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Constructing the (M)other

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


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 Fourteen: Typicality and the (Br)other (Diane Linder Berman / David J. Connor)


chapter 14

Typicality and the (Br)other

Diane Linder Berman and David J. Connor

Dear Adam,

I am writing this letter to you because I want you to know what I’ve learned from having you as my son. You, my Adam, are a radiant boy with an incandescence that can light up a room. You have wisdom, intelligence, talent, and dedication, and yet, somehow, you feel that your gifts are not quite enough. I want you to know that dedication and a drive for perfection are good traits, but remember that one deserves to feel content, not only with accomplishments that eclipse most expectations, but also with those that do not meet any.

Expectations. There we have our first problematic word. You, my love, were born into a world where your dad and I were grappling with that word. Our first days, weeks, months, and even years together were a time when we were trying to sort out how to deal with expectations about children’s development. Your brother, Benny, as you know, was in the midst of a sea of evaluations. It seems there are expectations even of babies in our society, and when your brother “failed” to meet those defined as normal and valued by society, we entered a whole new world. As educators, we had been trained to constantly measure the achievements of children, and so, at the time, we did not question our responsibility as parents to...

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