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Constructing the (M)other

Narratives of Disability, Motherhood, and the Politics of «Normal»

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Edited By Priya Lalvani

Constructing the (M)other is a collection of personal narratives about motherhood in the context of a society in which disability holds a stigmatized position. From multiple vantage points, these autoethnographies reveal how ableist beliefs about disability are institutionally upheld and reified. Collectively they seek to call attention to a patriarchal surveillance of mothering, challenge the trope of the good mother, and dismantle the constructed hierarchy of acceptable children. The stories contained in this volume are counter-narratives of resistance—they are the devices through which mothers push back. Rejecting notions of the otherness of their children, in these essays, mothers negotiate their identities and claim access to the category of normative motherhood. Readers are likely to experience dissonance, have their assumptions about disability challenged, and find their parameters of normalcy transformed.

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Chapter Ten: Becoming Anahita: A Persian Mother’s Pilgrimage to Autism Pride (Negar Irani / Negin Hosseini Goodrich)

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chapter 10

Becoming Anahita

A Persian Mother’s Pilgrimage to Autism Pride

Negar Irani and Negin Hosseini Goodrich

Introduction by Negin

This is a story of one mother’s journey to understanding autism, narrated by Negar Irani, an Iranian woman residing in Tehran, and translated from Persian into English by myself—Negin Hosseini Goodrich, an Iranian-American disability rights activist and Negar’s friend. In addition to directly translating Negar’s accounts about, and interpretations of, her life with her son, Ilia, who has autism, I offer my own reflections on her story, situating it within the Iranian socio-cultural context and making connections with the central ideas of disability studies. Additionally, at the start of each of her vignettes, I insert brief preambles about the mythical Persian goddess, Anahita, as a metaphor for the story of her modern-day version, Negar. These are based on representations of the Persian goddess in mythology; however, their content might be more creative than a direct adoption from the original mythology. Persian culture and literature are, in fact, filled with myths about valiant gods and goddesses, capable of accomplishing extraordinary missions. I believe that modern versions of these mythical beings manifest today in individuals, such as Negar, who resist the mainstream and create their own path. Negar’s interpretations and evolving perceptions of autism are aligned with many of the principles of the newly formed neurodiversity movement, and with disability studies perspectives of which she has not been aware.

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