Posted in Advocacy, Autistic Identity, writing

From the Archives: The Baggage of Autistic Literature

So I think I said at one point that I don’t get writer’s block.  And that’s true, strictly speaking.

However, as you can tell, I’m sitting here, spilling out words, but I’m using them to whine about writer’s block.  What gives?

Well, I had three pages of something I don’t much like that I gave up on writing and decided to come over here.  A lot has been going on, particularly regarding the authenticity of Autistic voices.   Far stronger bloggers than I are debating whether self-diagnosis is valid and other fun topics.  Since returning to working outside the house, though, there’s a limit to how much I can really get involved.

So instead, I do my advocacy through writing about things like education and neurodiversity advocacy “and stuff.”

But I haven’t even had time for that lately.  (By the way, hi, blogosphere.  I miss you guys.   Thanks for fighting the good fight on self-diagnosis and other demons!).

Tomorrow I’m due to write my second story for the fiction class (by the way, I’ve got a revised edition of the first story, but I’m thinking about “shopping it around for publication” so if the early draft disappears from the website, that’s why.

So, yeah, here I am, not writing the new story.

I’m known at my college for writing Autism.  I’m so good at it that I am uncovering Autistics all over this writing program.  One got a diagnosis, two are contemplating it and a fourth probably IS, but she doesn’t recognize it and it’s really making her hard to live with right now (has anyone else noticed, we’re a lot easier to get along with when we know we’re Autistic?).  I blog here about (wait for it) Autism.  This is what I do, even in my fiction.  My fiction typically features an Autistic main character.  I did not know this until recently, but once I discovered it, I couldn’t very well un-see it.

I’m increasingly realizing the baggage this carries with it.

When I write, I’m not just writing for me, but as part of a group of people who aren’t (yet) widely seen as a culture.  We know we’re a culture and we’re trying to build one that is more recognized by the establishment (whoever that is).  Every time I put words to paper (real or virtual), I am contributing to Autistic literature (fiction or non-fiction).  I have chosen to position myself as an Autistic writer, too, not because it’s novel (though it is seen as such), but because it’s tied up with my identity.  That makes everything I write have a sense of importance (for now) until we have so much of our stuff out there mine can be seen as the crap it is (okay, some of it isn’t bad, but let’s be honest…we all toss a lot of junk out into the universe).

You may be saying that I’m making this into a bigger deal than it is.

Think about this, though.  In the children’s/YA publishing industry (like any industry), we’ve been lamenting the cultural whiteness of the place since (at least) the 1960’s.  There are mountains of literature about the whiteness of children’s book publishing.  Every year, there are stats published on this.  Recently, the mainstream publishers have been strong armed to the point they are actually actively pursuing voices of color.  They have finally, 50-some years later, decided that maybe they have a problem.

That’s how long it takes AFTER THE CALL IS RAISED for anyone to give a damn.

In Autistic culture, we are representing a minority that is even LESS represented: Disability, and we’re a subset of Disability (and the people of color in our world are even MORE silenced).  We are calling for more Disabled voices in literature, but if this is anything like the “more People of Color” call…then it’ll be about 50 years before anyone STARTS to take this call seriously.  But if we are somewhat ready now, maybe we can pick up the momentum of the current movement and get more Disabled voices into print.

But this isn’t “nice” work.  Advocacy never is.  I know of one author who is always trying to be “nice” and she writes in Autism.  Here’s the thing, though: nothing ever changed for any group by nice people going around doing nice things.  She’s so busy trying not to offend people she’s making the Autism experience a bit too warm and cozy.  I’ve even heard her defend ABA therapists.  But I give her the benefit of the doubt: she didn’t get immersed in advocacy culture the way I did (I blame the abandoned Ph.D. program; it’s the cause of, and solution to, many of my problems, like Homer Simpson’s beer).

And it’s that immersion that’s giving me the damned writer’s block.

And yes, I just banged out 800ish words (on top of those 3 pages I already did this morning that I decided sucked too much to continue with) explaining why I can’t write today.

Thanks for bearing with me as I rant to you all before trying once again to write something to humor my teacher.  I wish I didn’t have to carry the baggage of being an “Autistic author.”  I now better understand what writers who are cultural minorities deal with in terms of “baggage.”  Well-meaning white folk tell them to “write what they like and don’t worry,” but you can’t, really?

Not if you’re trying to help more voices, like yours, be amplified.



After I wrote this, I went on to write the first draft of “Cat By Cat” I posted earlier.  My writing teacher told me that I needed to stop writing about Autism and to write as a thin, not fat person.  This was a few weeks before she bullied my Neurodivergent, but allistic Indigenous friend from the program.  She likes diversity, so long as it is all white and feminist (and apparently thin, besides?).  This is why Autistic voices have to keep fighting, and fighting alongside our silenced friends.  Sometimes we’re silenced, other times it is they, but if we keep going, we’ll amplify each others’ voices so that we can all be heard.


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