By Alice Wong: For Complete Post, click here…
Storytelling itself is an activity, not an object. Stories are the closest we can come to shared experience. . . Like all stories, they are most fundamentally a chance to ride around inside another head and be reminded that being who we are and where we are, and doing what we’re doing, is not the only possibility.
—Harriet McBryde Johnson, Too Late to Die Young: Nearly True Tales from a Life (2006)
I’ve loved reading ever since I was young. Books were my friends, and libraries were safe spaces where I felt like I belonged. During gym in elementary school, I would sit on the sidelines and read a book. No one seemed to notice, and that was just fine by me. Writers such as Judy Blume, Laurence Yep, Madeleine L’Engle, Beatrix Potter, and Beverly Cleary and their characters made life fun and exciting even though that wasn’t the case in real life.
Having had a physical disability from birth, I knew I was different from my classmates. It took me longer to get around when I walked; I fell and lost my balance easily, which made recess scary rather than a time for play. I had some friends, but I felt alone at the same time. There were many activities at school I couldn’t participate in, but I had an imagination that unlocked universes and showed me alternate realities where I could exist in new, daring, and unknown ways.
Fast forward to 2021. I am a forty-seven-year-old disabled writer, editor, and activist and a big-time troublemaker! Being middle-aged sounds ancient, but I am a total kid because so many things give me LIFE and I find deep joy doing what I want to do. I don’t think I’ve “made it” yet—I’m still figuring stuff out—but I can say for sure that my life got better. Two things helped me: telling my own story and finding my people.