Saturday, July 29, 2017

Finding Neurodiversity in Fiction: When the Moon was Ours by Anna-Maria McLemore

This isn't canon, or even headcanon -- that is, I'm not claiming any of the characters in this book should be read as neurodiverse. But it did strike me as containing a wonderful metaphor, and one wide open for neurodiverse people to embrace, if we want to.

(With one caveat... part of the metaphor is so viscerally unappealing to me, I almost stopped reading the book.)

When the Moon Was Ours is a work of magic realism, a story about claiming one's identity, and a tender romance. It's probably most aptly targeted at a YA audience, but adults will love it too. The plot is so fantastical it's probably simplest not to try to explain it, but here is the relevant part: Miel, a teenaged girl, comes from a family of "brujos and brujas," who have helpful gifts like being able to heal broken bones. But Miel's strange gift is considered a curse: she --

-- ugh ugh ugh ugh ugh! --

-- grows roses from her wrist, beautiful fragrant roses that express her innermost feelings. Miel's father believes that anyone who grows roses from their body -- ugh! -- will ultimately turn on their family, and Miel underwent genuine torture from her family's efforts to cure or exorcise her.

You see.

Here are some sections that particularly stuck with me (all emphases are mine):

"'She loved you,' Aracely said. 'But she got lost thinking that your roses were something outside of you... ' [spoilers deleted] 'She never wanted to hurt you.'

'You really believe that?' Miel asked, and she heard in her own voice both skepticism and forgiveness. A suspicion both that her mother had been trying to hurt her and that she had been justified in doing it. 

'Yes,' Aracely said. 'I've always believed that. But just because she loved you doesn't mean you deserved what she did. Or what he did.'

It takes Miel some time to accept that Aracely is right: that her roses aren't a curse, that her mother was wrong, but that she did act from love.

"Her mother hadn't hated her. She knew that. She'd feared for her. She'd loved Miel, seen her a daughter she could lose to petals and thorns. She'd been a young mother little older than Aracely, panicked and desperate to hold on to the children she'd made.

What mother could resist a hundred tales of roses that had stolen the souls of sons and daughters? What mother could stand against her husband's insistence that their daughter was sick and needed to be cured?"
I hope this doesn't come off as sounding like an apologist for curebie parents, but part of Miel's journey towards accepting herself is believing in her mother's love for her. It helps lift the shame that keeps her from protecting herself against those that threaten her.

There's also a wonderful, complex self-acceptance journey for Miel's beloved friend and new lover Samir, which adds to the richness of the story. I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Spring and Fall to a Middle-Aged Woman

me: "Oh boy! Today I get to change from our cold weather pillowcases to our warm weather pillowcases!"

(At times like this, I wish I could find a gif from the Simpson's vacation episode, where Lisa says, "Yeah, it's going to be really fun for you changing a different set of sheets" and Marge replies, "You're joking -- but it is!")

Most of my childhood, during which we were both very poor and moved around a lot, was pretty minimalist. I literally had no idea of what a mattress pad was until I met my husband when I was 21. We didn't even have changes of sheets, much less seasonal ones.

Something I've learned slowly over the last 10-15 years is how to adjust my environment. In the place we lived before our current home, my husband would sometimes come home to find me almost passed out from the heat. I had no idea how to deal on hot days.

Our current home is much, much hotter. After a lifetime spent living in virtual caves, I wanted a lot of sunlight, and I got it. But I've learned what to do. At certain times of day, you open this window or close that one. You open and close curtains. You change clothes. You turn on a fan or take a cool shower.

I think it's partially that this is the longest time I've ever lived in one place -- our previous home together being the second longest -- and so I've gotten a sense of continuity that I never had before. "This is what happens in Spring. This is what happens in Fall." And I have money to buy things now -- jackets for when it's cool, jackets for when it's cold, flannel sheets -- and places to store them.

But I think it's also that I'm easier with transitions. Not just the more obvious ones like seasons of the year, but the times of day. I take the time now to think about the weather. It doesn't bother me any more to change clothes or add or subtract them.

I might not even notice all this stuff if it weren't for my resident mini-me. (Who is now more like a maxi-me.) I hope he'll get here someday too.