|Disability Studies Quarterly
Winter 2004, Volume 24, No. 1
Copyright 2004 by the Society
for Disability Studies
Devices and desires:
science fiction, fantasy and disability in literature for young people
Jane Stemp, M.A. (Oxon.), Dip.Lib.
Abstract: Characters with disabilities have a surprisingly long history in science and fantasy fiction, but the date of a book's publication is no guide to the manner in which the characters with disabilities are portrayed. This paper studies, from a personal rather than an academic viewpoint, fantasy and science fiction books in the writer's own collection, and discusses some recurrent themes and motifs, with possible reasons for their use.
Outside of hospital, where life seemed almost entirely unrelated to the "real world", I did not meet anyone else with a disability until I was 17. But as a voracious and, at times, undiscriminating reader (my parents' bookshelves were filled with anything from Elizabeth Goudge to Dennis Wheatley, taking in historical and science fiction on the way) I had a circle of disabled characters to whom I returned again and again: not necessarily because of their disabilities per se, but because, as I eventually realised, through their experiences I filtered my own. The period in which I remember my reading habits most clearly coincides, perhaps inevitably, with adolescence, which itself coincided with an intense period of "non-ill" hospitalisation (until the age of nine I was constantly in hospital with bronchitis, pneumonia and so forth) which gave me time to read and be aware of what I was reading.
It was perhaps unusual that before I was 13 I had read many books that are generally considered "adult" science fiction or fantasy. Although books are generally marketed to "age-related" targets, the boundaries between age-zones are always blurred; more so, it seems to me, in science fiction and fantasy, where writers such as John Wyndham and Anne McCaffrey often focus on or through young characters: or, like Terry Pratchett, attracted readers from teens to 50s long before the concept of "cross-over" marketing became popular. For the purpose of this paper I ask the reader's indulgence in accepting as "literature for young people" both that which is self-evidently so, and that which might freely be read by them, whether so intended by the author or not.
In the mid-1970s I found that the areas in which characters with disabilities did not appear—with a few noteworthy exceptions—were science fiction and fantasy. I discovered André Norton in the local public library (and still remember being disappointed when my mother brought me Mary Norton instead), and failed in my first attempt at reading Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea trilogy (as it was then: I finally discovered it in my later teens). What set me on the road to fantasy was The Lord of the Rings, in the third edition hardback that was so difficult to read in a hospital bed without tearing the fold-out maps, and which my father brought for me time and time again, with long intervals while waiting for the next volume to appear on the library shelf. It seems to be a natural reaction in the sterner type of critic to dismiss fantasy as escapism: But at times there is nothing so useful as escape, especially from a hospital bed.
When I did encounter disabled characters in fantasy or science fiction, the sense of recognition was so strong as to add an extra dash of reality to what were otherwise unreal situations. The first book, so far as I remember, in which I experienced this sense—I would almost go so far as to say, this shock—of recognition, was The Chrysalids, by John Wyndham. While it shares with many science fiction scenarios an assumption that apartheid between "the norm" and "the different" will be operating in the future, at the same time it portrays the exiled caste as living their own lives with dignity, although on the edges of society. Wyndham also raises the question "Where does normality draw the line?" Sophie Wender is exiled to the Fringes because of a tiny mutation, an extra toe on one foot; the narrator, David Strorm, and his sister Petra, "pass for normal" until the crisis in the story, because their mutation is hidden; they are telepathic. The only judgments Wyndham is seen to make are against narrow-mindedness and bigotry; without labouring the point, or lecturing, he makes it abundantly clear that although physical differences may affect the way in which one moves through the social and built environment, they have no bearing on one's right to be part of society. My own Waterbound owes a certain amount of its genesis to my memories of reading The Chrysalids, which I acknowledged by naming one of my central characters Sophie.
More usually encountered, especially in fantasy, is the disabled character who is a loner, fighting, if not eventually for acceptance by the rest of the world, then for self-realisation. In historical fiction the characters of Rosemary Sutcliff take up this role: in fantasy, I found the counterpart to these characters in the books of André Norton. The true use of fantasy, it seems to me as a writer, is to allow the author to focus on certain truths and constants while happily bending most of the generally accepted bounds of society. The resulting shift in perception highlights the author's target. In the case of Norton's The Crystal Gryphon—the second science fiction/fantasy book in which I recognised the character's experience—what in a realistic tale might have been lower-limb disability is transformed by the hooves with which the narrator, Kerovan, is born, and by his amber-coloured eyes. However, although Kerovan begins his tale "I was one born accursed in two ways" (Norton, 1979, p.7), neither of these is his disability. Themes of medieval history operate strongly in much "high" fantasy writing, and it is not surprising that Norton has Kerovan's mother disown him; but another motif from history is the prevalence of disabilities, acquired through war and other hazards, which are nothing remarkable. Kerovan is tutored and fostered by Jago, "disabled by a bad fall in the mountains" (ibid, p.9). A little later Norton has Kerovan say "I was as keen-eared as any child who knows that others talk about him behind their hands" (ibid., p. 12), thus calling up the social experience of many children with disabilities. Kerovan, although at first he wears built-up boots over his hooves, "passing for normal" perhaps, as David and his friends do in The Chrysalids, eventually discards them and learns that he walks more comfortably and more attuned with his environment so. In this, as in the comfortable social bonds that Kerovan forms with Jago and his other teachers, Norton is positive about the disabled experience.
However fantasy, particularly when there is magic involved, is beset with traps for the writer, and André Norton is not immune to a particularly strongly baited one: the magical cure. Her 'Ware Hawk includes a portrait of a solitary warrior, a Falconer (of a tribe, incidentally, given to "killing any child not whole and perfect at birth"). This Falconer, Nirel, has lost a hand in an earlier battle and wears a five-clawed prosthesis instead; he also seems to have retired into an inner world of no emotion. It is perhaps as some kind of authorial reward for the broadening of his mind and gentling of his character during the progress of the story that Nirel ends the book with two hands, the lost one re-grown by the power of the healing mud-pools that Norton's characters often come across so conveniently in other titles that are, like this one, part of the "Witch World" series.
Many other world fantasies hold out the image of magical cure for wounds and disabilities; many science fiction titles present the cures not as magical but as "miracles" of science. Why should this be so? Why is the fantasy world so full of the desire for perfection, and the predicted future so full of devices to procure it? Partly the habit must be due to tradition: very few "high" fantasies do not nod to the mythical, perfect archetypes. And science fiction writers, however willing to cast a satirical eye on earlier notions of "progress", seem reluctant to abandon the hope that a perfected medical system will yet cure all the ills of the world. This can lead them into absurdities. Anne McCaffrey, in To Ride Pegasus (1973), began well, Wyndham-style, with a group of people marginalised on account of their parapsychological skills. Seventeen years later the sequel, Pegasus in Flight, depicts, among other characters, a young boy with a high-level spinal cord injury, who rises from his bed and walks by sheer force of psychokinetic power. An interesting prospect but treated in a style completely devoid of any sense of the complexities of spinal cord injury, or even of simplicities such as loss of the sense of touch. Sheer sentimentality appears to have led McCaffrey to this pass, and undermined what in another writer's hands might have been turned into something more interesting. I struggled to finish Pegasus in Flight, once McCaffrey had perpetuated this unlikely "cure". In all I find her an extraordinarily uneven writer, and her attitudes to disability, especially in the Ship Who Sang series, need a paper to themselves.
In Pegasus in Flight the character is, as it were, offered the able-bodied option, and takes it. By 1990, when it was published, I was well beyond my teenage years, but still reading both fantasy and children's literature. At the same time I was by now well versed in the clichés that infest the pens of most able-bodied writers, however well meaning. When I began Waterbound I was very, very clear from the start about one thing above all: There would be no "cure", miracle or otherwise. At about the same time it seemed to me that other writers for children were perpetuating another cliché for disabled characters: the offer of change. This had first appeared in full form in adult fiction in Tanith Lee's disturbing and ultimately negative The Electric Forest (Hamlyn, 1983), though it raised its head in Anne McCaffrey's The Ship Who Sang (New York: Walker, 1969). Two particular books for children caught my eye in the 1990s, both of which set up the same premise. Of the two, Berlie Doherty's Spellhorn (published in hardback in 1989 and in paperback 1990) seems to me much the more interesting.
Unusually, notes to the book reveal precisely the impetus towards the choice of fantasy, type of fantasy, and even choice of words.
The language used by the Wild Ones in the world that briefly overlaps with Laura's, when Spellhorn the unicorn crosses the border, is unlike almost anything else in children's literature. It is evident from Doherty's note that the children with whom she worked had much to do with its creation, which for me gives added validity to the book.
In the land of the Wild Ones, Laura can see.
At the end of the book, Laura takes a course of action that inevitably leads her back to her home world, where she cannot see. There is no feeling of loss, just of change, and the finish of the story on the strong note of "Home" is positive. The book needs more study than I can give it here, but I can say that I have always found it profoundly satisfying.
Less satisfying of the two "chance of change" books, for me, is Jamila Gavin's The Wormholers (1996). This is a somewhat uneasy blend of science fiction and fantasy: Perhaps one could call it fantasy operated by science fiction techniques. The zone—not really a country—through the wormholes has the air of fantasy, but Professor Tlingit, with his/her computerised calling-card, and metallic antenna for detecting wormhole activity, is out of the science fiction stock cupboard. At first The Wormholers seems to be another dysfunctional-family novel, beginning as it does with Chad's violent antagonism to his stepmother Angie, and her daughter Natalie. Into this situation Gavin introduces Sophie—"She was Chad's age but had been born with cerebral palsy and was as helpless as a baby" (Gavin, 1996, p.34). Incidentally, the name "Sophie" derives from the Greek (Sophia), meaning Wisdom. I do not believe that any of the three writers in this paper who have named characters Sophie have done so lightly ...
Chad begins The Wormholers holding the view that "Entertaining Sophie is like playing with a cabbage" (ibid., p.35). Inevitably for modern children's fiction, this view is rapidly exchanged for a proper appreciation of Sophie's intelligence and personality. Her acquisition of a computer is seen, correctly, as an enabling tool for communication. I find, however, some shortcomings in The Wormholers, which for me detract from the overall effect. How come it has taken until Sophie's mid-teens (this in a book published in 1996) to get her a computer? Why does the author build on Chad's "cabbage" metaphor?—"Sophie listened with the strange stillness of an underwater plant. Her limbs moved like tendrils in that same uncontrollable way" (ibid., p.41). Can Sophie really have learned quantum mechanics by listening to people reading textbooks to her? At first the biggest flaw seems summed up by the strapline on the back cover of the paperback edition: "Perfect happiness is to be where you are designed for." This sentence effortlessly brings the medical model of disability into Sophie's equation, suggesting that people with disabilities "do not fit" with their environment, rather than that their environment is at fault for not accommodating them. Devices, if devices there are, should confer freedom rather than modify the body. It is true that beyond the wormhole Sophie is given the power she longs for in the freedom of the whales' environment; but her body and mind are redesigned in order for this to happen. Like Laura in Berlie Doherty's Spellhorn, she forgets home; less like Laura, there are hints of authoritarianism in this new world, suggestions that different behaviour cannot be tolerated. In the end Sophie can only be at home beyond the wormhole by being modified to its world, and realises that "I want the power to be where I belong". Like Laura, home is her destination; but it takes a close reading of the book to shake off the feeling that the alternative world is "really" the preferable choice.
Abandoning for a moment the "chance to choose" theme, it is noticeable in both The Wormholers and, perhaps less surprisingly in The Chrysalids because of its dystopian nature, that science fiction writers are remarkably uncreative when imagining technology to empower people with disabilities. McCaffrey's Ship Who Sang series is a case in point. The back cover blurb of the Corgi edition (published in London in the same year as the original) is informative but unconstructive:
Whatever may have been the thinking behind this on McCaffrey's part, the book reeks of sentimentality, and Helva's situation posits a social environment where people with disabilities can only be of value if they are also of use. Worse, in Helva's "chance to change" moment, the body which is offered her, its looks extrapolated from her genes, is not that of an average-looking woman, but of a raving beauty—a point which can have no aim but that of rubbing in well and truly the "tragedy" of her disability. The psychokinesis in Pegasus in Flight is a device of the worst sort, literary as well as actual, and the hand prosthesis in Norton's 'Ware Hawk fits uncomfortably in a fantasy novel. Only in a few science fiction books has the author sufficient imagination to see that a condition inherent in a futuristic society can be turned to advantage by disabled characters. The example that comes to mind is the commander of the space station in Arthur C. Clarke's Islands in the Sky, who has had both legs amputated, but finds this of no consequence in a zero gravity environment.
Oddly perhaps, the most device-ridden book in the selection for this paper is not a modern science-fiction title, but the Victorian fantasy The Little Lame Prince by Mrs Craik. Although Prince Dolor endures the usual sickly Victorian child's virtue of having "the sight of him and his affliction ma[k]e other people good, and, above all, ma[k]e everybody love him" (Craik, 1875, p.43), nonetheless the book includes a sympathetic and measured depiction of how a solitary child with no comparison to make, may come to a realisation of disability. Craik makes it clear early in the book that the prince is able to move around without the use of his legs—his godmother, indeed, anticipates the title of Lois Keith's A Different Life (1997) by saying "Your life will be quite different to most people's lives; but it may be a very happy life for all that" (ibid., p. 77). She then reveals to him the use of her gift, the travelling cloak, which serves the prince much as a magic wheelchair might a child in a modern fantasy. It is to be noted that neither the cloak nor the godmother are intended to "cure" the prince's lameness; but they give him respectively freedom and love, both of which have previously been lacking. To link the prince more closely to the world over which he flies, his godmother also provides him with magical spectacles for him to see it, and a pair of silver ears to hear when he would otherwise be out of earshot—neither of which enable him to see or hear any more than able-bodied inhabitants of Nomansland would. There is a hint of satire in Craik's writing when finally Prince Dolor is proclaimed king—
Once Dolor is king, his "surgeons and mechanicians" make him a pair of crutches which give him independence through non-magical devices—the independence is stressed—and, unusually for a disabled character in Victorian fiction, he goes on to live a happy, productive life of the normal span—it would be interesting to know how many Victorian readers would have thought of that as a matter of fantasy.
It seems to me that even modern able-bodied writers for children are still rather too aware of the literary effects that can be evoked by killing or curing their disabled characters—Craik's acknowledgement of Dolor's full life is rarely paralleled. It may be that one of the reasons is rooted in the uses of fantasy—writers are reluctant to alter reality in the presence of disability without having the disability itself changed. If this is so, then Michael Morpurgo's The Ghost of Grania O'Malley makes a particularly refreshing read. Jessie Parsons, Jessie's American cousin Jack, and 16th-century pirate queen Grania O'Malley combine to save the Big Hill from commercial exploitation—a not unusual type of plot. The fact that Jessie has cerebral palsy is almost incidental (for the cover illustration, so incidental as to be undetectable), although her struggles to reach the summit of the Big Hill begin the action of the book.
Michael Morpurgo handles this disability aspect of The Ghost of Grania O'Malley so effortlessly that it is a disappointment to see him slip into one of the other traps of fantasy—the health talisman. Jack has a "lucky" stone arrowhead, and loses it: "My Dad's sick, really sick ... He's going to have surgery. It's because I lost my arrowhead. I know it" (Morpurgo, 1996, p.78). Towards the end of the book Grania O'Malley gives Jack her own stone arrowhead as a replacement; and Jack's father gets well. This use of fantasy powers to produce a cure is perhaps more dangerous in a book whose background is otherwise realistic. As C.S. Lewis said of school stories, though he might equally have applied his words to realistic fiction:
C.S. Lewis himself "cures" Diggory's mother in The Magician's Nephew, as his own mother was not cured, but masks his longing in allegory and another world. There is, however, the possibility of creating a realistic setting in which a magical cure genuinely happens—such as that of Jack's father. To do this, when magical cures are so often wished for in real life, seems to me irresponsible; the realistic fantasies, where things "ought to happen, would have happened if the reader had had a fair chance" are the most dangerous.
I include in this group of "realistic" fantasies Terry Trueman's Stuck in Neutral. Some elements of this bear a distant resemblance to the "other world" experiences of Sophie in Gavin's The Wormholers, in that Shawn's seizures give him "out-of-body" experiences in which he is able to travel, see, and hear as he wishes. So far so good, if one can tolerate the concept: a reasonably interesting literary device to expand the universe of someone with no power to move of his own accord. And yet—might it not be that the fantasy is Trueman's, given his own situation as the father of a son with severe cerebral palsy (vide the book's jacket)? He creates for Shawn, this parallel of his own son, the full mental life he would like that son to have. If that is so, what are we to make of Shawn's apparent reconciliation to the possibility of being murdered by his father? Does the real fantasy lie in Trueman's creation of a son who would not mind if his father killed him?
To me Stuck in Neutral rings false: an external construction, by an able-bodied person, of what someone with disabilities might feel. It does not take much authorial skill, or indeed social skill, to make a genuine effort to identify with someone else: the skill is in making the reader identify with a condition, which he, she, or the author has never experienced. In their own ways all the authors I have studied in this paper are attempting to do that thing. The difficulty comes when the books are read by someone who has the experience. The difference can be intangible, but a book by someone who "knows" rings quite differently from a book by someone who is playing on the possibilities of a situation.
And yet even an author who seems to be working solely on the latter basis may produce an interesting and stimulating book: for example, Arthur Calder-Marshall's odd, surreal allegory The Fair to Middling: a mystery, originally published in 1963. It is hard to tell from 2004 exactly how satirical Calder-Marshall intended some of his vocabulary (Alderman Winterbottome's School for Incapacitated Orphans, for example) to be, but to the alert reader it quickly becomes clear that Middling Fair is an equivalent to Bunyan's Vanity Fair, where the children on a Bank Holiday visit may have anything their hearts desire. At times the disability aspect of the book is almost overwhelmed by satire, allegory and word play; but in fact all of the main characters find themselves in a "chance to choose" situation. Emma chooses not to be colour-blind; Lawrie rejects the chance to change from being albino; Peter finds that being able to see robs him of the gift of music, and chooses to stay with what he knows. In the end the main theme is summed up by Rose Oxley, one of the school's teachers who has rejected the chance to have her scarred face changed. She defines as a "sort of miracle" the ability "To choose to be what you are .... Accept that. Choose it for what it gives you" (Calder-Marshall, 1973). This brief discussion does not give a proper sense of the book's complexity and playfulness, and I would welcome a chance to study it in more detail at a future time.
There are other titles that I could have studied for this paper that I have chosen to ignore, for example, Eileen Dunlop's timeslip fantasies. There are doubtless books I have not yet read that would have been a useful addition to one view, or have countered another. And yet while reading for this paper I have become more conscious than ever of the prevalence of the "chance to choose" theme. Even in my own Secret Songs there are hints that Ceri has the option to become a selkie, as if it were a choice of another life where Secret Songs she might feel at home, though I would hope that this is not seen simply in terms of her partial hearing. There is, for one thing, no indication that she will recover full hearing in the sea: simply that its tactile language is not one she will have to struggle to hear (in actual fact, of course, genuine deafness would be of considerable disadvantage to a seal). Nonetheless, from Spellhorn to The Wormholers to The Ship Who Sang to The Fair to Middling, able-bodied writers are presenting disability in terms of its opposite: setting up the choice as if, indeed, it were a genuine one. I await a "high" fantasy book in which a character with disabilities is part of the story without comment or the burden of symbolism; a science fiction book in which the technological environment includes the disabled life-style instead of modifying the disabled body.
In Catherine Fisher's exceptional Arthurian timeslip fantasy Corbenic (2002), Bron is the Fisher King, lamed by the Dolorous Blow that has left his kingdom an infertile ruin. In this retelling, he uses a wheelchair. At one point, near the end of Cal's quest for the Grail, Shadow asks him:
'What will happen if you find it?'
But Cal is not disabled, or even physically wounded; he has been spiritually damaged by his difficult relationship with his mother, and by his own refusal to trust other people. To heal is not to cure; maybe Bron will be healed, but that does not necessarily imply the taking away of his disability. Indeed when Cal achieves the Grail, and Bron stands, it is with a great effort, leaning on his hands. There is no indication of a permanent "cure", and the healing, when it comes, is Cal's.
'And the Waste Land? Is it healed?'
Cal thinks so, but we do not see; nothing is certain. Literature does not have to follow its old themes. The choice does not have to be offered.
Further reading: other fantasy and science-fiction stories with disability interest:
(Timeslip and ghost stories have been included; anthropomorphic and toy stories have not.)
Ahlberg, Alan. 2001. My Brother's Ghost. London: Viking.
Allen, Joan. 1998. Crystaline and the Unicorn. London: Minerva.
Anderson, Rachel. 1997. The Scavenger's Tale. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Bevan, Clare. 1989. Mightier than the Sword. London: Blackie.
Boston, Lucy M., ill. Peter Boston. 1958. The Chimneys of Green Knowe. London: Faber.
Breslin, Theresa, ill. David Wyatt. 1999. Dream Master. London: Corgi.
Breslin, Theresa. 1994. Whispers in the Graveyard. London: Methuen.
Chukwuka, J.I.N. 1996, c.1977. Zandi and the Wonderful Pillow. London: John Murray.
Clancy, Gertrude. 1994. The Cup and the Mask: a fairy tale. Llandysul: Pont.
Dunbar, Joyce. 1985. Mundo and the Weather-child. London: Heinemann.
Dunlop, Eileen, ill. Phillida Gili. 1976. A Flute in Mayferry Street. London: Oxford University Press.
Dunlop, Eileen. 1989. The Valley of Deer. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Fletcher, Susan. 1998. Shadow Spinner. London: Bloomsbury.
French, Vivian, ill. Sue Heap. 1992. Tillie McGillie's Fantastical Chair. London: Walker.
Goodhart, Pippa, ill. Aafke Brouwer. 1995. Ginny's Egg. London: Heinemann.
Hawkins, Elizabeth. 1995. The Maze. London: Orchard.
Hoopman, Kathy. 2001. Blue Bottle Mystery: an Asperger Adventure. London: Jessica Kingsley.
Hoopman, Kathy. 2001. Of Mice and Aliens: an Asperger Adventure. London: Jessica Kingsley.
Jung, Reinhardt, trans. Anthea Bell. 2000. Dreaming in Black & White. London: Mammoth.
Kilworth, Garry, ill. Dan Williams. 1997. The Gargoyle. London: Mammoth.
Leonard, Alison, ill. Harriet Dell. 1995. Quiddy and the Mysterious Mega virus. Harlow: Longman.
Lowry, Lois. 2000. Gathering Blue. New York: Walter Lorraine.
Morgan, Robin, ill. Jesse Spicer-Zerner. 1991. The Mer-child: a Legend for Children and Other Adults. New York: Feminist Press.
Morpurgo, Michael, ill. Michael Foreman. 2002. The Sleeping Sword. London: Egmont.
Richemont, Enid. 1998. The Time Tree. London: Walker.
Calder-Marshall, Arthur, ill. Raymond Briggs (1962 repr. 1973). Pbk ed. The Fair to Middling: a mystery. Harmondsworth: Puffin.
Clarke, Arthur C. 1972. Islands in the Sky. [New ed.] Harmondsworth: Puffin.
Craik, Dinah Maria Mulock. 1875. The Little Lame Prince. New York: Harper & Brothers.
Doherty, Berlie. 1990. Spellhorn. Pbk. ed. London: HarperCollins Lions.
Fisher, Catherine. Corbenic. 2002. London: Red Fox.
Gavin, Jamila. 1996. The Wormholers. London: Mammoth.
Lewis, C.S. The Magician's Nephew. 1955. London: Bodley Head.
Lewis, C.S., ed. Walter Hooper. 1982. "On Three Ways of Writing for Children" in Of This and Other Worlds. London: Collins.
McCaffrey, Anne. 1969. The Ship Who Sang. New York: Walker.
McCaffrey, Anne. 1973. To Ride Pegasus. New York: Bantam.
McCaffrey, Anne. 1990. Pegasus in Flight. New York: Ballantine.
Morpurgo, Michael. 1996. The Ghost of Grania O'Malley. London: Heinemann Young.
Norton, André [pseudonym for Alice Mary Norton]. 1976, repr. 1979. The Crystal Gryphon. Harmondsworth, Peacock.
Norton, André [pseudonym for Alice Mary Norton]. 1989. 'Ware Hawk. London: Victor Gollancz.
Stemp, Jane. 1997. Secret Songs. London: Hodder.
Stemp, Jane. 1995. Waterbound. London: Hodder.
Trueman, Terry. 2001. Stuck in Neutral. London: Hodder.
Wyndham, John [pseudonym for John Beynon Harris]. 1958, repr. 1969. The Chrysalids. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Jane Stemp has published two novels for teenagers, both featuring characters with disabilities and short listed for the NASEN Children's Book Award. The second, Secret Songs, was short-listed for the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize. Within the last few years she has spoken and written on disability matters for a variety of conferences and journals. Under her married name, Jane Wickenden, she is a special collections librarian for the Royal Navy, and has recently written short pieces for the Journal of the Royal Naval Medical Service. She lives with cerebral palsy, and has been partially hearing since the age of five.
Disability Studies Quarterly (DSQ) is the journal of the Society for Disability Studies (SDS). It is a multidisciplinary and international journal of interest to social scientists, scholars in the humanities and arts, disability rights advocates, and others concerned with the issues of people with disabilities. It represents the full range of methods, epistemologies, perspectives, and content that the field of disability studies embraces. DSQ is committed to developing theoretical and practical knowledge about disability and to promoting the full and equal participation of persons with disabilities in society. (ISSN: 1041-5718; eISSN: 2159-8371)