This essay considers the effect of #OwnVoices on autistic literary representation by analyzing how autistic authors use paratexts to prescribe for some readers ways of understanding autistic-authored texts while temporarily refraining from prescribing a particular method for others, allowing readers with opposing ideologies to first read the narrative before they encounter the more didactic elements of the text. Building on Gerrard Genette's theorization of the paratext, this essay compares the use of text and paratext in two works of autistic-authored fiction, Corinne Duyvis's On the Edge of Gone and Jen Wilde's Queens of Geek, to that of Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, a work of allistic-authored YA fiction. The contrast between these two kinds of texts reveals how #ownvoices texts foreground the positionality of the author in ways that enable rather than foreclose discussions about the ethical representation of autistic people.

In 2015, Corrine Duyvis coined the hashtag #ownvoices to "recommend kidlit about diverse characters written by authors from that same diverse group," signaling to prospective readers when the author of a book shares an identity with the book's protagonist (@corrineduyvis). The label caught on quickly and soon expanded beyond its original usage. Duyvis first described #ownvoices as "a descriptor for a specific subsection of diverse books" (@corrineduyvis); however, over time the hashtag has come to also signify this subset of diverse books as ethical literary representations of marginalized peoples. Though, the original push behind the use of #ownvoices, to promote criticism of the culture it stemmed from, has made it controversial for its perceived tendency to invalidate certain voices rather than validate them. This essay seeks to consider the effect of #ownvoices on the literary representation of marginalized peoples by looking at its effect on autistic literary representation. The autistic community has a strong presence online, and the choices that autistic authors make about how to address different audiences because of the presence of prospective readers in online networks makes this a useful approach for considering #ownvoices effect on ethical representation. In this essay, I examine the choices authors make and how they use the paratextual elements of these #ownvoices books, prescribing for some readers, via social media channels, how they should approach autistic-authored texts and, at least initially, refraining from prescribing a particular method for others.

In this essay, to examine how authors forward claims about ethical representation and signal their participation in that representation, I build on Gerrard Genette's theorization of the paratext. Paratexts are, according to Genette, the "liminal devices and conventions" of a book (xviii). They are things which work "in order to present [books]," or to "make [them] present" (Genette 1). Another way of putting it may be to say that paratexts are the technological innovations of books that make them recognizable to us as books. Therefore, we might easily derive meaning from like titles, prefaces, afterwords, and other such elements and also devices with less obvious meaning like the book's page numbers or typefont. What makes this theorization of paratext useful for the purpose of this essay is its categorization of paratextual elements. As theorized by Genette all paratexts can be categorized as what he terms either peritext or epitext, and what makes a book a book is this combination of text, peritext, and epitext (Genette 5). Additionally, the distinction between what makes a paratextual element a peritext or an epitext comes down to its relationship to the material body of a book. Things like the title, the table of contents, and so on that are located on the material body of the book comprise what Genette terms peritext. Things like the author's printed comments about the book in a newspaper constitute the epitext of a book. In a way, this theorizes the book as comprised elements that exist alongside a text and categorizes them by their distance from that printed narrative. This provides a powerful metaphor by which one can envision the book and theorize the effect of #ownvoices as a kind of book, since #ownvoices books extend outward, often onto online platforms. Genette describes the paratext as the "threshold" of a text (2). Paratexts then are what distinguish that which is inside and that which is outside the text, though according to Genette that distinction is an incredibly murky one (2). If we consider a threshold as a potential entry or exit point, this becomes a way of thinking about #ownvoices texts as possessing a constellation of possible entry points or departure points. For #ownvoices texts within YA literature, this becomes increasingly relevant. Margaret Higonnet observes that, "[i]n children's literature, the brevity of the average text" makes the peritext all the more prominent (47). While works of YA literature are most certainly longer than the average picture book, works of YA literature often have expansive epitexts that extend outward onto social media. Thus, using the threshold metaphor, it becomes possible to assess how these works function to create multiple points of entry for readers to carve out space for the publication of marginalized voices.

Under this framework of the book as text and paratext (where paratext is constituted by a peritext and an epitext), one can think of works of #ownvoices autistic YA fiction as creating meaning paratextually as well as textually. As Higonnet observes of picture books, text and paratext are in conversation (47). #Ownvoices fiction uses paratexts to signal the shared identity or identities between author and protagonist and, often, also to explicitly state what constitutes an ethical representation of autism. In the autistic community, #ownvoices books also take advantage of the online presence of the autistic community, communicating on what seems like two separate wavelengths, using epitexts that mostly only circulate within that community and peritexts that are often located after book's the narrative to encourage presumably non-autistic readers to first read the narrative before they encounter the more didactic elements of the text. In other words, autistic-authored #ownvoices books are unique for how they are designed to facilitate identity-based differential readings. 1

This capacity for identity-based differential readings that #ownvoices enables supports marginalized authorship and thus increased representation in literature by encouraging prospective readers to read texts while attentive to the elements within that text that align with the author's identity; however, it does not provide support equally, especially for those who are unwilling to disclose their autistic identity as #ownvoices authorship figures disability disclosure as a precondition for participating in disability representation. Thus, while, in some instances, #ownvoices enables autistic perspectives to supplant allistic ones, it is near possible for this tactic to fully achieve equitable representation within an autistic community as authors must clarify the nature of their membership in the group in order to publish in ways that differ from simply speaking on social media networks about autism or what it's like to be autistic. Moreover, this kind of disclosure can also constitute a kind of self-injury, forcing disclosure from those who would not otherwise do so and requiring those that do to clearly and completely explain what it means to be autistic or risk inviting others to interpret that meaning for them.

In this essay, I consider the ability of autistic-authored #ownvoices texts to target different audiences paratextually and to hold space for autistic authorship. I examine this ability by analyzing the relationship between text and paratext in two works of autistic-authored YA fiction: Corinne Duyvis's On the Edge of Gone (2016) and Jen Wilde's Queens of Geek (2017). Drawing out further the singularity of autistic-authored fiction, I contrast these two works and their paratexts with a work of allistic authored YA fiction, Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time (2004). While all three texts present narratives from autistic perspectives, the two autistic-authored texts strategically deploy #ownvoices as a label of authenticity, signaling their roots in the lived experience of the author and making claims about what constitutes ethical representation. While the precondition of disclosure complicates this push for ethical representation, that #ownvoices texts engage in this kind of metacognitive reflection enables rather than forecloses discussions about who might be left out.

While many consider this use supportive and view it as ultimately increasing the diversity present in YA publishing, others have suggested that this kind of push for inclusion will result in a narrowing of the perspectives that are considered valid that will tend to invalidate non-marginalized perspectives rather than validating marginalized ones. In an article, the columnist Jesse Singal suggests that this movement will impose social norms that dictate "[o]nly Xs can write about X, and only Ys can write about Y." This sentiment is echoed by Kat Rosenfield who, identifying this trend as having more pressing implications for marginalized authors, states that, "[t]aken to its logical conclusion, this approach to storytelling will set strict and claustrophobic limits on imagination, confining authors according to an ever-narrowing concept of which identities, settings, or narratives are their 'own.'" These two perspectives represent common objections to the use of #ownvoices as a push for greater diversity in literature; however, both assume that these labels function as a way to invalidate rather than validate specific perspectives. Additionally, it may be important to note that there may be other motivations behind these rejections of ownvoices as a tool for increased diversity of representation as some dissenting voices, such as Singal's, seem to find almost a sense of pleasure 2 at the prospect of the failure of this diversity movement. Rather than an act of gatekeeping or a move that essentializes the kind of narratives we find valid, I argue that works of autistic-authored #ownvoices fiction, though limited by a precondition of disclosure, demonstrates the ability of #ownvoices as a cultural movement to open up rather that close off avenues of representation.

Autistic Authorship and #OwnVoices Representation

Works of autistic-authored #ownvoices fiction push back against the medical model of disability and stigmatization by telling narratives from autistic perspectives; however, one of the more generative points about these works are that they also stimulate certain productive conversations by paratextually forwarding a set of claims about representation. In fiction about autistic people, the labeling of autistic-authored young adult (YA) fiction as #ownvoices functions as a claim of authenticity that either seeks to establish or asks the reader to reflect on the author's authority to write about autistic identity. This labeling is a strategy that seeks to grant the author entry into an already crowded discourse, one traditionally dominated by neurotypical people. It is a method that enables an author to disclose their identity, make an argument about what constitutes the ethical representation of autistic identity in fiction, and to signal that representation's presence within the text, or, in other words, signal that the text contains a protagonist at least partly drawn from the actual lived experience of the author as an autistic person. However, as an entry point to the text, this labeling occurs more prominently as an epitext, outside the material body of the book, initially distancing the author, their disclosure, and any claim that might be made about what constitutes ethical representation from the material body of the book, and this initial epitextual messaging is often limited to prospective readers who are more likely to share the author's ideological values regarding both disability and ethical representation.

As an autistic-authored work of #ownvoices fiction, On the Edge of Gone both centers an autistic perspective, providing a useful framework with which to engage autism as a socially constructed disability, and makes a set of claims about equitable autistic representation in literature. The book's concern with representation is present in its critique of taking one's ability to work or to be useful as the sole measure of human value, as how we place value on human lives often determines whether autistic people are viewed as full members of society or simply as burdens. Many within the autistic community see this as an important point to communicate to the outside world. Thus, like many other #ownvoices books, On the Edge of Gone makes use of a constellation of potential entry and exit points to both encourage differential reading practices and prompt reader reflection. Textually, the text injects into the collective autism discourse Duyvis's own autistic voice.

The narrative of On the Edge of Gone novel centers around Denise, an autistic bi-racial adolescent girl, and her efforts to survive a post-apocalyptic environment. When a massive comet threatens the habitability of the world and a desperate scramble for shelter ensues, Denise and her mother find themselves unable to claim a spot in a shelter. They stumble across a generation ship where one's utility aboard the ship determines one's inclusion and thus survival. In the narrative, the material and social landscape's ability to sustain a person is a constant focus of the text. The arrival of the comet is very literally a point at which the planet will become unable to meet the material needs of almost every human being on the planet. The event alters Denise's capacity to exist in the world, illustrating how one's disability is a product of one's material, social, and psychological relationship with the surrounding environment and how the world is actively configured to support some bodyminds more so than others. Rosemarie Garland-Thomson theorizes this as a kind of "fit" where "[f]itting and misfitting denote an encounter in which two things come together in either harmony or disjunction" (592). She suggests that a person's ability to function within society is highly relational. "When the spatial and temporal context shifts, so does the fit, and with it meanings and consequences'' (Garland-Thomson 593).

The shift in the world's capacity to sustain Denise is alluded to in the first line of the text, "The first time my future vanished was July 19, 2034" (Duyvis 1). In the opening pages, Denise must leave an environment where she thrives, a shelter where she cares for cats, the place that sustains her. Her affinity for this environment is depicted in her relationship with the animals. Denise is closely attuned to how her body movements affect the animals emotionally. Denise is in pain when she first hears about the comet, having kept her body still for an extended period of time. She had been working with a cat and "fear[ed] scaring off [a] tomcat" who had been "poking [his feet] into [Denise's] legs, ready to jump" (Duyvis 2). The tenseness of the cat even becomes a metaphor for how Denise and others feel about this coming comet strike. She "knew how the tomcat had felt: tense, waiting" (Duyvis 3). Thus, Denise's relationship with the cats makes this a sustaining environment.

This quality makes her suited to care for the cats and makes her environment pre-meteor one where she fits in. Even the way she sees the world reflects this. She uses cat imagery to describe her own feelings on several occasions. Cats even become a metaphor for how disabled people fit within society. While talking about cats, Denise tells another that disabled cats, especially those with "physical and behavioral issues" are "hard to place" (Duyvis 74). For Denise, the ability of a cat to fit in with a family is an especially potent metaphor for her ability to fit in a given environment. Her removal from this environment is signaled by the shifting ability of cats to fit in this apocalyptic dystopian environment. As the comet nears, Denise sheds tears, telling her sister that "a vet is coming" to "put[] the animals down" (Duyvis 76-77). This is an environment where she feels she can empathize and understand other beings, where she feels happy and can make others happy. It is also one that is quickly coming to an end.

While her environment pre-comet is one that sustains her, the arrival of a comet changes this and this changing landscape becomes particularly dangerous for her. She says that as she began to understand the full gravity of the event, she "felt [herself] shrink with every word" (Duyvis 3). As the narrative shifts forward several months, the first line of the novel is further emphasized. Denise says, "[t]his is the second time my future vanishes: it's January 29, 2035, and I give up" (Duyvis 3). This repetition stresses heightened precarity of the position that Denise inhabits as an autistic person. Denise's portrayal becomes one that seeks to represent what it's like to be autistic in a changing (and sometimes dangerous) environment.

Autistic identity and the dangerous reactions that others can have to it become increasingly present as the text progresses, and this feature contrasts greatly with Denise's interactions with cats. Denise moves from a world where she can empathize and engage with other beings to one where she is made to be hyper aware of herself as autistic, where the inhospitality of her environment forces her to stim or have meltdowns. When the evacuation order comes, Denise wants to leave her home and go to the shelter but cannot. In a situation where her wellbeing is directly controlled by her mother, who is both high on an illicit substance and displaying, to Denise, a lack of concern for the urgency of the situation, Denise begins to stim, to "rock back and forth" (86). Stimming is a commonly observed and sometimes dangerously stereotyped autistic trait; however, in this passage, her stimming marks the inhospitality of her surrounding environment. Denise is in a situation where she cannot control the outcome.

While Denise knows cats and can act in ways that guide their actions, she cannot do the same with her mother. Her mother's disregard for safety is a source of anxiety and becomes a reason why Denise must stim. As one autistic self-advocate notes, stimming is an act of sensory regulation where "output" blocks "input" (Agony Autie). Another calls it a kind of communication, a way of expressing things like happiness or distress (Schaber). My own personal experiences support such assessments. As a child I remember rocking silently in the corner of an empty room one afternoon after having been cycled yet again from one medication to another. I felt several kinds of wrong that day and the movement let me set it aside momentarily. It remains the only time I've ever stimmed in that particular way, and yet from that experience I feel that I understand the motive and expression of Denise's rocking. It is both a rocking that is self-regulatory, blocking out the anxiety of her position, as well as one that is expressive—she both has an emotional need for and is endangered by her mother.

Denise moves from a world where she can empathize and engage with other beings to one that is incredibly hostile, and the inhospitality of this environment is further represented in Duyvis's description of the rapidly deteriorating world:

Now the ground looks like something out of a news report after an earthquake in Turkey, a hurricane in the United States, a tsunami in the Philippines. Scattered across the asphalt is a ragged carpet of leaves and stones and puddles of black mud. Ripped-loose branches gnarl and twist, a lamppost lies flat, snapped at the base. Flecks of broken glass glimmer like water. The [parking] lot itself wears dents like pockmarked skin. (Duyvis 92).

The image this paints is one of a world inaccessible to all. The torn pavement, scattered branches, and broken glass makes the road nearly impassable. In a way, this depiction critiques the medical model of disability which pathologizes bodies with non-normative needs. While Denise is supported by things which others may not require, this environment demonstrates how all humans have a sustaining relationship with their surrounding environment.

For Denise, the hostility of this new environment is a product of not only its inability to support her but also others. When Denise earns a place on the generation ship but her mother does not, Denise's mother forcibly discloses Denise's autism in an effort to save herself, telling others that "This is a new environment for Denise. She's stressed—she's autistic. She needs me." (Duyvis 145). According to Pamela Block, Allison C. Carey, and Richard K. Scotch, the interests of autistic people sometimes conflict with or diverge from the interests of their parents. Heather Dawn Evans notes that disabled people sometimes "un/cover[]" disability to "provide [a] space for deepening disability identity and make [one's] identity legible to others." However, this disclosure serves a different, shallower purpose. As Remi Yergeau notes in Authoring Autism, the disclosure of one's autistic identity "provides [an] entry point" or an "invitation for neurotypicals to theorize and assess what neuroqueerness is" (139). This forced disclosure anticipates a deficit view of autism, one which might convince the captain of Denise's dependence on her mother's care. While Denise moves in harmony with cats in the previous environment, she cannot do so with her mother in this one because they have competing interests.

While #ownvoices texts like On the End of Gone present narratives from autistic perspectives, rejecting the medical model of disability and reframing the lived experiences represented in those narratives, #ownvoices texts also, in their paratexts, make claims about what constitutes ethical representation and how the text participates in that representation. This allows texts to address how their narratives might or might not accurately represent both the autistic community and the full range of diversity within that community. While this function of #ownvoices can make autistic-authored works like Duyvis's somewhat didactic, #ownvoices texts often obscure much of this didacticism through a strategic use of paratext. Indeed, one could read the entirety of the book, from the front cover through the end of the narrative, without the author explicitly disclosing their position on any number of issues that involve autistic people. For example, if one identified closely with the mother, they could attribute her drug use and neglect of Denise to having to cope with raising a "special needs" child as such ableist narratives are not uncommon and may be a familiar trope for readers.

The first explicit mention of views held by autistic people, conveyed in language that attaches the author to autistic social networks that limits the potential interpretations of the text, does not occur until the author's note, a note that appears on the final print-bearing page of the book. On that page, Duyvis lists a number of positions that she has on autism and autistic identity. She frames the increasing number of autism diagnoses per year as a failure to recognize the varying embodied autistic experiences present within autistic communities due to race, gender, or other differences. She affirms autism's centrality to, or at least its inseparability from, one's identity. These positions or beliefs about autism serve to either reinforce or correct a reader's understanding of the text. For instance, Duyvis writes in the author's note that autism, identity, and its "presentation" in the world are complex and that

the best way to understand these complexities is to listen. Misinformation and fearmongering help no one, and it's frightfully easy for our own voices to get lost in the passionate difficult discussions around this topic.

Thank you for hearing mine.

This passage works to frame the text as an extension of Duyvis's own autistic voice and set it in binary opposition to non-autistic voices. Duyvis draws a contrast between the authentic autistic authorial voice, a voice under threat of being drowned out by "ongoing passionate discussion," and non-representative, non-autistic voices, those who, at times, can be sources of "misinformation" and "fearmongering." This distinction is one of several ways that Duyvis conveys to a reader that this is, in fact, an autistic text. So, in other words, in this note is a peritextual hailing of her reader, its effect to say, "listen to me, I'm autistic and, while not every person's experience with autism is the same, I know what it's like."

While Duyvis makes claims peritextually about how the text represents autistic identity and what constitutes ethical representation, one question that arises from her authorial choices, with respect to the placement of these peritexts, is what effect they have given their location at the end of the text. Such peritexts, according to Genette, are unlike prefaces in that they "can no longer … hold[] the reader's interest and guide [them] by explaining why and how [they] should read the text" and, instead, can only "hope to fulfill … a curative, or corrective function" (238; 239). However, while Genette views this as a potential drawback of postfaces and other similarly placed peritexts, I contend that they also facilitate reader reflection, encouraging readers to examine their own assumptions about autism. Although, as Higonnet points out when she questions whether the cover comes before the text, we can never be sure about the order with which one might read the text (49). Duyvis's thoughts on autistic identity and representation may facilitate a useful moment of reflection at some midway point while reading the text proper. Additionally, autistic-authored #ownvoices books aren't aimed exclusively at educating allistic readers. Many autistic people who support #ownvoices do so because they believe that seeing oneself reflected in literature in a positive way can be life affirming. Moreover, while there will always be narrow representations that foreground limitations and rely on ableist tropes, one further aim of #ownvoices representation, then, is to not leave these trope laden narratives uncontested.

For many readers, Duyvis's use of peritext allows On the Edge of Gone to pivot from a text with ambiguous meanings to a more didactic text; however, this is may not be the case for all readers as the Duyvis makes use of social media as an epitext to signal On the Edge of Gone's status as an #ownvoices book. If we consider the paratext using Genette's metaphor of the "threshold," then the effect that it has as an #ownvoices text largely depends on one's entry point into and exit point out of the text. In November of 2015, a few months before the publication of On the Edge of Gone, Duyvis tweets, "A devastating comet; a guarded autistic girl; one shot at survival. #ownvoices RT for ARC on ON THE EDGE OF GONE!" (@corinneduyvis). With this tweet, Duyvis both advertises the book and signals to readers that her book is an ethical representation that centers an autistic perspective. Additionally, this tweet illustrates another function of ownvoices. While this tweet is part of a larger push for greater diversity (including that of autistic representation) in publishing, it also is a kind of self-disclosure. This tweet demonstrates how #ownvoices functions by merging autistic disclosure with the marketing of the text. Moreover, this disclosure isn't limited to just this tweet. In the tweet, when Duyvis writes "RT for ARC on ON THE EDGE OF GONE!" she asks her audience of prospective readers to extend the audience of this message and, in doing so, enter to win an advanced reading copy, simultaneously increasing the extent of her disclosure. Compounding this further, her tweet includes an image of the book that, when clicked on, brings prospective readers to her personal webpage.

When linked to the epitextual marketing of On the Edge of Gone, Duyvis personal website also becomes a part of the paratextual zone, existing between the outside and inside of the text. On this website, she makes available facts about herself that affect what On the Edge of Gone does as an #ownvoices book. In a frequently asked questions section, she identifies herself as "as a white, Dutch, cisgender, disabled/autistic, bisexual/biromantic/queer, atheist woman," who "use[s] she/her pronouns" (Duyvis). Providing this information makes it possible for readers identify precisely which identities she shares with the protagonist and encourages them to engage the text through a number of different lenses. For example, disclosing that she shares a queer identity with her protagonist suggests that the text engages in LGBTQIA+ representation. This becomes particularly meaningful when considering that one of the major themes of the text involves a loss of one's home. Denise has a number of homes in the book, which often become hostile or work to exclude her. Though this may not be an intended effect of Duyvis's social media epitext, the presence of these author details and their link to that epitext widen, for some, the threshold between that which is exterior to and that which is interior to the text. Additionally, Duyvis also encourages this differential reading of #ownvoices texts by speaking directly to authors and reviewers on her website. She encourages others to disclose as she does, stating that, while it's a "strange" question that she sometimes hears, providing this information "can be useful for those seeking to promote diverse content or who want to be careful not to misidentify someone in an article or discussion" (Duyvis). In some ways, Duyvis's statement goes beyond the initial claim that #ownvoices representation is ethical representation. Her use of the world "strange" seems to signal a degree of discomfort with disclosure. Moreover, her response as a whole suggests that, were she not concerned with and did she not value the "promot[ion] of diverse content," she would not offer this disclosure (Duyvis). In other words, Duyvis phrasing both hints that this disclosure is, at least to some degree, coerced and implies that autistic authors who write books about autism, if they value and wish to participate in equitable representation, should also disclose their autism.

Jen Wilde's Queens of Geek, like Duyvis' On the Edge of Gone, also centers an autistic voice, makes similar claims about what constitutes ethical autistic representation, and signals to readers its participation in that representation. Wilde's book offers a narrative that suggests autistic social engagement need not adhere to neurotypical norms of social engagement. In Queens of Geek, Taylor, an autistic protagonist, finds joy celebrating an activity she is deeply interested in and, also, comes to see this kind of parallel 3 engagement as equally valid compared to a reciprocal one, the neurotypical norm for social engagement. Jen Wilde's Queens of Geek is a story about three friends and their trip to SupaCon, a fictional Comic-Con and VidCon 4 hybrid event. The friends travel from Melbourne, Australia to San Diego, California to attend the convention. Taylor's experience at the convention suggests that, while the format of a convention can make such an experience difficult and anxiety inducing, if one is mindful of the needs of one's bodymind in such an environment, taking breaks and retreating to a safe space when needed, the overall experience can be an enjoyable one.

Wilde's text frames autistic experience as a kind of geekdom to undermine existing autistic stereotypes, specifically, notions about autistic people as incapable of participating in social activities. Instead of representing autistic experience a kind of movement through time, from one moment of impairment to the next, Wilde gives us autistic enjoyment as a kind of parallel play, redefining, in autistic terms, norms of social engagement. Taylor is first introduced as a shy teenager who doesn't like being at the center of crowded environments. She says that, while her sister "sometimes jokes that parties are [her] kryptonite," she "like[s] being the people watcher standing on the sidelines" (Wilde 7). How Taylor feels about parties complicates assumptions people have about autism. Taylor doesn't express a dislike for these kinds of activities. Instead, she expresses a different kind of enjoyment, one which is rooted in her proximity to others rather than her direct engagement with them. The first depiction of SupaCon in the text expresses this kind of joy. In this scene, the three friends "pass batman posing for a photo with Groot, Jessica Jones walking hand in hand with Michonne, and Goku lining up behind Darth Vader to buy coffee," and Taylor thinks, "My geeky kindred spirits" (Wilde 2). Thus, while the text makes clear that events like conventions can be taxing for autistic people, it also highlights this possibility of pleasure from proximity.

The pleasure Taylor derives from being with people who enjoy the same things she does is further expressed in a scene where she's invited to meet up with a group of people who are, like Taylor, cosplaying Queen Firestone. She says that, while her "first instinct" is to decline to participate, she's also aware that she'll "regret" having missed the opportunity (Wilde 66). Wilde's representation of this autistic dilemma reveals both the pleasure and stress of the proposed activity. In her blog, Taylor confides that new environments "overwhelm" her and that she feels shame at her inability to do "normal" things (Wilde 10). For Taylor, even thinking about talking with unfamiliar people "is exhausting" (Wilde 10). So, in this instance, Taylor's hesitation is an acknowledgement that, while she enjoys celebrating shared interests with others, such an activity will also be a taxing one if she's expected to engage according to neurotypical social norms—if the only valid engagement is assumed to be a reciprocal one.

In addition to recognizing that neurotypical norms of social engagement are exhausting for Taylor, her "first instinct" to pass up the opportunity also represents questioning internally whether she'll have enough energy to enjoy the activates she loves. This forwards a view of daily life as dependent on a quantifiable amount of energy that one has available, one which adheres to what some disability self-advocates describe as spoon theory, a metaphor used to communicate about chronic illness and the necessary budgeting of energy required for daily life. 5 Wilde's Queens of Geek, thus, positions autistic lived experience as something not focused on what one can and cannot do, but on the physical, emotional, and mental cost of pursuing one's interests as an autistic person while living in a world built for allistic people.

While Taylor's exclamation, "my geeky kindred spirits" (Wilde 2), is an expression of joy at being close to people who are like her in that they share similar interests, it takes on additional meaning when Taylor meets another autistic person and is introduced to a comic that changes her perspective on what it means to live as an autistic person. In a moment that marks this text as a kind of coming of age story, Taylor meets Josie, the author of a graphic novel that features an autistic protagonist. When Taylor comes across the graphic novel she becomes animated, "hold[ing] the book out excitedly" and exclaiming "Shit! This is about an autistic girl?" Though not stated explicitly, the moment may be the first time Taylor has seen herself represented in media. Indeed, Taylor's joy at encountering this book is fully expressed when she says that "she wanted to leap over the table and hug [Josie] but [she] hugg[ed] the book instead" (Wilde 120). It's at this moment that Taylor discloses her autism and Josie exclaims "Oh really? Are you an Aspie girl too?" (Wilde 120). In this way, the meaning of "my geeky kindred spirits" shifts from those who simply share interests to people who share an autistic identity. Additionally, the way that it makes this connection works to validate kind of parallel interaction Taylor prefers as an autistic person. Taylor demonstrates her joy to Josie by directing it toward the book, and this kind of interaction, in its mirroring of parallel play, suggests that the interaction with objects alongside others can be just as meaningful as other modes of interaction. The fact that Taylor's joy is directed toward the book rather than Josie doesn't divest the action of meaning. Taylor's hugging of the book simply becomes a different mode of expressing her joy, albeit one that neurotypical people often fail to understand.

The convention becomes a place where Taylor can "geek out" over things she enjoys alongside other autistic people. This interaction even complicates the idea of the convention as a place either wholly welcoming or wholly resistant to autistic people. When sharing their experience living as autistic women, Josie tells Taylor about all the things she's tried to cope with anxiety, and Josie says that, ultimately, she just "started doing more things that made [her] happy," which includes "geeking out" over comics at conventions (Wilde 122). While, initially, Taylor is uncomfortable talking about being autistic, when Josie talks about disability as a kind of diversity, Taylor begins to find talking the subject easier and adopts Josie's language, shifting from addressing autism as a disorder to referring to it as an identity.

While Wilde's use of geekdom allows her to break down the idea that autistic people aren't social or that they don't like or can't engage in social activities, her use of the geek trope to do so may also be problematic. Autism has a history of being associated with both the geek or "geeking out" and masculinity. Discussing the problematic nature of the male computer geek stereotype, Jordynn Jack cautions that society's history of associating autism with the male computer geek, an individual with "stereotypical interests in Star Trek, Star Wars, computers, role-playing games, and the like, "risks presenting autism via stock characters that turn into stereotypes, deflecting attention away from a wider range of actual autistic individuals" (114). Thus, a question that lingers is whether this use of the trope of the autism geek reinscribes autistic stereotypes or whether the texts departure from an association of maleness with both geekdom and autism works to reclaim the "geek," "fandom queen," "outcast," and "misfit" in service of the autistic community.

Queens of Geek critiques neurotypical norms of social engagement both textually and peritextually; however, the book's framing of autistic identity as a kind of geekdom codes the overall aims of the author such that, like Duyvis's On the Edge of Gone, the critique isn't initially made explicit. Instead, Wilde uses the peritext as a kind of reflective device at the end of the book. A comparison of the peritext appearing both before and after the text illustrates this effect of coding autistic identity as a kind of geekdom. The dedication in Wilde's Queens of Geek makes clear that there is a connection between the author, the text, and some community; however, this connection isn't initially defined as an autistic community. In the dedication Wilde writes,

To the wierdos, the geeks, and the fandom queens. To the outcasts, the misfits, and the everything inbetween. The days of playing sidekick are over. You are the superheroes now. You are my people, and this is for you.

The first line of this dedication frames the text as on both for and about a kind of geek. Wilde's dedication to "fandom queens" is specific. The dedication, therefore, includes the kind of people who cosplay, form and participate in fan clubs, or, perhaps, those who write fanfiction. The second, third, and fourth lines of the dedication, however, work to shift the dedication of the text to an autistic community. "Outcasts" and "misfits" include people like "geeks;" however, these words also have different, more specialized, meanings in many disability communities. Garland-Thomson's misfit is one example of this specialized meaning. It it's, however, when Wilde writes "your days of playing sidekick are over" and "you are the superheroes now" that the dedication begins to refer more toward the autistic community. Wilde's use of "sidekick" refers to the kind of autistic (or even disabled) character that, historically, one could expect to find in narratives. Thus, when Wilde says, in her dedication, "you are the superheroes now" she uses "sidekick" and "superhero" metaphorically to signal that this is a text that, for once, centers an autistic character. Her use of "sidekick" and "superhero," while framed in terms of geekdom, highlights the same issues with representation that ownvoices does.

While Wilde's dedication uses elements of geek culture metaphorically to signal its participation in autistic #ownvoices culture, the peritexts that follow the narrative make more explicit the text's participation in #ownvoices culture. In a section titled "A Coffee Date," Wilde includes an interview style discussion between herself and her editor. In this section, Wilde writes about her motivations for writing and submitting her manuscript. Wilde's desire to write her story, further specifies the kind of "misfit" she refers to in her dedication. She says that, for a long time, she'd wanted to write "a story about an autistic girl and a bisexual girl" (Wilde). In other words, rather than this being a story both for and about geeks, the motives Wilde lists paint the story as one that simply uses the geek as a metaphor for identities often seen as misfits or outcasts. In this section, Wilde also makes the aims of her book clear when talking about how the kinds of research she did while writing Queens of Geek. She writes first that she knows "how life-changing and affirming it can be to see yourself represented as a whole person in a positive way" and "how damaging it can be to see yourself portrayed poorly" (Wilde). She says in that same section that, "as an autistic bisexual girl with anxiety," society's tendency to either not represent identities such as hers or to do so as either "burdens or the butt of a joke" was upsetting (Wilde). As such, Wilde, in her research, acknowledged issues of representation and worked to make her book an accurate and positive representation of autistic and LGBTQIA+ culture.

Talking about her research, the links between Wilde, Queens of Geek, and these two marginalized communities become even more explicit. Wilde continues to say that, while writing her book, she visited and read on sites such as "We Need Diverse Books," "Disability in Kidlit," and "DiversifYA," she engaged with subjects such as "#ownvoices," "intersectional feminism," and "white writer[s] writing people of color" on social media, and worked with "beta readers" who gave her "suggestions on how to improve both the story and characters." Several of the sites Wilde lists have direct connections to #ownvoices. For instance, the website Disability in Kidlit is connected to #ownvoices in two ways. First, Corinne Duyvis, the originator of the term #ownvoices, serves as the site's senior editor and cofounder ("About"). Second, as one might surmise given its connection to Duyvis, the site also goals that are similar to that of #ownvoices. The managing team writes that Disability in Kidlit "discuss[es] the portrayal of disability in middle grade and young adult literature … from the disabled perspective" ("About"). They "believe that thoughtful portrayal" involves a depth of experience beyond just the "symptoms" of a diagnosis, and "the realities of disability … are often different from what we see in popular media" ("About"). In other words, the managing team believes that ethical and equitable portrayal of disability requires the participation and representation of disabled people, and mainstream portrayals of disability have diverged from the lived realities of disability.

Wilde's referencing of these people and publications make clear that this is, in fact, a story about a different kind of "misfit" and that her use of the "geek" is a metaphorical one. However, as in Duyvis's On the Edge of Gone, Wilde's Queens of Geek does not initially make clear its links to disability culture or its critique of neurotypical norms. In fact, one could even argue that the framing of autistic identity as a kind of geekdom obscures this connection until it is made explicit in the peritexts located after the narrative. The dedication's final line, "You are my people, and this is for you" dedicates the book to a community not initially made clear. In the peritexts located after the narrative, it becomes increasingly clear that, when Wilde dedicates the book to her "people," she does not simply mean those who attend comic book conventions and "geek out" over their favorite superhero. These are people with whom she feels a strong sense of community. Wilde's people include both autistic and queer communities.

Wilde's initial coding of her connections with autistic and queer communities, and her later clarification of these connections may have much to do with the fact that Queens of Geeks speaks to more than one audience. Genette writes that one might avoid prefaces if one is concerned about "offering the reader advanced commentary on a text the reader has not become familiar with" (237). One problem that #ownvoices texts face is that, rather than having a reader unfamiliar with the story, #ownvoices texts have readers that are very familiar with autistic stories. While not all readers may come to Queens of Geek having read works that contain autistic characters and are by other autistic authors, many have, at least, exposure to popular representations of autism. This may be why Queens of Geek initially frames its connection to autism and the autistic community as a kind of community of geeks and misfits.

While the framing of autistic identity as a kind of geekdom or a state of being a misfit may allow for different readings of the text based on whether one catches the multivalent use of those terms, Wilde extends the threshold of the book with an epitext, tweeting about her book prior to its release. She describes it as an "#ownvoices book … about BFFs at a con," with "con" as the twitter shorthand for convention (@jenmariewilde). This, like Duyvis tweet merges the act of marketing with disclosure. It, however, differs from Duyvis tweet as Wilde does not disclose in the text of the tweet. The difference between Duyvis and Wilde's discosure may signal an opportunity to address how the precondition of disclosure impacts who's stories we hear and who's we do not within the autistic community. While disclosure via twitter is incredibly public, disclosure through the text of one's book is less public as it requires the purchase of the text and would be affected by how the text identifies the protagonist. The actual epitextual function of Wilde's tweet, however, is much like Duyvis if we take into account its attachment to her twitter profile. Indeed, Wilde's twitter profile, like Duyvis's webpage attaches to the epitext disclosures of autistic and queer identities. Thus, while the book is written from three different perspectives (autistic female, bisexual female, and neurotypical heterosexual male) the only perspective within the book that does not overlap with hers is that of the neurotypical heterosexual male perspective.

These facets of Wilde's identity and the way they serve as a threshold of the work, a potential portal into the narrative of Queens of Geek, work to condition how readers engage with the book. While the text addresses a wide array of themes, including geek culture and fandom, the discussions about identity influence the cultural practice of reading. Wilde's story about three friends who attend a convention becomes a way of talking about autistic identity—of defining what the lived experience of being autistic actually is. Both the text itself and peritextual elements work to shift autism discourse away from a narrative about what autistic people can't do to one about the physical and emotional cost of autonomy. Moreover, Wilde's epitextual disclosure serves to thrust this topic into the larger discourse about autism. Narratives about parents burdened by their autistic child and mourning all the things they expect the child to never do are placed in conversation with Wilde's narrative about how we as a society support autistic autonomy, and this is all possible because of #ownvoices which poses the question: who better to tell autistic stories than autistic people? We are, after all, as often stated both by disabled activists and disability studies scholars, experts of our own embodiment of disability by means of our own lived experience.

Allistic Authorship and the Ethical Representation of Disability

While there's some substance to the claim that some individuals make, that autistic #ownvoices authorship is selective in its support for equitable literary representation, the other claim that some make, that ownvoices excludes all who are not outwardly autistic, is not entirely tenable. Authors of autistic #ownvoices fiction frequently make use of paratexts to forward claims about what constitutes ethical literary representation and to justify their participation in a literary autism discourse; however, this is seldom the case with allistic-authored fiction. Indeed, for some writing about someone that differs greatly from oneself might traditionally be thought of as a way of demonstrating one's skill or craft. The act of writing an autistic character, in this way, can sometimes become a kind of performance not dissimilar to an actor "cripping up." Unfortunately, for some allistic authors, this way of writing (or performing) autism can sometimes encourage the authors engagement in narrow representations that foreground limitations or rely on widely known tropes. Regardless the kind of representation that this encourages, analyzing the way that allistic authors justify their autistic characters suggests that #ownvoices has less of an impact on non-autistic authors than it does on autistic authors.

Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is work of allistic-authored fiction with a disabled and presumably autistic protagonist. Comparing how autistic #ownvoices epitexts function to Haddon's The Curious Incident reveals that the text differs from works of autistic #ownvoices fiction in its conception of what constitutes ethical representation. Haddon makes no move to address his characterization of Christopher, the protagonist, in the actual book; however, epitextually, claims that Christopher is a product of his own observation of others. This works to simultaneously deny responsibility for how portions of The Curious Incident's narrative echo autistic stereotypes or seem to draw heavily from notable autistic public figures and to argue for the author's right to draw from anything they observe. This seems to suggest that there is a contrast between what some marginalized authors see as an ethical responsibility of authorship and what other authors see the inherent privileges or liberties of authorship.

In The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Christopher, a disabled, 15 year-old boy, discovers his neighbor's deceased poodle, cruelly impaled by a pitchfork in her back yard. In the book, he plays the role of detective, setting out to find the person who killed it. Over the course of the narrative, Christopher discovers that his mother, whom his father had told him had passed, is actually alive. Unable to trust his father and feel safe living in his father's home, Christopher finds his way to London, reuniting with his mother, asserting his right to choose with whom he lives, and chronicling the whole ordeal in what would become the book itself.

While the current practice of #ownvoices texts in YA literary culture is to make more prominent or more visible the subject position of the author and to highlight their ability to draw from lived experience, the opposite is sometimes true for other texts. In a blog on his author website, Haddon claims that he never intended for Christopher to be an autistic character and that he did little if any "research for curious incident." 6 He claims that he only has ever read a handful of things by or about autistic people, including an essay about Temple Grandin. On the blog, Haddon states that Christopher is simply an amalgamation of observed character traits from people he knows, none of whom have (at least to his knowledge) disabilities. This attempts to shift Christopher from an autistic representation to simply the product of the author's skillful labor. Haddon instead calls Christopher "a mathematician with some behavioral difficulties."

While Haddon frames Christopher as a character with no intended connection to autism as a way of emphasizing his role as an author, there are moments in the text that suggest a closer connection with autistic figures than Haddon admits. In a scene where Christopher compares how he thinks and how his memory works to how others think and how their memory works, he writes that his "memory is like a film," using the imagery to characterize himself as a visual thinker (Haddon 76).. This is incredibly similar to how Temple Grandin characterizes herself and the imagery she uses to do so. In Grandin's, Thinking in Pictures, she says that she "think[s] in pictures" and that she "translate[s] both spoken and written words into full-color movies, complete with sound …" (3). Grandin's description only differs slightly when Christopher tells that his memory can even record smells as it has a "smelltrack" (Haddon 76). Though, he acknowledges that his smelltrack "is like a soundtrack" (Haddon 76).

In addition to the similarity present in describing Christopher as processing information visually, a close connection to autistic figures is suggested by how Haddon describes Christopher's memory retrieval process. Even the imagery Christopher uses to describe how he processes information is similar to Grandin's use of imagery. While Grandin writes, in Thinking in Pictures that her mind works like a VCR player (3), in The Curious Incident, Christopher says that his mind works can even "Rewind and Fast Forward and Pause like on a video recorder, but more like a DVD player" because he can move directly to specific memories without rewinding (Haddon 76). The description of how Christopher thinks mirrors Grandin's description so closely that it becomes difficult for Haddon to support his claim that he didn't write an autistic character. If anything, entire parts of Christopher seem to be drawn from Grandin. When Christopher shifts the description of how his mind works from a video recorder to that of a DVD player, the text seems to build off Grandin's VCR player, framing Christopher a kind of next generation autist.

The linkage between Christopher's memory retrieval process and Grandin's continues further in the text with elements that can be linked not only to Grandin's Thinking in Pictures but to her later writing. In The Curious Incident, Christopher continues his description of how his mind works, telling the reader that when he encounters a difficult or confusing social situation, his mind can "do a Search through [his] memories" to see of he has encountered a similar situation that might allow him to deduce how he should act in the given situation. Just a few years before Haddon publishes The Curious Incident, Grandin writes, in "My Mind is a Web Browser: How People with Autism Think" that her mind works like a "web browser" that can "find specific words" and match them to "picture memories that are associated with [those] words." She writes that this allows her to "use logic to make all decisions … independently of emotion" and that autistic people have brains that "use problem solving circuits in social situations" (Grandin).

In addition to the previous two connections, there is one last similarity between Christopher and Grandin. In "My Mind is a Web Browser," Grandin writes that, for her, the decision making process is a visual one, that she sees "images of [her] choices" that she can "mentally 'click[]' on" as one might do with a "computer mouse." In The Curious Incident, Christopher, when confronted with what he should do having learned that his father had lied to him about both having killed the dog Wellington and his mother leaving the family, Christopher creates a picture of all the possible choices in his mind. He then "imagine[s] crossing out all the possibilities which were impossible" to determine what he should do (Haddon 130). While Christopher's picture is a diagram with text boxes and arrows and Grandin's images are visualizations of the result of a given choice these two modes of visualizing the decision-making process still bear striking similarity. Moreover, given the similarity of the previously described elements in Haddon's narrative to things that Grandin has written, one could reasonably argue that Cristopher is, at a minimum, unintentionally based off an autistic public figure. Additionally, while the connection that Haddon's The Curious Incident has with Grandin makes the book similar to #ownvoices books in that its narrative is at least partially drawn from the lived experience of autistic people, the effect that this aspect has is quite different. Instead of validating the lived experience of autistic people and engaging in a thoughtful discussion about the ways in which the text is and is not a representative of autistic experience, The Curious Incident and texts like it appropriate the autistic experience, portraying autistic people in narrow, popularized ways for the benefit of an allistic author and their desire to put on display their writerly skill.

The effect that this appropriation of autistic experience has is present in The Curious Incident's use of several autistic stereotypes in its portrayal of Christopher. First, Christopher is depicted as someone lacking empathy and unaware of a world outside of himself. For example, in an encounter with a police officer, Christopher becomes frustrated and punches the police officer. When Christopher is arrested, his father comes to the police station and attempts to have him released. Before releasing Christopher, he is interviewed by a detective. The detective tells Christopher that he's talked to Christopher's father and that his father informed him that Christopher's actions were involuntary. He then asks Christopher, "did you mean to hit the policeman?" (Haddon 16). Christopher's response in the affirmative elicits a frustrated response from the detective who then rephrases his question to ask if Christopher intended to do harm by his actions (Haddon 16). The implication in this exchange is that the detective is looking for a reason to release Christopher. Christopher's failure to recognize this, to understand the prompt and then the subsequent question in any other way than as literal, works to create a heightened sense of urgency.

The Curious Incident frequently refers to back to how it was written so as to present itself as having been written by Christopher after the events detailed in the narrative, but scenes such as this interrogation move beyond simply retelling the story from Christopher's vantage point, providing information that means more than he is able to comprehend, or at least more than seems to register in the narrative. There is, then, an almost voyeuristic quality inherent in the text. As Michelle Resene observes, Christopher's unreliability as both narrator and detective encourages the reader to "step into the detective role that Christopher is unable to fulfil" (81). Michael Bérubé describes this narrative technique, "Christopher's neural narration" which "compels us to read over his shoulder," as a kind of narrative irony (131). Narrative irony, according to Bérubé is what occurs when the character who serves as the vantage point of the story lacks the intellectual capacity to comprehend what happens to them and why (14). Thus, this voyeuristic quality is created by the texts conception of autism as represented by Christopher. Interestingly, this also suggests that the text also constructs an implied allistic reader by first constructing an autistic character and then providing parts of a story that this autistic person would, as conceived, be unable to comprehend. Moreover, this narrative irony also, as Resene points out, implies that autistic people are "intellectually inferior" to this implied allistic reader, as the allistic reader is one who can comprehend the full narrative and Christopher cannot (82). It is, perhaps, not without irony that I, an autistic reader, point out this construction.

While the reader implied by the text's use of narrative irony is troubling, Bérubé suggests that narrative irony also has a generative function, which, in this instance, demonstrates the ways in which neurodivergent ways of reading may be more capable in some narrative contexts than neurotypical ways of reading (118). There are a number of instances where Christopher's narration lays bare neurotypical assumptions. Sarah Jaquette Ray notes that Haddon's The Curious Incident constructs a productive, social model of disability by rejecting normative assumptions about disability and framing disability as produced by one's environment. She points out how the text deconstructs the word "special needs" to "challenge the assumed dichotomy between 'normal' and 'special,'" "subvert[] the basis for the social stigma of disability," and identify disability as "an arbitrary social category" (Ray). Ray points to Christopher's fantasizing about the death of all neurotypical people and his affinity for animals as a "rejection of an anthropocentric society that values humans over nature" that is rooted in an "environmental sensibility" that informs his perspectives about normalcy.

Indeed, what Christopher understands and what he does not break down normative understandings of the world; however, I would argue that its use of recognizable stereotypes to do so undermines this seemingly radical world view. The Curious Incident leans heavily into stereotypes of autistic people as dangerous, lacking empathy, and, more often than not, responsible for the breakup of families. While the first portrayal of a violent Christopher has the potential to be a productive depiction for the way it attributes the violence to his fit within his environment and the normative expectations for social interaction that are present there, the subsequent incidents and the frequency with which he engages in this violent behavior coupled with his lack of empathy frame this behavior as an acceptable mode of problem-solving rather than the unavoidable result of a meltdown. For example, while traveling to London, Christopher, fearing that someone he doesn't know might touch him, grips his Swiss Army knife with the saw blade out, ready to stab anyone who might grab hold of him (Haddon 137). This willingness to resort to violence and his lack of either concern or awareness about the pain that such an action would cause is echoed over the course of the novel.

The most troubling aspect of this depiction is how it positions autistic people as responsible for their parents' divorce. In a letter addressed to Christopher about her reasons for leaving, his mother writes, "Maybe if things had been different, maybe if you'd been different, I might have been better at it" (Haddon 106). She then writes about an instance where Christopher had a meltdown in public. After the event, complaining to her husband, she becomes physically violent with her husband. Christopher's mother tells him that they had several such fights and that, ultimately, she began "spending lots of time" with a neighbor (Haddon 107). This letter frames Christopher as a burden responsible for not only his parent's divorce but also domestic violence. The depiction of an autistic person as a burden that ends marriages is reiterated when Christopher goes to live with his mother and her relationship with Mr. Shears collapses. The next morning after an argument with Mr. Shears, Christopher's mother packs the car and tells Christopher that they're leaving London because "someone was going to get hurt" if they stayed (208). While these two events repeat the idea that autistic people are bad for parent relationships, they also touch on a darker theme by linking autistic people to domestic violence as the representation of autistic people as burdens is a dangerous trend that, at times, has been used to rationalize the murder of autistic people by their parents or caregivers. 7

While The Curious Incident's appropriation of common autistic stories, including its probable use of Temple Grandin's autobiographical writing as the basis for Christopher, provides a useful vantage point for the story and enables the text to portrays disability as a primarily social construction, the tropes the novel traffics in suggest harm in Haddon's justification for writing an autistic character. Haddon's framing of Christopher as a person who has "behavioral problems" rather than a single representation of autism drawn from the lived experience of an autistic person closes down the productive avenues of discussion that would otherwise be open with an #ownvoices text. The way in which The Curious Incident draws from popular representations of autism reinforces views of autistic people as monolithic. While representations of autism written by allistic authors are not inherently negative, their tendency to either obscure or ignore the subject position of the author are, in many instances, problematic.


As I have argued previously, autistic-authored #ownvoices books offer unique frameworks which view the world from autistic perspectives. These books push back against both medical models of disability and traditional views of what constitutes diversity of perspective in literature. While their stories insert new, seldom voiced narratives into discourse about autism, their paratexts facilitate this by starting conversations about positionality and what constitutes the ethical representation of a marginalized group. Moreover, when we compare how autistic-authored #ownvoices texts justify their existence to how similar allistic-authored texts do, it is clear that #ownvoices works to expand rather than narrow what society views as valid expressions of autistic identity. Thus, the support of #ownvoices and the publication of autistic authors becomes a way for the autistic community to reclaim ownership of our disabled identities, pushing back against a history of marginalization and stigmatization. This #ownvoices push for diverse books and thus representation has only ever been concerned with what happens when society leaves out certain voices, when people don't see themselves and their perspectives reflected in the things they read. While #ownvoices opens up avenues of conversation about representation, it's important to acknowledge how its prerequisite of disclosure constitutes a kind of self-injury, a coerced self-disclosure of one's disability in order to participate in a space carved out on the margins where one might speak openly about one's own lived experiences. The question that remains is: can and, if so, how do we support all autistic voices? How do we support autistic autonomy and encourage this diversity of perspective equitably within our own community?

Works Cited


  1. In this paper, I suggest the placement of the peritext as something encourages allistic reflection and the examination of allistic assumptions; however, it is possible for the design to also reflect the precarious position autistic interlocutors inhabit in autism discourse more generally. The design of the book may be so ideological positions are sometimes controversial among people such as parents of autistic children placed after the narrative so that those positions that encourage reflection are read after the book is bought rather than before where the prospective reader might come across it skimming through the book to determine whether they want to buy it.
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  2. Singal reacts to the YA community calling out a queer black author for cultural appropriation by stating "[s]chadenfreude is an easy reaction here." The author in question had previously called out others for acts of cultural appropriation; however, Singal's word choice in this instance does more than point out the irony of the situation. It signals that Singal derives a sense of pleasure from this occurrence, which actually may serve to say more about Singal and his prejudices than that of the author in question.
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  3. Many autistics are, from an early age, pathologized based on their mode of play: reciprocal or parallel. In autistic communities, autistics push back against the assumption that a reciprocal mode of engagement is the only valid form of social engagement and that parallel engagement equals a kind of asocial, self-isolation by asserting that, for autistics, parallel play is reciprocal play.
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  4. VidCon is for the Comic-Con equivalent for online video creators such as those on YouTube.
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  5. For more on spoon theory, see Christine Miserandino's "The Spoon Theory."
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  6. While Haddon claims that The Curious Incident is not about an autistic character, his assertion that writing a character without researching the condition makes the character more real and that "imagination always trumps research" does seem to suggest that Haddon intended to write an autistic character, albeit an atypical autistic character. In short, Haddon intended to write an autistic character without such a label.
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  7. This trend is so prevalent that organizations such as ASAN keep records of those murdered by their families as a way of mourning (Disability Day of Mourning).
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