Representations of Disability in Young Adult Literature
Chapter 4. Carving Out an Identity: Peeling the Onion, Stoner and Spaz, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
CARVING OUT AN IDENTITY: PEELING THE ONION, STONER AND SPAZ, AND THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN
It is not unusual for YA protagonists to carve out new identities throughout the course of their narratives. As Sherman Alexie puts it, “Literature is all about the search for identity, regardless of the ethnicity” (Chapel). Young protagonists often have conflicts with themselves, their parents or siblings, their friends, their teachers, their sports teams, or their communities. An added dimension to the novels discussed in this chapter is that these narrators, all of whom have a significant physical impairment, learn something else in the process: over the course of their development, they learn to question society’s apparent assumptions about disability, which they have unconsciously applied to themselves. In fact, to varying degrees, finding their new identity is directly tied to changing a number of views society has taught them to hold, about disability, and about groups unlike themselves. In this chapter, I will be examining Wendy Orr’s Peeling the Onion, juxtaposing it throughout to Ron Koertge’s Stoner and Spaz, and to Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, tracing the three protagonists’ growth toward identity and simultaneous movement away from various prejudices these characters had absorbed about themselves or others.
In two cases, the narrators’ societies become more welcoming; and in one case, society’s less welcoming aspects become more visible to the narrator, ← 85 | 86 → who learns to reject some of...
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