Bear, Otter, and the Kid, eBook by TJ Klune
Dreamspinner Press Release Date: August 12, 2011
I have to admit that I’m torn about this book. I did something with it that I normally don’t ever do. Usually, as soon as a derogatory term against the disabled community appears in a book I stop reading it, mark where I am, what the term was, and write up a quick note on Goodreads, Amazon, and my blog about it. The worse offenders are YA novels, which is really disturbing. The term in this case was “retarded,” one that seems to be on the upswing these days, sadly, as it had been slowing down for a while. The fact that it’s appearing in so many YA novels is really disturbing, I think, because it’s showing a whole new generation it’s ok to say those things. It’s being incorporated into their culture.
It’s something I think editors need to be aware of, possibly more important than a misplaced comma or a maligned semicolon.
It shocked me to see it in a m/m romance book, though. I hadn’t seen anything of that nature, that I remember, out of everything I’ve read so far. I contacted Mr. Klune, but haven’t heard back from him. What I think is truly ironic, however, it that it’s someone from one marginalized group demeaning another group that’s marginalized.
Just to take a quick side-step here, and forgive me, because my memory’s not always that great and it’s been awhile since I’ve taken these classes. Brown vs Board of Education was a groundbreaking case for more than just, at least in the eyes of the law, the judgment that separate educational facilities were NOT equal, starting the beginning of desegregation. This is important because it had a ripple effect, it was the beginning of civil rights movements for many groups, including gay rights and rights for people with disabilities, among many others. Both groups had to fight, and both groups still face countless challenges. Politicians and religious groups turn sexual orientation into something they have no business in, people with autism are refused heart transplants because the doctors don’t know how they will react in a hospital. Illegal restraints are used on children with disabilities who are nonverbal, and they can’t tell anyone because they don’t have a communication system and people who know are either too afraid to speak up or punished if they do. Gay men are attacked simply because they’re gay. WTF? I meant to keep this more positive, but I feel this deeply, because I’ve advocated for people with disabilities who can’t speak, who people don’t listen to if they can speak, and who people treat as “retarded” just because they’re nonverbal. Just because they’re nonverbal doesn’t mean they don’t understand exactly what you’re saying. Just because a man is gay doesn’t mean he can’t love just as deeply or truly as any other human being. Feel passion any less.
So what do I do? I finished the book–I liked it, other than the fact that “retarded” was used three more times. So now I feel conflicted and upset, the more I think about it.
I advocate for the right to love and marry whoever you want to, to have or adopt children if you want to, and I advocate for people with disabilities to have their rights respected. What do you do when two things you feel so passionately about conflict?
To everyone else this may seem like no big deal. It’s just a word. There are no such things as “just words.” Words influence, they hurt, and they bully, because there are people behind those words who are capable of inflicting pain, whether it’s physical, or mental or both.
This isn’t intended as an attack on Mr. Klune, and I’m sorry if it’s taken or seen that way. It’s more built up frustration. For anyone who writes and uses terms that are derogatory. The fact that I feel like people snicker at me–“oh, it’s that crazy lady who gets all worked up about people with disabilities.” I have a lot of reasons to get worked up, I won’t go into them here.
I just wish I could have read the book and enjoyed it without knowing those words were there, because they really ticked me off. And I really would have liked it so much more if they hadn’t been.