…disability is too often excluded in discussions of diversity, a good deal of which, for good reason, focuses on race. This silence is especially noteworthy because disability crosses racial, gender, sexuality, class, and national boundaries.
As a disabled writer, for over two decades I’ve looked at how disability is represented in our literature. This interest has taken me across the globe, with a special focus in disability representation in Japan, and more recently in Germany. I’ve taught classes and given talks on disability representation at many universities and conferences in North America, Japan, and Europe.
Twenty years ago, I edited Staring Back: The Disability Experience from the Inside Out, the first commercially published multi-genre anthology of writers with disabilities writing about disability. The anthology was published by Plume. In the introduction, I wrote: “Throughout history, people with disabilities have been stared out. Now, here in these pages — in literature of inventive form, at times harrowingly funny, at times provocatively wise — writers with disabilities affirm our lives by putting the world on notice that we are staring back.”
Goddard College MFAW faculty member Kenny Fries: The editor wanted to crop the photograph so it only showed, close-up, the lower portion of the photograph, which showed my cane and shoes. Next to it would be a similarly cropped version of a photo of South African Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius, taken long before his trial for murdering his girlfriend.
Gay, disabled and Jewish: “An ex calls it the Nazi Trifecta, three marks under Nazism,” Kenny Fries explains – only to segue into another dark joke about the lack of accessibility in concentration camps.
Goddard MFAW faculty Kenny Fries: Dear Young Disabled Writer and Disabled Writers Not Yet Born,
You might ask: What does this have to do with the disturbing results of the recent U.S. election? Why is this story important for me to impart to you at this time?
When I was born in 1960 nobody knew whether I would live or die. When, after four weeks in an incubator, my parents were able to take me home, nobody knew whether I’d be able to walk.
Now, here I am fifty-six years later, alive and, most of the time, still walking.
Kenny Fries, Goddard MFA faculty member living in Berlin, visits “Homosexualität_en” exhibit at the Deutsches Historisches Museum and the Schwules Museum: “I was reminded of how the word “homosexual” was used for the first time around the same time as the word “normal,” and how historically the issue of “cure” has pertained to both homosexuality and disability. I noted how there have been laws “outlawing” both homosexuality and disability, including the “ugly” laws in the United States, which made it illegal for disabled people to appear in public. Most of these laws were not repealed until the 1970s. Chicago’s 1911 ordinance that stated, “It is hereby prohibited for any person who is diseased, maimed, mutilated, or deformed in any way so as to be an unsightly or disgusting object to expose himself to public view,” was the last to be repealed, in 1974.”
…well, at least some of what this Faculty Advisor does on leave. This past week Professor David Mitchell, George Washington University, brought his “Disabled People and the Holocaust” class to Berlin. The class is especially interested in how what happened
One thing I’ve learned about writing, which, in turn, has reinforced what I’ve learned about life, is that you never know what might lead to what, what might happen next. In 2002, when I was introduced by a mutual
The past five months, I’ve been in Berlin researching a new book. Much of my time is spent learning about difficult things, such as how disabled people were killed under the Nazi Aktion T4 program. But much of my time