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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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Foreword: “There was this mother, one mother…” (Linda Ware)



“There was this mother, one mother…”

Linda Ware

A recent episode of CBS Sunday Morning opens with dancers from the New York City Ballet (NYCB) as the voice-over from the reporter explains, “Ballet is the stuff dreams are made of —the epitome of precision, grace, and beauty. What little girl hasn’t dreamed of being up on that stage?” (CBS News, 2018). The episode titled: “Ballet for Special Children” chronicles a program designed for disabled children who might otherwise be denied “the dream of dance.” We meet Karen, a young girl with cerebral palsy who, speaking through her computer, expresses her enthusiasm for the program. And then there’s Dr. Joseph P. Ditkowsky, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon who specializes in cerebral palsy and serves as an advisor for the program. When asked how the program came about, he was quick to explain that “there was this one mother” —one mother who wrote to the NYCB seeking an accessible program for her disabled daughter. At the time, there were none sponsored by the NYCB. Some four years later, a series of workshops that pair NYCB dancers with children with “disabilities of any kind” is in full operation. Children flee their wheelchairs, drop their crutches, and find friendship in the company of others for whom their difference does not signal exclusion.

“This one mother” as a motif is common in the literature on mothers, and especially mothers attempting to support their disabled children. In Constructing...

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