Representations of Disability in Young Adult Literature
Chapter 1. Agency, Rebellion, and Challenging the Status Quo: Accidents of Nature and The Acorn People
AGENCY, REBELLION, AND CHALLENGING THE STATUS QUO: ACCIDENTS OF NATURE AND THE ACORN PEOPLE
One of the main features of a disability rights perspective is that it turns the spotlight of critique on society. Instead of focusing on an individual person’s ability to “overcome” an impairment and “fit” into “normal” society, scholars and activists focus on constructed societal barriers that exclude, either deliberately or obliviously, people with disabilities. While many YA novels have sections that critique mainstream society or the occasional rude behavior of several people in that society, Harriet McBryde Johnson’s Accidents of Nature, from start to finish, calls into question society’s views of disability. It is fierce in its challenge to the status quo, and the disabled characters’ rebellion against mainstream society is uncompromising. This novel also handles agency in an unusual way. The disabled characters in many adult and YA novels are acted upon, rather than agents of their own lives. Often it is non-disabled characters who speak up for them, communicate for them, or discover something about themselves because of their interaction with these characters. However, Accidents of Nature foregrounds the characters with disabilities as the clear agents of their own lives and as agents of change. The “norms,” as the non-disabled characters are called, are clearly the secondary characters and are acted upon. This novel has a refreshing in-your-face stance against the status quo, a stance that is rare, intense, and triumphant. ← 19 | 20 →
Accidents of Nature
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