Monday Book Review: They Call Me Sunshine

I’m not even going to provide a buy link to this book. No one should buy it. Ever.

This is the worst that self-publishing has to offer. I know the company this author published with and they likely charged her a lot of money to slap her book up on the web. And if she were smart, she’d take it down and learn to write in a way that isn’t highly offensive.

The subtitle of this book is “Inside the mind of a quadriplegic” yet it seems very clear to me that this woman has never met a quadriplegic. She knows nothing about it. Her descriptions of it are unrealistic to the point of absurdity. This character is supposedly not able to speak at all and yet he also isn’t on a¬†ventilator. ¬†I’m getting ahead of myself, though. Let me start with the description…

Have you ever wondered what it must be like to be handicapped? To always be at the mercy of others and not be able to do anything for yourself? To be mute and voiceless; not be able to walk or even lift a finger to feed yourself. In her new book, Ms. Stevens dares to foray into the world of the handicapped. To look at the world through the eyes of the defenseless, the helpless and open up the doors to give us a peek inside the aloneness of their world. This highly entertaining book will take you on a journey into the life of “Sunshine”. A quadriplegic who lives in the South. You will cry, laugh, and be mesmerized on the journey this book will take you as you relive the days and events of Sunshine’s world seen through his eyes, and his eyes alone.

The language here is intensely offensive from “handicapped” to “at the mercy of others” to “defenseless” to “helpless.” Ugh. Ms. Stevens dares to foray into the world of the handicapped? Where? In her own head? She clearly imagined this entire thing without any connection to reality. The description and subtitle strongly suggest that this is an insider look at life with a high level spinal cord injury, but I cannot believe that this woman has ever met a quad or even emailed one to ask a single question. What it must be like indeed? An abelist perspective on what she imagines things would have to be like for someone with a disability leaving aside that it’s not at all true.

Amazingly this author manages to not only be offensive to people with disabilities, but also to black people and southerners. The language is ridiculously mammy/jim crow.  Here is the review I put on Amazon:

I would like to know on what authority this author claims to know what it is like to be a quad.

This book is nothing more than a pack of horrible stereotypes with no connection to real life at all. Even from the description it is clear that this author knows nothing about disability.

This is not the typical life of a quad. It’s the life of someone who is just left to rot without being given anything that he could use to help himself. A quadriplegic is only helpless if he is not given the tools to do things for himself. The narrator’s voice is childlike in a way that makes me think of old stories about slow and dimwitted slaves or something of that ilk. Even worse given that the characters are supposed to be black. They just end up looking ignorant and stupid not taking proper care of this man. I wonder what time period this is supposed to be. I guess I could understand if it was the 1930s. Maybe. But this guy is 45 and he doesn’t even have a wheelchair or a catheter. I don’t believe a quad could live that long with the incredibly poor care demonstrated here.

Nothing about this book rings true to me. It feels like someone just made up what they thought life must be like for someone whose position she knew nothing about. If that is not the case, I’d like to see the author bio or an intro to the book that explains where this story came from.

If it is meant to be a previous time, then the book description should definitely not claim to expose what it’s like to be a quad. Because this is not a typical experience at all. Not even close.

 

I cannot overstate how offensive and horrible this book is. Anything good? Well, most of the sentences have punctuation.

This leads back to another question that has come up before. Do able bodied authors have the right to tell the stories of people with disabilities? This is something that I do. I tell stories from the point of view of characters who have disabilities that I do not have. So what makes it different when I do it?

I do a lot of research and learning about people’s lives in a variety of circumstances before I ever begin to write. I have many friends who are wheelchair users. When I write, I remain always aware of what impact my words could have on a reader who does not know anything about the disability the character has. I feel that that is a responsibility and a writer who does not take that care should not be publishing.

If you want to know what it’s like “inside the mind of a quadriplegic,” you should read one of the many autobiographies and other true stories of quads…

Still Me

Joni

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

The Other Side of the Mountain

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