Review of TO SIRI WITH LOVE by Judith Newman

I borrowed a copy of To Siri With Love from a friend, so I could read it and opine on the controversy without financially supporting an author I’d heard was problematic. However, Amazon is now not allowing reviews by people who don’t have a “verified purchase” through Amazon. I currently live on only a few hundred dollars per month (on most months), but I purchased a copy just so I could leave a review on Amazon. I’m autistic, you see, and I think it is so important that autistic people endeavor to make themselves heard on the issues raised in this book.

Autistic voices are almost always overlooked, silenced, and dismissed. It’s a phenomenon embodied in this book, and in Amazon’s policing of its reviews in this case.

To Siri With Love had a deep impact on me. I was able to identify, not with the supposedly heartwarming and hilarious struggles of a mother trying to come to terms with a son who doesn’t live up to her standards, but with the struggles of an autistic child who is ignored, harassed, abused, and condescended to by a mother who cannot see what a wonderful person he is.

Gus is now 16 years old, and his mother still hasn’t—will obviously never—come to terms with the fact he’s autistic. Instead, Ms. Newman seeks to make her son into something he’s not. No matter how hard she tries, however, she can’t force him to be normal. Oh, woe is her.

There are parts of this book that were almost heartwarming. The author, time and time again, seemed as if she were just about to realize the errors of her ways, and accept her son for the amazing individual that he is.

Then she would ruin it by saying or doing something that made me want to curl up and cease to exist, because of how often I’ve had similar opinions and actions directed at me, and how badly they hurt.

It really sucks that a book that’s basically making fun of you—and everyone like you—for hundreds of pages can make it to a NYT Bestsellers’ List. And if I feel like that, I’d hate to know how Gus feels. Ms. Newman didn’t let Gus read the book, but I’m certain he understands her attitudes toward him more than she realizes.

I was born before autism was a diagnosis. I’m not certain when I first realized that I was different, though most of my childhood memories of interacting with others are marked by bullying, abuse and harassment. People constantly made fun of, tried to correct, or were angry at me for my behavior.

Any change in my daily routine or plans would spark a meltdown—an uncontrollable episode of anger and fear—which earned me mockery and rage from my parents. My peers sneered at my suggestions we write a dictionary of a made-up language, or compile a catalogue the local plants. They ridiculed my age-inappropriate toys. They wanted to play boring games like house, or tag, but when I tried to join in, I’d get all the rules wrong, and end up rejected, curled in the grass in a fetal position, sobbing.

It was decades before I figured out what I was doing incorrectly: nothing. I was just being autistic, in an allistic (non-autistic) world.

Those who rejected me never learned that lesson. They still haven’t. Allistic people can’t see that there’s nothing wrong with being autistic, or with autistic behavior.

I do understand that autistic people can be embarrassing or difficult to deal with, but 9 times out of 10, this would change if the allistic person would simply change their attitude and adherence to pointless ideals, and stop trying to get us to conform when our brains and bodies simply can’t.

To Siri With Love relates all these same experiences I had as a child, but not from the point of view of the child. Instead, it’s told from the standpoint of a mother who is fed up with her boring, weird, and difficult son.

Ms. Newman repeats over and over that she loves Gus. One gets the impression she’s trying to convince herself, or simply that she thinks stating it will make up for the fact that she doesn’t really love him that much (like those who prelude their racist statements and actions with “I’m not racist but…). Every time she states she loves her son, she follows it up with an anecdote that makes me want to weep, because of how clearly it demonstrates her contempt and dislike for Gus. Ms. Newman throws away her son’s toys—in which he obviously takes great comfort and joy—because she thinks a boy his age shouldn’t play with them anymore. She thinks the fact he enjoys Sesame Street is “alarming and frustrating”.

She steals and reads his phone when he’s texting with his friends because, in her words, “this is not a child who will ever have real friends,” and she’s just trying to protect him from people who are trying to use and hurt him (not seeing the irony). Her idea of friendship appears to be “people you go everywhere with”, “people who tease you” and “people you have healthy competitiveness with”. That makes sense, given the way she treats the son she supposedly loves: making fun of him and constantly comparing him to other mothers’ neurotypical sons.

She says all these things, even though she paints a picture of a son who is unerringly kind, genuinely likes people, and can discern when someone is being unkind.

Except, perhaps, when that person is his own mother. He doesn’t know any different, like a lot of abused kids.

Ms. Newman chuckles over her belief that Gus will never have a good career, or any sort of life at all, even though he already worked (as a child!) successfully as a doorman in their building—a job that was ultimately ended by ableism, not any fault of his own.

Ms. Newman rolls her eyes repeatedly throughout the book and states outright that her son is “boring”, because he likes to talk about ambulances, escalators, and trains. I can understand that you might find a hour-long monologue about trains boring, Ms. Newman. Autistic people often feel the same way about small talk, or endless discussions of pop culture, sports, and the best recipes for vegetable chips (unless one of those is a special interest). Please accept that you are every bit as boring as we are, sometimes.

And then there’s the outright eugenicist bent of this book.

Ms. Newman hates her son’s autism so much that she’s stated she plans on getting medical power of attorney so that she can have him forcibly sterilized. Ms. Newman, here is the answer to the question you posed in the pages: you cannot even consider sterilizing your son without sounding like an eugenicist, without being one. Yes, many eugenicists are supposedly “well-meaning” people…just like you.

I want everyone reading this book to be very clear in their mind that this is what eugenics looks like. Ms. Newman and her supporters try to justify themselves by saying someone like Gus would never be a good father. This is demonstrably not true; please speak to the autistic community, and to ME personally. I’m a mother, and my former partner—a man so much like Gus I cried through parts of this book— was also a loving and amazing companion to my daughter.  You and your supporters say, “wouldn’t sterilizing him be better than an unwanted pregnancy?” If so, all children should be sterilized, because allistic people have more unwanted pregnancies than autistics.

Eugenicists always have justifications for their behavior, and Ms. Newman is no different. Let’s call a duck a duck, please. There’s no excuse for eugenics.

In her mind, Ms. Newman is only trying to protect her son from hurt with her repressive, shaming, and controlling behavior. However, autistic people know from experience that parents like these can be the biggest source of hurt in a child’s life.

As an autistic person, I’ve never understood why it is so important to allistic people that I act like them. If I want to play with my toys in public, or sing a song about my grocery list as I wheel my cart down the aisle, it is clearly not hurting them. In my mind, I’m expressing joy in being alive, or at the simple act of grocery shopping (as well as trying to remember my list, since I always forget something). However, I’ve been tailed by store personnel for this “suspicious” behavior.

I am a human being. I crave attention, love, and acceptance the same way anyone does. I have crushed so many of my loves, hopes, dreams and joys in an attempt to fit in.

After forty years, I can safely say it doesn’t work. I still don’t fit in.

So here is my advice to you, Ms. Newman: love the amazing son you have, not the allistic one you’ve spent 16 years mourning.

I’ll end this review with a couple quotes from the book:

Does he even understand that most people are not entranced by escalators? That he doesn’t see the world the way most others do? I’ve tried to approach the question a few times—“Do you know you are autistic?”—and he always acts like he doesn’t hear me. I want to understand what he’s thinking. Is he thinking? I keep trying.

Your son is thinking, Ms. Newman. He’s trying and trying to get through to you, to make you happy, to be good enough in your eyes. It’s tragic that he will obviously never succeed.

Do you know you are allistic, Ms. Newman? That not everyone is entranced by a tome vividly detailing emotional abuse? The autistic community is trying to tell you this, but you seem unwilling, or unable, to learn.

And another:

Through pain there is growth. I think about this all the time. Do I want my son to feel self-conscious and embarrassed? I do. Yes. Gus does not yet have self-awareness, and embarrassment is part of self-awareness. It is an acknowledgment that you live in a world where people may think differently than you do. Shame humbles and shame teaches.

Your son has self-awareness, Ms. Newman. I’m wondering if you do.

I don’t want you to feel self-conscious and embarrassed, because I don’t wish pain upon anyone. But I do want you to acknowledge that your son thinks differently than you…and that that’s okay. You don’t need to change that.

I want you to have the self-awareness to acknowledge that you are hurting your son—and all autists—deeply with your attitudes, and this book.

Just because you don’t understand autistics, doesn’t mean we don’t think. Just because we bore you, doesn’t mean we’re not intelligent or interesting. Just because you imagine a Benny Hill soundtrack to our lovemaking, doesn’t mean others won’t want to make love to us.

Just because you don’t see our value doesn’t mean we deserve to be sterilized, or worse.

You don’t need to shame and humble us out of our autism. Just let us be.

To the world, from all autistic people: please, for the love of God, just let us be.

Elizabeth is an author whose neurodiverse characters show a lot of agency, and have active inner lives. You can find her on Amazon.

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TO SIRI WITH LOVE: The Oppression of Neurodivergent and Marginalized Points of View

A book has just been published, entitled To Siri, With Love. The author is Judith Newman—a person we in the neurodivergent community call an “autism mommy”: that is, the non-autistic mother of an autistic child.To Siri

Ms. Newman is a great example of how neruodivergent points of view are commonly discounted, ignored, and subverted. Since neurodivergent people, by definition, think and see the world differently than the mainstream, we’re misunderstood. It’s like we’re speaking a different language, or like we come from a culture where all the gestures are different. Like, when I was in Nicaragua, and the “come hither” gesture looked to me like waving hello. Until I learned, every time someone told me to “come here”, I waved back…I wasn’t being nonsensical or thoughtless, I just had a different way of communicating.

This is how neurodivergent people feel, day in and day out. Since we don’t do or say the things people expect us to, they think we’re nonsensical, delusional, or thoughtless. This can lead our imprisonment, abuse, you name it. Because people don’t understand us, they think we’re dangerous, or unintelligent, or that our brains are “dead”. They think our lives aren’t worth living, and they treat us accordingly.

The author of To Siri, With Love is a perfect example of this mindset. Ms. Newman has stated that she doesn’t believe her son is capable of independent thought, or understanding others’ feelings. She publicly mocked his sexuality, telling the world what kind of porn he likes, and indicating she found the idea of him ever attempting sex to be silly and grotesque. This mother has stated outright, with impunity, that she doesn’t believe any girl[sic] will ever be interested in someone like him, and is planning to get a medical power of attorney so she can have him forcibly sterilized when he turns eighteen—because, in her words, “he can never be a real father.”

It probably comes as no surprise that the autism community is really scared, hurt and angry that this book has been published. It’s my understanding that the author has received death threats. I don’t agree with this, but that’s a view of how deeply the community is rattled. (If you want to see the quotes from the books and interviews, and community responses, check out the #BoycottToSiri hashtag on Twitter. Here is the thread of an activist who was included (and made fun of) in the book, without her permission, and here is my friend Kaelan Rhywol, live-tweeting her review of the book.

Full disclosure: I haven’t read this book yet. = I plan to, when I can get it at the library (I don’t want the author to have any of my money, or for her rankings to increase). [UPDATE: I’ve started reading it. Here’s my ongoing thread of tweets. I’ll be doing a full review when I’m done.] I feel the need to read it—even though chances are I’ll hate it—not only because her son sounds wonderful and I want to read about him, but because I want review the book, and I don’t review books I haven’t read. Rarely, I’ll review books I can’t finish, to be clear, but I never base a review on someone else’s opinion. They’ve already left that opinion, and if I can’t offer something new, there’s no point in saying anything.

However, in the case of this particular book, I wanted to review and speak out against its whole concept, and to things the author and her supporters have said and done, before I even deal with the particularities of the book. I think it’s important for me (and every other autistic person who can, and wants to) to make our voices heard on matters like these. Because allowing nothing about us without us is the only way neurodivergent people will ever gain their civil rights in this society. We need to show the world that we are thinking, feeling, intelligent individuals…because people literally think we aren’t, and that we shouldn’t have control over our own lives or narratives. Judith Newman is one of those people, and her viewpoint is popular enough that Harper Collins gave her a platform.

So, it’s time for me to dust of the old blogging fingers and write about one of my areas of expertise: points of view.

For those of you new to this blog, I’m a neurodivergent person. That means, my brain function is different than an average person’s. I am bipolar, autistic, and have PTSD. It’s caused me a lot of trouble and anguish in life, but it’s also pretty cool in other ways.

The first time I learned about point of view was when I had my first psychotic break, when I was about 14. I was wandering down the street screaming that I’d been poisoned and that I needed help. I wandered into a stranger’s house. They called the police.

Technically, I was breaking and entering (I didn’t actually break anything, I don’t believe, but still). Luckily, I wasn’t charged with it, because of the kindness of the police officer. But, from their point of view, I was a dangerous person.

I wasn’t dangerous. I was scared, and very upset.

Whose point of view was correct?

I can’t blame those people for being scared. They had no idea what was going on. However, if they’d been more knowledgeable about neurodivergence, they might not have been scared. They might have been able to offer me kindness and compassion, get me calmed down, and get me the help I needed. It would have been a less horrifying experience for all of us.

I still experience these divergence of points of view almost every day, even when I’m not in a psychotic break. For instance, I’ve been having a lot of problems with people shooting their guns on and near our property—hunting coyotes for the most part. This is a pretty heavily-populated area, all private property and it’s not legal to hunt here. The hunters’ bullets go astray, hit our outbuildings, scare the fuck out of my dog, my kid, and me. I went to my local Facebook group and posted a story of a woman in Wisconsin or somewhere who had been killed by just such an illegal hunter, and asked that people be more responsible with their guns.

Of course, cue a bunch of hunters to get pissed and tell me not to knock hunting.

When they said that, I freaked. The fuck. Out. They were basically saying it was okay to shoot at my house. I tried to reiterate the fact that it was illegal and wrong to hunt on my private property, or on other private property marked “NO HUNTING”, and have their bullets go astray and endanger my family and animals, but mostly I just called people idiots and pieces of shit.

I felt very threatened, is why.

I got banned, of course.

When I calmed down, I was able to see their point of view. They for the most part weren’t being directly threatening, they’d just—for no particular reason—thought I was bashing ALL hunters. And I had—wrongly, except for in the case of one commenter—felt like they were personally threatening me. Since I’m neurodivergent, (I have PTSD, and have had guns pulled on me, have been personally threatened with them), the way I felt and expressed my fear and anger was socially unacceptable. I’m working on it, but it’s difficult to control my reactions sometimes.

But, even if how I expressed myself was “wrong”, my fear and anger were understandable, right? All I wanted was for people not to shoot at my house, and for this, people called me “ignorant”. They said “People probably just don’t like you, libtard. That’s why they’re shooting at your house.”

Understandable or not, since I’m the neurodivergent one, I was immediately seen as the one being threatening. I was in the wrong, by mainstream standards.

The difference is, afterward, I can see where I went wrong. Those neurotypical people, in my experience, never will. I’m forced to live in their idea of mainstream reality, so I’m forced to constantly second-guess my point of view. They’re never forced to.

That’s neurotypical privilege: the privilege of living in mainstream reality, so to speak, and the ability to communicate one’s thoughts and feelings in mainstream ways.

The privilege of being, and feeling, “right”.

I see this type of divergence of point of view play out every day, in all aspects of life. Two completely different viewpoints, and each is completely unable to see the other’s. This happens between neurotypical folks, too, but it’s particularly bad for neurodivergent people, because—by nature—we think differently, and neurotypical people think our brains are wrong and defective.

Can you imagine what it would be like if people thought your brain was wrong and defective? If they immediately dismissed everything you said, always misinterpreted you, and misunderstood you to the point of becoming angry or even violent, when you had no idea what you were doing wrong? Can you imagine if your own mother was like that?

This is how Judith Newman treats her son Gus. It’s the treatment she describes in the book.

I believe it, because this is what it is like for neurodivergent people, every day.

That guy ranting on the street corner (or the girl wandering down the street, screaming about spirits and poison, or the woman freaking out and calling you an idiot on Facebook)—in our own mind, we make sense, just as much as you make sense to yourself. If you got to know us fully, we’d make sense even to you.

We are sentient beings, and have fully-formed minds, just like you.

But hardly anyone wants to get to know “people like that”—people like me, or like Gus—because they think we’re dangerous, or at the very least, pathetic and annoying.

The woman who wrote To Siri, With Love, states throughout the book how annoying and nonsensical her son is—she’s being lauded by neurotypical culture for her “honesty”.

The autistic community, however, isn’t. We’re crying out to her that her son isn’t thoughtless or unlovable; that we’re like him; that often our mothers also thought we were incapable of love or thought, but here we are: thinking, functioning, feeling human beings, some of us with careers and families, all of us with loves and interests and inner lives.

But the author and her supporters are incapable of seeing that point of view. The author sees the outcry in the autistic community as bullying. She can only see her own hurt feelings, and can’t see that she has hurt the feelings of thousands of others…including her own son (whom she states in the book did not give his permission to be used in this way, or have his private life mocked and outed. The mother states that she didn’t think he was capable of consent).

Everyone who is reading this: I hope you will recognize that her point of view is wrong, even though it is currently the mainstream one.

It is time to change your way of thinking about neurodivergent people. It is time for our point of view to come into its own.

Elizabeth Roderick is an author and freelance editor. She thinks trains are pretty cool, and wouldn’t mind if one played percussion in her band. You can find her on Amazon, and on TalesFromPurgatory.com

Left Wing Survivalists Episode 2: Apple Butter & Suicide

For #worldmentalhealthday I thought I’d do a podcast. This has advice on how to dry plums, make apple butter, glean fruit & vegetables…and also a discussion of suicide. *shrugs* Here you go.

Disability: Crutch, Scapegoat, and Shield

CW: Ableism, racism, Nazis, and centering of disabled voices.

 

Notice I gave a content warning for centering of disabled voices. I’m not doing this to be cheeky. Abled people think they not only have the right, but the obligation to center themselves in the disabled narrative. After all, disabled people are weak, feeble, befuddled and delusional; the disabled narrative is obviously too heavy for us to carry, too complex for us to understand. We’re no doubt extremely grateful that abled people can take over that burden for us.

After all, abled people are the experts in our narrative: they have a degree, or a disabled family member, or they’ve so angelically dedicated their lives to “helping us.”

When disabled people try to stand up and say, “Well, actually, you’ve got it wrong,” abled people get absolutely irate. They call us names, shout us down, then block us on Twitter and go around subtweeting about what problematic assholes we are for not getting the disabled narrative “right”.

Part of the problem here is that the disability narrative doesn’t get much press. Disabled people are trying really hard to get our seat at the table, but the table isn’t accessible. So those “experts” have so kindly decided they’ll be martyrs for our cause and sit in for us.

Consequently, even those who consider themselves on the forefront of the social justice movement don’t know what “neurodiversity” or “ableism” or “neurotypical privilege” are; they still insist on person-first language, and use phrases like “wheelchair-bound”, because they’re listening to the “experts” and not to disabled people themselves.

Another problem is the complexity of the disability narrative itself. “Disabled” is a wide swath of identity including both physical and mental disabilities. Most of us who consider ourselves disabled become a little lax in educating ourselves about disability. We think we know it all already, so when another disabled person says something we don’t understand, we tend to lash out.

Disabled people of all kinds are tired of this shit. I, personally, am completely done with it. So, I’ve given you your content warning. If you can’t handle disabled voices being centered without flipping out and being ableist, please go elsewhere on the internet where we can’t distress one another.

Thank you. Moving on.

Disabled people are the receptacle for a huge amount of bullshit. Abled people use us as crutches, scapegoats, and shields.

I’m not just talking about abled people on the right. The left is just as guilty.

Let’s start with how disabled people are used as crutches. The irony of this metaphor—an abled person using a disabled person as a crutch—is intentional. Yes, it’s is exactly that painful, awkward, and incapacitating…for us, the “crutches”.

So. If we’re thoughtful people, we know white people are to blame for electing Trump (and other leaders of his ilk around the white world). What most of us don’t realize is that we white folk used disabled people as a crutch to help get him elected.

Most disabled people wouldn’t vote for someone like Trump. After all, we know the violence behind the “personal responsibility” narrative. People have been trying to get us to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps since the dawn of time, and all that’s happened is we’ve ended up on our asses in the dirt, with abled people shaking their heads and blaming us for not trying hard enough.

Disabled people know what will happen to us if Medicaid and other safety net programs get cut. A lot of us remember what it was like before those programs even existed in their current forms. And we know that, even if we can access those programs now, they provide the absolute minimum in benefit to us, leaving us in a position of perpetual instability.

Trump’s presidency is a literal death sentence for us. But our identity has been hijacked and used against us to elect him and prop him up.

Abled people see disabled people as burdens and fakers; victims and villains. Which part of this spectrum a specific disabled person will fall on depends a lot on factors like their race and how they’re disabled. For the most part, disabled people of color are more likely to be seen as villains: as dangerously crazy, or “fakers” who are working the system, while white people are infantilized and seen as helpless victims. But it is by no means that simple. All of us tend to be seen and portrayed as ALL of these things, even by a single individual, and all in the space of one sentence.

For instance, we’re spoken of as creatures created by cycles of poverty and abuse, brainwashed by victims’ complexes, who only need a chance to do “useful” and “productive” work so that we can get our “dignity” back. We’re not only brainless, childlike victims, but also conniving villains who are working the system, and only abled people can save us.

Trump claimed he was the only one who could create opportunities to get disabled people back to work. He’d bring back the jobs. He’d purge the “welfare” roles of all the lazy fakers who were draining the system. He’d put a new system in place and make us all reapply for aid, so those fabled disabled people who are really in need could get even better support. Plus, the military veterans who weren’t “strong enough to handle” the atrocities of war would have a new and improved V.A.

All of this rhetoric gets disabled people both going and coming. Not only are we fakers, but we’re weak. We’re not only burdens, but we have to bend over backward to prove to abled people that we’re worthy of being burdens, if we wish to get what we need to survive.

And this narrative helped elect Trump. Abled people thought they were helping us by buying into this bullshit narrative.

Abled people on the left also want to use us as a crutch to counter Trump’s agenda of dismantling Medicaid and Medicare and the safety net. I’m much more willing to be used as this type of crutch, but I really wish they’d give actual disabled people a seat at the table, instead of letting experts speak for us, and letting unethical reporters write both inspiration porn about disabled people “overcoming in spite of”, and sepia-toned tragedy pieces about how we get ourselves stuck in a cycle of welfare culture because of our infantile inability to see our way into a better—abled—way of life.

Now, let’s look at how disabled people are used as a scapegoat.

We’ve all noticed how, when someone commits an act of violence, they’re called a terrorist if they’re a person of color, or mentally ill if they’re white. All rational people know how this hurts people of color. Fewer people see how this hurts the neurodiverse.

Being neurodiverse or mentally ill has absolutely nothing to do with being violent. Say this again, because I’m almost positive you still don’t understand: violence and mental illness are completely unrelated things.

Committing an act of violence doesn’t mean you’re mentally ill.

Being mentally ill doesn’t mean you’ll commit an act of violence.

People who commit acts of violence are not statistically more likely to have a diagnosed mental illness. Mentally ill people are MORE likely to be hurt BY neurotypical people than the other way around.

Neurotypical people are the violent ones. Not us. Some of you reading this won’t believe me. Google is your friend. Do some research about the percentage of violent and other crimes perpetrated upon neurodiverse people as opposed to by them (and/or read some of the blog pieces I’ve wrote on this in the past), because I speak the truth.

So, calling white terrorists mentally ill is a cop out: it’s white people saying, “NOT ALL WHITE PEOPLE!” It’s white people thinking that people who commit those acts are somehow different from them. We white people can compartmentalize and “other” that hate and racism as “crazy”, so we don’t have to think about what ideas we ourselves might have that support and feed into the toxic mindset of a violent racist.

People on the left also call Trump “mentally ill”. He’s not. He’s just a dangerous asshole, and this isn’t the same thing at all. “I’m not trying to insult neurodiverse people,” is the answer I get when I speak up about this. “I’m just saying there’s legitimately something wrong with the dude.”

No arguments here about that. There is legitimately something wrong with him. But that “something wrong” isn’t “mental illness” because despite what people think, neurodiversity isn’t “something wrong” to begin with. At all. Just please, stop. Neurodiverse people are not the trash barrel where you can throw all your goddamn issues. Instead, try dealing with them and admitting that “sane” people do very, very horrible and irrational things.

Disabled people are also used as a shield, which is sort of a hybrid of a crutch and a scapegoat.

I saw this a lot yesterday, during that Nazi march. White people said a lot of things like, “I understand that what they’re doing is wrong. But think of things from their perspective. Maybe they’ve suffered abuse. Maybe they’re mentally ill. Maybe they’ve had to struggle to pay the bills because their parents are disabled.” Etc.

Disability and mental illness are not shields that you can put up so that accusations of racism/bigotry will bounce off. It pisses me off that abled people try to blame neurodiverse people for being the perpetrators of all violence and racism, and then they also think they can shield white people from accusations of racism because of their supposed mental illness and disability. Abled people are exhausting.

Mental illness and racism have nothing to do with one another in the same way that mental illness and violence have nothing to do with one another. Mental illness and/or trauma will not lead someone to be a bigot. Those sick and dysfunctional ways of thinking are not neurodiversity. They’re just bigotry.

How abled people can be so fucking ableist and then accuse disabled people of being the root of all evil is just fucking aggravating.

I’m done with it. Please stop. For the love of GOD.

Elizabeth Roderick is an author and neurodiverse activist. She’s busy writing books, which abled people think is inspiring while simultaneously thinking that she’s a burden on society and should get a real job in order to get her dignity back. If you want to support her in her undignified and childish inspirational pseudo-work, you can find her on Amazon.

Ableism in Literary Gatekeeping

I’ve been thinking about ableism/bigotry in literary gatekeepers again. My last post on this stirred up wank. I’d appreciate it if y’all kept that to subtweets if you must, because I’m through making room for that ableism in my world.

I’ve been writing as always, and forging ahead in this career of mine. I’m working on my 17th full-length novel, and I’ve been pitching agents with an own voices YA—the (*counts*) twelfth novel I finished, about a bipolar girl navigating high school, first love, and institutionalization (sounds cool, right? It is 😊) .

Right now, I’m not making a lot of money off of book sales; most of it comes from the freelance editing/writing/consulting work I do. Deep in my heart, I know I’ve been concentrating my efforts in the wrong areas, and avoiding the work I really need to do. Because, no matter how much I enjoy editing and the other stuff, my goal is to make the bulk of my money off my own books.

In order to make money off of books, however, you have to do THE “M” WORD.

(I mean marketing, not some more interesting “m” word.)

I have five titles already published. I’m proud of those books, and people who read them like them. I’m utter crap at marketing, which is why I’ve been looking for an agent: for guidance and handholding in my marketing efforts, more than my publisher can give. But even with an agent, I’d have to do a lot of that work myself. So what am I waiting for? Why am I not doing it?

Marketing my books is no easy task, however. To start with, they don’t fall easily into a niche (especially my Other Place series). If you were to ask me who my audience is, I would probably say…people? Who like books?

More typical marketing efforts haven’t worked well for me. My romance and other genre fic author friends often try to take me under their wing and get me involved in Instafreebie giveaways, takeovers, anthologies…that stuff is hella fun, and I get great comments about my little romance short stories and such that I write, but it never translates into a major boost in sales. That’s because my full-length books are pretty much in the “other” genre.

Just like me, according to the neurotypical world.

Strangely enough, the only marketing method that gives me a sales bump is when I appear in-person to give talks about my writing and neurodiversity. I sell out of books at events like these, then get an e-book bump, as well. I think this might be because I’m a five-foot-tall, snub-nosed white lady who, as some officers at a recent CIT session I spoke at so aptly put it, doesn’t “look crazy”. I’m non-threatening. I may fidget a lot, but I’m told I’m an eloquent and compelling speaker. At any rate, people just seem a lot more prepared to listen to me in person than they do online.

So, I decided, it’s time for me to do That Thing That I Hate So Much: contact people. Specifically, to try to get book signings.

There’s an indy bookstore in Seattle that a lot of my friends told me to contact, because it was easiest for them to get to. It’s a place a lot like other bookstores I’ve done well at, so I wrote them a little email. I introduced myself as a neurodiverse own voices writer, and said I was looking for a signing to showcase my Other Place series, which is the story of a woman dealing with homelessness and addiction, and a schizophrenic man trying to make it in the art world.

I got a response back: “Thank you for contacting us. We don’t feel your books would be a good fit for our venue, because our clientele aren’t generally interested in romantic suspense.”

Readers, I should have left it at that. But, sometimes I’m so fatigued by ableist what-the-fuckery that I dissolve into a big bucket of can’t-even.  I replied that the books aren’t at all romantic suspense (not adding that I fucking wish they were RS, because then I wouldn’t have to waste so much time talking to bitches like her, and could just do the Instafreebie and author takeover things that work well for RS authors). I tried to clarify what type of books they are…of course, I was just restating what I’d already made clear in the first email. And, of course, she didn’t reply.

I don’t know if literary gatekeepers (and others) even know how ableist they are. From the way they’ve said in the past that I’m “whining”, “bitter”, “delusional”, and that I “don’t know how publishing works” when I’ve spoken up about the ableism I encounter as a neurodiverse own voices writer, I’m hoping not. But, while I may not know marketing from the inside of my dog’s butt (I don’t know anything specific about the inside of my dog’s butt, for context), I do know ableism when I see it. I’m a goddamn expert on ableism. And gatekeepers: y’all are IT.

This events coordinator woman wanted to reject me, because of the visceral reaction people have when they hear someone is “mentally ill”, especially when that mental illness involves psychosis. She went looking for a reason to reject me. It wasn’t a reason that made sense, at all. I mean, the books aren’t by any logical yardstick romantic suspense, and also, how whacked-out do you think I am that I’d believe a bookstore could afford to alienate romance readers? You’re a BOOKSTORE. I don’t care how cultured you think you are: unless you’re a university store where students get their textbooks, romance of some sort is likely your bread and butter, or a good portion thereof. Additionally, even if the Other Place series was  romantic suspense, it would be own voices romantic suspense with neurodiverse characters. That’s not “just” romantic suspense: that’s something that *should* be interesting to a more…(educated? Pretentious? I can’t find the right word here. They’re all inappropriate and/or more insulting than I want them to be)…readership.

I’ll get a signing eventually, but it doesn’t mean that this experience was okay.

So, gatekeepers: y’all are ableist (and prejudiced in other ways). I’m not whining. I’m not bitter. I’m just throwing the God’s-honest truth at you. It doesn’t matter that you already have a book with a neurodiverse character, or by an own voices author, on your list or on your shelves. We’re not a trophy that you can hold up to prove you’re not bigoted. We’re not that “one friend” you have that means you’re compassionate and progressive. We’re authors, writing great books, and you’re shutting us out with your (sometimes unconscious) prejudice.

Get conscious of that shit, because y’all are assholes.

Elizabeth Roderick doesn’t think YOU are an asshole. You read her whole post. If you’d like to check out her books, she’d really appreciate it.

I’m Autistic!

(CN: descriptions of ableism, ableist language, abuse, addiction, grunge culture, and a lot of navel gazing)

Well, this post is a long time coming. Those few people (if any) who read this blog without following me on social media have probably noticed something strange in my last few posts: I started identifying as autistic all of the sudden. I’m not in one of those bipolar states where I start thinking I’m an ancient, reincarnated deity, a really great painter, or someone who could make a good living as a televangelist. I really am autistic.

This diagnosis was a long time in coming. I’m not sure if I would have been better or worse off if diagnosed earlier. All I know, is I’ve suffered a great deal because of my neurodiversity, in ways I’m only now beginning to realize. Before, I blamed myself for the raw treatment I received. Ableism is a horrible thing, especially when internalized.

I was born in 1977, which is old enough to put me in the other army of the ageism battle than a lot of you. Autism wasn’t even a diagnosis until like 1984 or something, and it was well into the ‘90s before I’d ever heard of it.

When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time alone, nerding out on special interests: writing Lord of the Rings fanfic, cataloguing every species of plant that grew around my home, and trying to form telepathic bonds with my cats. I was so in my own head that I rarely had the “correct” reaction to social stimuli. I would often become overloaded in social situations and explode, or do strange things (like rubbing blankets on my face or licking someone’s silk shirt) to calm down. I didn’t care about wearing fashionable (or even presentable) clothing or brushing my hair. When my daily routine was interrupted, or if my environment were too noisy/frenetic, I’d have embarrassing meltdowns. I had very few friends, as you might imagine.

Anyway, if I’d been born in 2001, I would have been in all sorts of horrible programs and special ed classes. I dodged a bullet, I think (even though I was skipped a grade, which was a nasty idea because of my lack of mainstream social skills). Back when I was a kid, autistic people weren’t called autistic; they were “nerds” and “weirdos” (or worse, depending). We suffered horrid ableism—the same way we do now—but most of us were left more or less to our own devices. I didn’t have any formal brainwashing, but I was punished for my “bad behavior” and exiled for my social oddness. I hated myself for that behavior, but could never manage to control it.

I’ve spoken before about the physical/emotional/sexual abuse I suffered as a young teenager. Neurodiverse people are A LOT more likely to suffer abuse of all kinds, and I fell into that category. That was partly because of my lack of neurotypical social skills, and the scars ableism had put on me: I was a flashing target for abusers. I just wanted someone to pay attention to me, and figured I deserved whatever abuse I got, because I was such a disgusting, annoying loser who couldn’t act right.

I’ve discussed my other diagnoses ad nauseum, so I won’t go into it further here. At any rate, I was a psychological hot mess by the end of high school (not because I’m autistic or bipolar, but because of ABLEISM, to be clear). By the time I was in college, I was doing heroin to control the psychosis, depression, and anxiety.

I think a word about college here, because grandma Liz is in a sentimental mood.

I went to The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, during the height of the grunge era (so yeah, Nirvana, Beck, Built to Spill, Sleater-Kinney and I all hung out in the same damp coffee shops, wiping our snuffy noses on each other’s alpaca wool hats). A lot of people have just recently heard about Evergreen, because of the protests there. That sort of thing is nothing new at Evergreen.

Evergreen was (probably still is) a great college for certain types of neurodiverse people, comparatively. No tests. No grades (just evaluations). And back then, you didn’t even have to declare a major. Also, you could do independent study courses, where you would propose an area of research to a professor, and if they approved it you could go on your merry way, researching dogs’ emotional responses to music in New Orleans as opposed to Austin, or whatever, and write a report at the end of the semester for your sixteen credits.

I thought I’d fit in great at Evergreen. I considered myself something of an intellectual and an artist (I’m a musician, and I wrote back then as well, though not as much as I do now). Additionally, I’d come out as bisexual in high school, and I knew they had a thriving LGBTQ (or just “gay” as we called it back then) community at Evergreen.

Unfortunately, I fit in even worse there than I had in my rural high school. I just couldn’t get social situations right, and boy were social situations complicated in college. That time, much like now, was one of radical exploration of culture and bias, and I always somehow ended up on the wrong side of those debates. Once, when looking for an apartment, I asked a friend who had a room for rent at her house. She told me I had to be a lesbian in order to rent there; bisexual wasn’t “gay enough”. When I pointed out she herself was currently dating a dude, though (which is what we called cishet males back in the days when we wore onions on our belts), she said she was a lesbian currently dating a dude, and she got mad at me for not understanding the difference.

I felt incredibly left behind by the entire social justice movement at the time, in fact. I was looked down upon for my abused woman syndrome; if I had any self-respect, I was told, I’d be able to rise above my abuse more than I had. Some guy friends of mine let me play in one of their bands once for a show; the women told them it was about time they had a woman in their band, but after they saw me play said I was too timid to be interesting. I probably made those girls think I hated them or something, because I couldn’t make eye contact or small talk, but still.

There were more social narratives in that environment than I’d had to deal with in high school, and I wasn’t good at social narratives to begin with. It was horrifying.

So I retreated. I completed my education by independent contract (living with Sandinistas in Nicaragua, and staring an organic farm business back home). I fell into my heroin addiction, and into another abusive relationship. I ended up in prison for the heroin eventually. I’ve gone on and on about those stories elsewhere in my blog.

I didn’t think of myself as neurodiverse. I just thought of myself as a failure, and too weak to do life correctly. Even when, a long time later, I began to recognize my neurodiversity, I continued to run on internalized ableism. I can’t help but think this is at least partially because I’d been alienated from the message of empowerment in college. The social justice movement is taking a long time to embrace neurodiversity.

I wanted to point this out only because this dynamic has not changed much in the SJW arena: there is SO MUCH ableism. People accept mental illness and neurodiversity (and the signs of abuse) as long as they follow the accepted narrative and fit into the box people are comfortable with. The whole thing about neurodiverse people is we don’t fit into that narrative the way neurotypical people expect, though.

We need to do better. I don’t want more young people to be driven away the way I was. If I had been embraced for what I was back then, my life might have gone very differently. We need to renounce ableism—even internalized ableism—and be a safe place for neurodiverse people of all kinds. We especially need to avoid ableism during call-outs (if you believe in call-out culture at all, as it currently exists). Pointing out homomisia etc. doesn’t mean much if you’re being incredibly ableist while doing it.

At any rate, it was a long, long time before I was able to love myself for who I am.

I won’t go into the long process of accepting my bipolar and PTSD, which came first; I’ve written about that elsewhere on my blog. But my acceptance of those parts of myself led me to the neurodiverse community.  There, I finally found others who believed as I was coming to believe: that having a brain that worked differently was something to be proud of, rather than ashamed.

Of course, most people in the neurodiverse community don’t really believe psychosis or bipolar are things to be proud of, and things that don’t need curing. They aren’t…but that’s another subject I’ve gone on and on about in other posts.

Finding the neurodiverse community taught me a lot about autism, something I was researching anyway at the time, since I was having real marriage difficulties. My last husband was undiagnosed autistic—I’m sure of this now. I used to think it was his autism that was causing our marital difficulties, but as I learned more about it, I realized that autism wasn’t the problem at all. It was his abusive, toxic masculinity that was causing our marital difficulties.

As I learned and interacted more with people in the autistic community, though, I found myself identifying with them a lot. People talked about needing to fidget and stim, their social difficulties, their emotional overloads… that was me in spades. Eventually, I took an online diagnostic test, which was pretty definitively in the “most likely autistic” category. So, I took another, with the same result.

It’s taking me a while to get used to the new label, but not as long as I thought it would, since it fits me so well. I haven’t yet decided whether I’ll get formal testing. It could open up new counseling opportunities, but I’m not sure how effective those would be anyway. The only real reason I’d get formal testing is to avoid the reactions of doctors and neurotypical people when I tell them I’m self-diagnosed. I’m so used to ableism at this point, unfortunately, that this consideration doesn’t hold much water with me, though.

Self-diagnosis is valid; a lot of us would bang our heads on the wall trying to get a diagnosis otherwise. It would have been cool if a doctor had spotted I was autistic earlier, so that I could have perhaps gotten more appropriate psychological care. But doctors don’t know much about autism. They say things like, “You’re just smart/shy/introverted/anxious,” or, “You’re not autistic! An autistic person wouldn’t be able to sit here talking with me like this! An autistic person wouldn’t have a job!” Or, “Sure, you might be autistic, but we’re all ‘on the spectrum’.”

Ableism abounds. Neurodiverse people are scalp-deep in it all the time, so we kind of have to get on with things despite it. Diagnosing ourselves is just one aspect of that.

If you’re interested in taking the test yourself, here’s one…I’m not finding the first one I took, for some reason. That one was cool because it had a graph of where in the “spectrum” you were with regard to your social life, romantic life, and intellectual life. If someone has the link to one like that, I’d appreciate it.

If you’re interested, I got a 37 on the Psych Central test that I linked to above 😊

Neurotypical Privilege: What is it?

It’s time to write another blog piece about neurotypical privilege! And yes, I think about this stuff all the time, unfortunately. (I have to.) So I have new insight on almost a daily basis.

A lot of people don’t know what neurotypical privilege means; even a lot of neurodiverse people don’t seem to know what it means. But my life is a study of it, so I’m in a unique position to describe what it is and how it affects neurodiverse people.

I am a neurodivergent person. What that means is my brain works differently than most people’s. Yes, I know—everyone’s brain is unique. However, mine is unique enough that I have a good deal of difficulty functioning in society on many levels.

I am bipolar, autistic, and have PTSD. I have a lot of trouble communicating with people sometimes, and I’ve had trouble maintaining steady employment and housing. My neurodivergence has put me in prison (for self-medicating), and has brought me into conflict various times with the police (for nonviolent behavior, to be clear). I have difficulty maintaining relationships of all kinds, as well, and not because I’m a jerk—this is one thing I’ve never been accused of by anyone who knows me—but because I’m flighty, have trust issues, and I often misinterpret what others say and am misinterpreted in turn.

Even though my neurodivergence has caused this level of disruption in my life, I still have some measure of neurotypical privilege. NT privilege is, like most other types of privilege, a spectrum…and I won’t even get into the interplay with other types of privilege, because that gets too complex. I’ll leave that discussion to others.

As some of you know, I’m waking up today alone for the first time in weeks. The man better known to y’all as Boy—my partner—went back to California yesterday. Hopefully he’ll be back soon.

Boy is schizophrenic, and he has even less NT privilege than I do. It affects every aspect of his life at all times, and is completely disabling. This isn’t, however, because he’s not capable, intelligent, or fully functional, because he is. He’s one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. He may function in a different way and on a different schedule, but he’s completely able to take care of himself. He has a rich and full life.

The immense majority of Boy’s problems come from other people’s ableism—their mistreatment of him based on their apparent need for him to function like everyone else.

People interpret neurodiversity—and/or what is called “mental illness”—as dangerous. When they see someone acting in a way that’s different than the norm, they get angry and afraid. But statistically, neurodiverse people are much more likely to be hurt by neurotypical people than the other way around. Both Boy and I are prime examples of this. I’ve been taken advantage of and worse during psychotic breaks. Boy has been beaten into a coma, and has been wrongfully arrested and involuntarily committed on various occasions. On none of these occasions were either of us armed or posing any actual threat to anyone. We were just being who we were born to be.

The stories of many of these incidents are peppered throughout my blog and my Tinkerbell anecdotes, if you’re incredulous or interested in the specifics.

Boy and I—especially Boy—are often kicked out of public places (libraries, parks) and private businesses for doing nothing else besides cheerfully being neurodiverse. Restaurants suddenly have no tables available when we show up. We’re followed around stores because we’re suspected of shoplifting (we aren’t). So many laws and rules are targeted at people like us: vagrancy and loitering laws, involuntary commitment laws, forced sterilization laws, the right to refuse service, and “no shirt no shoes”, for example.

Neurodiverse people aren’t hurting anyone by loitering/muttering to themselves/”babbling” (word salad isn’t actually a thing, people—we make perfect sense if you know us). The vast majority of our behavior is completely benign, and even when we’re in the midst of a psychotic break we’re really unlikely to be violent. We may have trouble following instructions (you would too, if you were in our state of mind), but we’re just scared and confused. If we’re treated with respect and compassion, the situation is likely to be resolved quite peacefully and to the benefit of all.

But instead, we’re treated brutally—hurt, killed, imprisoned, kicked out. People think we deserve it. That we’re doing something wrong.

We’re not doing anything wrong. We don’t deserve it.

Neurotypical privilege is the ability to get through life without being hurt/killed/imprisoned/oppressed/harassed, etc., simply for having a brain that works differently than the norm.

I’m sure I’m missing some points and/or conveying stuff in a way that confuses some people. I’m happy to discuss and clarify, and welcome being called out on anything I’ve gotten wrong. But anyone who wants to argue the very existence of NT privilege, or say they have a schizophrenic cousin and so they know better than I do…please just don’t.

Elizabeth Roderick is an author and neurodivergent activist. You can find her (and her neurodiverse characters) on Amazon.

Living in a Tiny House: Part 3

I’m going to give myself a little break this lovely Sunday morning and do another blog post about living in my tiny house, and how I’m working toward my goal of subsistence farming, and independent living as a neurodivergent person.

It’s been closing in on a year since I last posted about this. Yikes! Time gets away from me when I’m so busy.

A lot has happened since my last tiny-house post. My mom had a triple bypass in February, for one. It’s really brought home the fact that all of the hardship that led me back to the family farm in the first place was well worth it, because this is where I belong. I was able to help my mom out and be there for her during her recovery, and it’s brought us closer together as a family.

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Winter on the farm

 

 

It was a beautiful fall, and an early (and pretty hard) winter. The first hard frost came early in October, and since our last one had been on June 15 (! – really, super late for this

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Tomatoes, peppers, and basil from last fall’s harvest.

area), we didn’t get enough tomatoes to can or freeze. I fried up quite a few green ones, though. Just thinking about the fried green tomato po boys and bahn mi (on homemade rolls) I ate is making me hungry right now. So good with veggie bacon and sprouts; or tofu, thin-sliced cabbage, Korean-style turnip pickles, and sriracha mayo.

 

I tried ripening some of the green tomatoes indoors, but without much success. I’ll hopefully get more ripe ones this year, but there are always some green ones left over when it freezes. I may sauce some of them this year, because green tomato puree/sauce is a great addition to soups, enchilada sauces, salsas, etc.

I did string a lot of peppers, can a lot of peaches, make jam galore, and Kid and I had

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Chestnuts and apples – gleaning leftover produce from others’ farms supplements my harvest.

plenty of dried plums, pears, and cherries to gorge ourselves on during the cold winter months and fight off ye olde scurvy. I also gleaned many pounds of chestnuts from a neighboring orchard (gleaning happens after harvest, so is not stealing. It’s produce that otherwise would have been left to rot.) I wrapped those up in tinfoil and roasted them in my potbelly woodstove, quickly learning that you have to score them beforehand or they’ll explode, sometimes right in your face, the shrapnel burning your eyeballs and curling your eyebrows. For those uninitiated, chestnuts are a little difficult to peel sometimes, but they’re SO good—really meaty and savory. I like roasting them in the oven with potatoes and root vegetables, and as a yummy addition to mashed potatoes and gravy. I’m going to experiment more next winter with grinding them into a paste to use in crusts, breads, and desserts. (Making a cookbook of all our recipes is something Kid and I are working on, but we have so much else going on, that it may take a while.)

 

IMG_2840This year is off to a great start. I’ve been working on expanding the farm business. We opened a little nursery (selling vegetable, herb, and flower starts we grew in our greenhouses). We were able to make costs (pay for the seeds and soil) plus a few hundred dollars on top of that, and we still had ample plants left over to fill our own gardens. I call that a success.

We’ll also be selling fresh fruit, vegetables, and herbs—I’m already selling snap peas, turnips, basil, and cilantro. I have plans to start a worm farm soon, to save money on soil next year and increase our profit margin, while increasing the quantity of plants we grow.

I also hope to have enough extra eggs to sell soon, and maybe fresh chicken. The “fresh chicken” thing probably needs explanation…I used to be a vegetarian, but since my financial situation changed and I moved back to the farm, I’ve had to take a more practical approach.

This all started when (fucking asshole) neighbor dogs came in and killed a bunch of our chickens last winter. I’m so poor, that it just didn’t make good economic and moral sense to throw away good protein, so I butchered the poor things. It wasn’t too bad, though it was definitely an olfactory experience, and one that brought me into touch with my place in the food chain; as I labored at cutting out all the bad meaty/organy bits while leaving the good ones, I imagined hundreds of generations before me, working so hard just to feed themselves and their families, at peace with the fact that we are able to live

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Home-hatched chick. Name: Penguin

because other organisms die. There’s a sort of meditation to it.

 

So, anyway, still on the subject of chicken death, last year we had about thirteen chicks hatched on the farm by our own broody hens. Nine of those (eek) were roosters. They were wreaking havoc: fighting each other, brutally gang raping the hens, and traumatizing my parents’ border collie, who is autistic (this isn’t some ableist joke, nor am I comparing my dog to people to be clear—I’m serious, and I’m autistic so I have insight). She’s very noise-sensitive. Whenever the roosters would get into a kerfuffle, she’d pace and whine and be really upset. When a certain rooster crowed, it really set her off: she’d spin circles and snap at that rooster. I really felt for her, because she couldn’t walk away from the situation and it was really triggering for her.

So, before I moved back, my dad would give the roosters away to a guy down at the feed store who would slaughter them himself. I figured, if we know they’re going to be killed anyway, we should just own that fact and butcher them ourselves. My family reluctantly agreed, so we had a good old-fashioned butchering day in the spring. We rounded those cocks all up, my dad killed them and I processed them. I thought it was going to be horrible, but it wasn’t so bad because it was just family work, for a good purpose. We talked with each other so the togetherness could decrease the sting of mortality, and I just thought about those poor, gang-raped hens (it was really awful) and the poor dog, and it was a lot easier.

(Incidentally, if you’re a vegan who wants to harass me about this, I am quite literally doing what I need to survive. I’m neurodiverse, and disabled, and farming is the way I’ve come up with to make a life for myself and Kid. I’m happy to discuss the ethics of all this with you, but please don’t police my choices.)

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Home-hatched chick. Name: Nu Egg

 

I increased our chicken flock by twelve this spring by buying chicks (ten americaunas, and two silkies because I couldn’t help myself), and so far we’ve had seven chicks born on the farm. As I said, we lost some of our flock to (stupid fucking) neighbor dogs, so we’re currently standing at about 30-ish birds altogether. We eat all the eggs now ourselves, but hopefully I’ll have some extra to sell by fall.

 

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Bees!

We also got two hives of bees!! This is really exciting. I love watching them. The hives are already big enough that we had to add the second brood boxes, and hopefully we’ll be able to put on the honey supers by the end of summer. If all goes well, we’ll have honey next summer.

 

I increased my vegetable garden by 300%, tilling up a bunch more bottom land by my cabin. I’m growing lots of different stuff, including popcorn (I eat SO MUCH popcorn) and soybeans. I’ll sell some of it, but I’m digging a root cellar to store more of my vegetables and squash

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More garden!

. It got down below zero last winter, and was in the teens a lot, plus we had several feet of snow that stayed all winter, so the veggies didn’t keep in the ground at all. I was left having to go to the food bank and purchase food. I’m doing pretty well digging the hole. I’m hindered somewhat by the desire of my dog, my cat, and myself to lie in the cool dirt (which is unproductive in the traditional sense), but more by some physical problems: I’m getting a deep ache under the shoulder blade,

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Root cellar—hole in progress

and numb/tingling fingers, with an inability to grasp or lift things with that hand. It makes it hard to dig/hoe, and I have to sometimes rest for days on end (from strenuous arm-using physical labor, anyway) and drink my herbal painkilling tea. If ONLY I had a strong, sexy BOY who loved digging holes and eating fresh vegetables, and who could help me out…but I guess some people are just buttholes and don’t want to move up here, and I guess I’m not helping my cause by talking about how decrepit I am. I’ll get my hole dug by myself anyway. I don’t

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Man commonly known as Boy, here looking self-satisfied with the ocean breeze fluttering his beard

need any strong, sexy boys. *flounces*

 

As an aside, the weird thing is, if I were getting paid to dig someone else’s hole (not a euphemism), I would have quit and gotten worker’s comp for the injury, and would be in physical therapy and maybe having surgery. That would undoubtedly be the healthy thing to do, but I like digging holes if they’re my holes; I have to do it because no one else will do it for me; and I’m afraid of getting treatment because they’ll say, “stop digging darned holes, dammit” which is advice I will not heed in any event, at least not in the summer. So, I’ll soldier on and see what happens with my arm; if I need to get it looked at, I’ll do it this winter when I’m idler (as long as I get my wood all cut beforehand…and as long as Trump’s Deathcare bill hasn’t been put into effect yet CALL YOUR REPS, U.S.-IANS!)

All this farm work takes at a minimum three hours a day, often a lot more. It’s obviously not paying the bills yet (which, thankfully, are minor, because I own my car, have no debt, use barely any electricity (and we’re going solar!), have well water, etc. My only bills are my phone and my car insurance). I supplement this income with freelance editing, freelance writing, and a startup called Authordock that I’ve become involved in. It’s a website that helps writers with their publishing goals: I critique pitches, queries and first pages; give advice; direct clients to opportunities like pitch competitions; and provide resources by composing advice articles and making how-to videos…it’s a really cool project. The result of this is that, now that I’m, as people say, “lazy and unemployed”, I’m actually working 90-hour weeks, and yet making half a pittance. This is another way that disabled people end up making super-subminimum wage: the work we’re able to do isn’t something society values very much, so is underpaid.

I also have, you know, some books published (I’ve had several come out this year, and I have a short story in the next edition of a bestselling anthology, which comes out in a few days). That does bring in a little money, but I have very little time left for marketing, so not much at all. So, I’ll do that thing where I tell you I’m super poor and disabled (not that you should pity me—I love what I’m doing, I just make very little money at it). I don’t have a tip jar, so if you like hearing about my tiny-home and farming adventures, you should consider buying one of my books. People say they’re really good! And they’re ownvoices books, with neurodiverse and queer characters. They’re my way of trying to share my strange world with others. If you buy them, consider giving me a review, and/or recommending them to others who are into that sort of books.

Think of buying ownvoices books like donating to a charity, except you’re not paying forIMG_2873 marketing and executive salaries: you’re making a contribution toward someone’s independent, sustainable living and/or affirmation as an important member of society. In my case, you’re not only affirming my worth, you’re keeping me off the streets or out of an institution, making sure Kid has a stable and happy mom (and new socks when she needs them, which is too often), PLUS you get great books. This is such a win/win/win, y’all!

I’m trying to get an agent to help with the book marketing thing. My publisher is great, but their marketing apparatus isn’t really the best for my kind of books. If I had an agent directing and supporting me in my marketing efforts, I think I’d do a lot better. I have a handful of fulls out with agents right now, of my thirteenth novel—an ownvoices YA contemporary romance/magical realism about a young woman with bipolar psychosis trying to navigate high school, first love, the foster system and the mental health system. Wish me luck!

I have lots of other plans for my life—selling hand-woven baskets, and other crafts made with natural and upcycled materials, for instance, as well as the cookbook and some other things. Plus, I have a short story on contract for another anthology coming out in September, and I’m working hard on writing my seventeenth full-length novel. Another tiny house is also in the works, to give us more kitchen space and Kid her own bedroom. But I think I’ve rambled enough for this post, so I’ll talk about all that later.

Thank you for reading!

Don’t Assume You Understand Neurodiversity. You Don’t.

I’m going to write another bitchy blog post, because I’m organizing my thoughts. I invite all people to read, and comment if you want, but this is really a conversation that needs to happen within the neurodiverse community, without paying a lot of attention outside input.

I love the term neurodiversity (or neurodivergence*). When I first heard it,  a light came on in my mind. I finally had a word for something I’d felt my whole life: that “mentally ill” isn’t the right word for who I am, because I’m not ill. This is just my personality, and you can’t (nor should you want to) cure me of it. (Yes, I want/need some symptoms treated, but that’s a different discussion.)

The problem is, the term “neurodiverse” is a catch-all term for A LOT of different sorts of people. This is one of those “duh” statements, but I think we need to meditate on it. I hear a lot of people say “I’m neurodiverse, too,” (or, worse yet, “my aunt is neurodiverse”) as a precursor to statements indicating they think they understand what life is like for ALL neurodiverse people.

Ugh. Amirite?

I don’t want to stop using the term “neruodiverse”. I lurves it, and don’t want to complicate the language by having more and more terms, or just labeling ourselves with our diagnoses. “Neurodiverse” expresses an idea about all of us, that we’re not ill and are okay the way we are, and thus is a good catch-all term.

But we all need to check ourselves when we start thinking we understand what it’s like for all people under the neurodiverse umbrella. There’s a huge spectrum not only of different diagnoses under that umbrella, but also of levels of marginalization. Some of us struggle daily with the problems our neurodiversity causes us. It’s affects everything we do, and every conversation we have with others. Other people’s neurodiversity has only a minor effect on their lives.

If you have minor clinical depression, for instance, you’re neurodiverse in my opinion (unless you choose to not identify that way, of course). Depression is something I experience, and is super shitty. It can make you miss work, sabotage relationships, hurt yourself. But, in the case of minor depression, most people won’t know you have it unless you tell them.

mentalOn the other end of the spectrum is my partner, Phoenix. He has schizophrenia and can’t even walk silently into a room without people reacting to his neurodiversity: his strangeness radiates from him like a glow—a beautiful glow, in my opinion, but not in the opinions of most others. He’s one of the very best, coolest, smartest, kindest people I’ve ever met, but most folks will never know that because their reactions to him are almost uniformly negative. They avoid him, or have a (misguided) “protective” anger reaction (for instance, they call the cops on him for yelling and pacing in his yard. They beat the shit out of him for talking to himself, because they think he’s “talking shit” about them). At best, they pity him and don’t take anything he says seriously.

You can imagine the effect this sort of marginalization could have on a person. Phoenix is positive and confident, but he’s told me on various occasions that before I came along, he thought he’d be alone for his whole life.

I, for the sake of you knowing my viewpoint, fall somewhere in between that. I struggle daily with my bipolar and PTSD on an internal level, and it’s been a defining force of my entire life path. It’s destroyed more than one relationship, and caused me to seek out abusive and toxic ones. It’s landed me in prison. It’s made it extremely hard for me to maintain employment for more than a few years at a time, and has cost me many promotions because of latent bias (and no, I’m not being paranoid. I have direct evidence). The list goes on. But in my daily interactions, at least at times I’m not in crisis, people generally just think I’m a little bit eccentric or “off”. It certainly colors their reactions toward me, but they might not even guess at first blush that I’m neurodiverse. Plus, I have the advantage of not being one of those people that comes off as creepy. At least it doesn’t seem like it, usually, based on how I’m treated (I mean, I’m not creepy, right? Tell me if I am). So my neurodiversity doesn’t isolate me in that way (though it will cause me to self-isolate at times).

So, what I’m saying is, someone with minor depression can’t know what it’s like for people like me, or people like Phoenix. And I can’t know what it’s like for someone with Autism, or schizoaffective disorder, etc. But I can probably identify with what other neurodiverse people go through better than most neurotypical people can, and I will endeavor to listen and be accepting—to be a “safe space” for other neurodiverse people to express their feelings and experiences. I will never say neurodiverse people are “doing it for attention” or any of those other horrible, marginalizing things neurotypical (or self-hating neurodiverse) people say.

The reason we label ourselves as neurodiverse is to try to seek out people who understand what it’s like for us, and will listen and accept us for who we are. Thus, it’s very, very important to be careful of behaviors in the community that can cause us to marginalize and isolate our peers even more. We need to be there for one another. Let us remember to listen and be good allies, as well as good peers.

* I don’t like that this term as much, for the silly reason that I don’t like the novel Divergent. We all have our quirks.

Going Homeless for the Homeless

I’ve been inspired by the women who ran from NYC to DC to raise money for Planned Parenthood. I’ve had an idea, and I mentalwant to put out feelers to see what kind of support this idea would have, because it will be a difficult thing to do and I need to know it would have an effect before I set out to do it.

I would like to walk from here (Yakima, WA) to our state capital (Olympia, WA), a distance of around 180 miles. I would be living homeless, in order to raise awareness and money about the plight of the homeless and neurodiverse. I wouldn’t be accepting money directly for these causes – I would ask for pledges to charities like NAMI.

I’d like to know who would be willing to donate, and who would help me by amplifying my social media presence with regard to this. I would love to hear your thoughts, and would love it even more if you’d retweet, reblog, or share this post to see if any of your friends might be interested in supporting me one way or another on this journey.

If I got enough awareness, my next trip would be to DC.

And yes, I’d be living homeless, as authentically as possible, but I’d make it as safe as I could in ways I will brainstorm with you and discuss later.

Who’s with me?