point of view of young, middle-class, able-bodied people.
They talk about wanting not to be sex objects. Well, you know, a lot of women don't experience being sex objects, whether it's because of disability, or because of age …. JL: After a fight with the editor over whether it would hurt the pro-choice movement? AF: Yeah, because of some of the questioning: the belief that if you said anything questioning any rationale for abortions, you would be feeding into the Right-to-Life movement. JL: When you said there that the civil rights struggle for disabled people had been going on since the midth century, what were you referring to?
One was Sleeper v. Sandown , which went to the New Hampshire Supreme Court in It concerned a blind man who lived and worked in New Hampshire and was used to crossing a bridge and using the railing, and the railing had broken and he fell into the river. And the court said yes, he had a right to travel and the municipality was at fault for not maintaining the bridge, and causing this accident. So when you start to look for the history of disability rights, you start to find it in all kinds of strange and unexpected places. And I think a lot of what Helen Keller did was early disability rights.
Obviously there's a lot that's strange and conflicted there. But there's a lot she does that I think is very very progressive. And I don't think the article I wrote way back when is a great work of historiography, but I did want to say, There's a history here. Because so much of disability, especially then, seemed completely dehistoricized. That sense that "It has always been like this. I'm very interested in these kind of little set moments that happen. One thing I often get told is, "You know, the Ancient Greeks exposed disabled children. I don't know what people are saying, when they say that.
I think they're often saying, You're lucky: you should consider yourself fortunate. Because if your mother had been Jocasta, you'd be left on that hill to die! But I also think it's saying, This has never changed and never will change: disability oppression has been across the ages, and I really wanted to say, No. It's historical.