Representations of Disability in Young Adult Literature
Chapter 5. “Normal” Talents, Rudolph Stories, and “Supercrips”
“NORMAL” TALENTS, RUDOLPH STORIES, AND “SUPERCRIPS”
In the tradition of the TV series “Monk,” the bestseller The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, by Mark Haddon, and, some would say, the Sherlock Holmes stories, several YA novels have a protagonist whose “disability” plays a part in solving a crime or unraveling a mystery. On the one hand, a sleuth with an impairment brings the disabled character out of the shadows and shows him or her in a positive light, foregrounding unusual talents or personality quirks that are valued in society, at least in this case. The qualities that might have once been seen as negative (obsession for detail, extreme logic, or intense focus) are in this situation seen as positive. These protagonists can show a world view, rarely seen in fiction, from these characters’ perspectives. Typically, these detectives interact with non-disabled characters, and they all work as a productive team in unraveling the mystery.
On the other hand, this plot line runs the risk of suggesting that the character’s impairment, quality, or talent is somehow superhuman. The stories can become tales of “supercrips.” In his book Disability Rhetoric Jay Dolmage refers to Joseph Shapiro’s concept of the “supercrip.” As Dolmage explains, this character is part of an “overcoming or compensation” disability myth:
In this myth, the connection between disability and compensatory ability is intentional and required. The audience does not have to focus on the disability, or ← 119 | 120...
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