Book Bingo 2018 and ableism

Image description: A five-squares-a-side book-related bingo card with 24 items to check off (the centre square is ‘Free’), titled “Book Bingo, Adult Summer Reading for 2018.”

** Please see edit below. **

Seattle Arts & Lectures, in concert with the Seattle Public Library, has once again put together a book-related bingo card. Here are the categories:

  • recommended by a librarian
  • fiction
  • finish a book you started and put down
  • mystery or thriller
  • written by an author from another country
  • award-winning author
  • about the environment
  • by an author of color
  • recommended by an independent bookseller
  • history
  • made you cry or laugh out loud
  • graphic novel
  • author (or character) has a disability*
  • takes place in the area where you were born
  • memoir or biography
  • your best friend’s favorite book
  • a SAL speaker (past or upcoming)
  • about travel or read while traveling
  • outside your bubble
  • local author
  • LGBTQIA author or character
  • poetry or essays
  • first in a series
  • suggested by a young person

Only one of these categories, “author (or character) has a disability,” has an asterisk denoting what appears to be a qualifying statement. The qualifying statement reads “Celebrating USA Special Olympics Games – Seattle 2018 (July 1-6).” Shelf Talk, a blog run by the Seattle Public Library, elaborates: “Something special is happening in Seattle July 1 through the 6th: The USA Special Olympic Games!1 […] In honor of that event Book Bingo this year features a square for an author or character that has a disability.”2

Think about that for a bit.

First of all, look at the wording: “author (or character) has a disability.” This is the people-first language I associate with the medical model of disability in which nondisabled people are Normal and disabled people are Other.3 Much better to use identity-first language: “disabled author (or character).”

Now imagine the queer and POC squares have asterisks excusing and explaining their presence: To celebrate the Lambda Literary Awards for Pride because, wow, that’s the only time straight people think about queer people, right? Or, In honour of Martin Luther King Day, because, hey, we can afford to give you one day a year. Remember we are 20% of your community; we don’t need an excuse to be included.

A guest post by Carrie Griffin Basas for the SAL blog arguably addresses some of this, though obliquely. She challenges readers to fill 20% of the squares with books by disabled writers or featuring disabled characters, and she offers some great examples.4

Let me see that 20% and raise it. Print out the card and fill in every single square with a book by a disabled writer and/or about disabled characters. (Here’s a list to get you started.) Then send the 100% #CripLit card in. Make clear to SPL/SAL that #CripLit deserves the same attention as other literatures.

Let me use So Lucky as an example: with this one short novel you could potentially tick off nearly half the categories. At an absolute minimum you can tick off 25%:

LUCKY bingo

Image description: Book bingo card with 11 squares checked off: recommended by a librarian, fiction, mystery or thriller, written by an author from another country, award-winning author, recommended by an independent bookseller, made you laugh or cry out loud, author (or character) has a disability*, outside your bubble, local author, LGBTQIA author or character.

But the point of this exercise isn’t selling So Lucky. It’s about helping SAL and SPL remember two things:

  • Don’t put together anything mentioning disabled people without consulting disabled people: Nothing about us without us.
  • Many of us don’t read books by disabled authors and/or about disabled characters because it will make us feel good for helping those poor Special people. We don’t just read them during special events or during holidays. We read #CripLit because we love it, and we love it because it’s kick-ass, brilliant writing about fascinating characters.

Or as Xena might say, Don’t apologise, Gabrielle. Just improve.


** ETAOn Friday, I wrote to SPL and asked for a comment. I explained that I was “unhappy about the way disability is treated in both the card and accompanying blog posts,” and why. I stated that I was sure they had not meant to offend, but that nonetheless the effect was an unhappy one and they might want to look at their language.

Jared Mills responded with a very clear and handsome apology and thanked me for my feedback. “The wording of the square used was based off of our style guides and consultation with the Communications department of the Special Olympics which indicate that people-first language is the preferred consensus, but it sounds like thought on this has been evolving lately. I have forwarded your insights to our ADA Coordinator librarian so that she can assess our style guide after engaging with some of our internal and community stakeholders to look into changing our usage. This sounds like something we should be looking at system-wide to ensure we are having the positive impact intended.” 

We also discussed the Special Olympics and the wisdom of relying on an organisatioin mostly (IMO) run by and for nondisabled interests. Since then we’ve discussed a conversation with City of Seattle’s ADA Manager regarding ‘people-first’ language and starting a conversation in the community to see what the general thoughts and feelings are.

So if you have opinions I’d love to hear them!

1 About those Special Olympics. A cursory scan of their website shows a Leadership Team predominantly composed of nondisabled marketing, branding, and corporate liaison folks. There is one disabled person (who doesn’t identify as disabled but, rather, as “a person who has an intellectual disability”) on the list: the Chief Inspiration Officer (I am not kidding). This does not fill me with confidence. See also others’ criticism of the Special Olympics.
2 The vicious-after-dealing-with-yet-another-microaggression-so-not-inclined-to-be-reasonable part of me mutters, “Poor sad crips don’t know they’re disabled. Let’s not tell them. Let’s just edge around the topic delicately: They have a disability, their disability doesn’t have them! They’re Special people who inspire us and make us want to help them out a bit and give them their very own book square! Not that they read, probably, poor things, but we can read about them and feel good. But only this once, mind; only because we’re throwing them a Special money-making inspirational porn party right here in town!” ETA: As I said to Jared, I know this implication wasn’t deliberate—and his email stance confirms this—but it’s startlingly easy to draw the inference. I decided to leave it in anyway, though relegated to the footnotes, just so readers can see just how effectively microaggression can knock a usually rational human being (that would be me…) off-centre. Also, yeah, I just needed to vent my spleen a little.
3 TL;DR: It’s the crip’s fault for being impaired, not society’s fault—not the cultural and built environment that can make life very difficult for crips. SPL informs me this wording was based on their own style guide and in consultation with the Communications department of the Special Olympics. But see edits in the main body of the post: that might change.
Basas, too, uses people-first language. Perhaps this, too, is a style guide issue, or perhaps it’s Basas’ preferred terminology. Whatever the explanation, let me be very clear: my quarrel here is not with her; this is an institutional not individual issue.

For the love of God, Montresor!


How a plastic disposable camera turned my lovely office window into an instant metaphor. A day-in-the-life photo story up at Work in Progress.

My 7th century bronze bird brooch

When I was in Portland last month, Wendy Neathery-Wise gave me a brooch she had made. It’s a bronze and enamel replica of this Anglo-Saxon silver-gilt and garnet bird brooch found in Bekesbourne, Kent:

beaney bird

The original, now in a Cambridgeshire museum

It’s probably 7th century. And assuming it’s the same size as this one, unearthed on Stone Farm Bridleway during excavations for the Channel Tunnel in 2007, it’s small, 2.5 cm or so.

stone farm bridleway brooch

Unearthed from Stone Farm Bridleway in 2007. Date unspecified.

It’s difficult to date these things exactly. There’s a long tradition of Frankish jewellery designs spreading to Kent, and then back again, over the sixth and seventh centuries. The bird brooches—variously called eagles, birds, ravens—are clearly from the same tradition.

For example this pair of Merovingian bird brooches, probably 6th C.

merovingian garnet cloison brooch pair 6th C

Merovingian silver-gilt and garnet bird brooches. About 3.5 cm. Circa 6th century CE.

And this bird-shaped brooch in the Met collection: silver-gilt and garnet, small, and early/mid-6th C. I’m guessing they were used to pin clothes at the shoulder, but whether for women or men I couldn’t say.

silver gilt bird

Bird-Shaped Brooch. 500–550 CE. Silver-gilt and garnet. 3.1 cm.

Then there’s this one, bronze and garnet with traces of gold and silver, described by the Cleveland Museum of Art as a Frankish eagle-shaped fibula :

eagle-shaped fibula

Frankish eagle-shaped fibula. Bronze with traces of gilding and silver, and garnets. 6th century CE. 2.9 cm.

Wendy recreated the Bekesbourne brooch using the sand-casting method. This means carving a replica from wax. Filling a flask with sand and stamping out a mould with the wax. The melting bronze and pouring it into the mould. Then enamelling and so on. With her permission, I’ve lifted some of those photos for this post but if you want more detail you should go read her account.

The Bekebourne brooch doesn’t have a back or pin, so Wendy took her best guess and soldered on a simple bronze pin.

And here’s the finished article, clutched in my greedy hand:

bird on hand

It’s a phenomenal piece of work. I don’t know if Wendy plans to sell them, but if she does, you should get one!

I now have not one but two bronze Anglo-Saxon replica brooches. The other is of the Beast of Bamburgh. I have a nifty seax, too. And the 2,000 year-old carnelians that inspired Hild’s beads.

What I long for are a 6th or 7th C Anglo-Saxon ring, or maybe a cross; a glass beaker; and a gold coin. Let me know if you happen to know of any for sale…

Eagle Harbor Books tonight!

I’ve been having a great time and fab crowds at the So Lucky events but this is the last for a while. Tonight I’ll be on Bainbridge Island, at Eagle Harbor Books, 6:30 pm. I’ll be reading, talking about the book, and then having a conversation with the audience which, if recent experience is anything to go by, could be about almost anything…

Join us!

Until then, here’s the Amazon Bestsellers: Lesbian list.

#CripLit chat Sun 6/10: New Nonfiction by Disabled Writers

#CripLit 610

Image description: Rectangular graphic with white background and black text and icons. Text reads, “#CripLit Twitter Chat, New Nonfiction, June 10, 2018, 7 pm Eastern/4pm Pacific, Guest host @thinkfreestyle. Details:” The text is flanked on the left with an icon of a keyboard and, on the right, a pile of books.

#CripLit Twitter Chat
New Non-Fiction by Disabled Writers
Sunday, June 10, 2018
4 pm Pacific/ 7 pm Eastern

You are invited to the twelfth #CripLit chat co-hosted by novelist Nicola Griffith and Alice Wong of the Disability Visibility Project®. For this Twitter chat we are delighted to have guest host Naomi Ortiz, author of Sustaining Spirit: Self-Care for Social Justice (a #1 New Release on published by Reclamation Press, join us.

This is a chat for any writer whether they have something published or not. If you are a freelance writer, journalist, blogger, essayist, or author of books, please join us for a conversation on new non-fiction.

For more about Naomi Ortiz:
Naomi Ortiz on Writing for Activists Who Don’t Fit In

How to Participate

Follow @DisVisibility @nicolaz and @thinkfreestyle on Twitter for updates.

When it’s time, search #CripLit on Twitter for the series of live tweets under the ‘Latest’ tab for the full conversation.

If you might be overwhelmed by the volume of tweets and only want to see the chat’s questions so you can respond to them, check @DisVisibility’s account. Each question will tweeted 6-8 minutes apart.

Here’s an article about how to participate in a Twitter chat:

Check out this captioned #ASL explanation of how to participate in a chat by @behearddc:

Introductory Tweets and Questions for 6/10 Chat

Welcome to the #CripLit chat on New Non-Fiction. This chat is co-hosted by @nicolaz & @disvisibility with guest host @thinkfreestyle. Please remember to use the #CripLit hashtag when you tweet.

This is a chat for any writer whether they have something published or not. If you are a freelance writer, journalist, blogger, essayist, author of books, or whatever you call yourself, please join us for a conversation on new non-fiction! #CripLit

When you respond to a question such as Q1, your tweet should follow this format: “A1 [your message] #CripLit”

Q1 Please introduce yourself and share your journey to becoming a writer. Why do you write? #CripLit

Q2 There are many forms of non-fiction. What types do you write and what do you like about non-fiction compared to fiction, poetry, and other forms of writing? #CripLit  

Q3 What were the joys and challenges (physical, emotional, mental/intellectual) of writing non-fiction?  What is your writing routine if you have one? #criplit

Q4 How do you deal with pressures or expectations of ‘productivity’ as a disabled/sick/chronically ill writer? What strategies do you use, if any? #CripLit

Q5 Please share anything about your current writing, whether it’s a work-in-progress, a published article or book, a blog post, or something just for yourself. How do you feel after completing something and having it out there in the world? #CripLit  

Q6 If you are published or trying to get published, what is your advice to people on pitching stories or submitting book queries to publishers? What are your experiences with the publishing industry if any? #CripLit  

Q7 As a disabled/sick/chronically ill writer, what does self-care mean to you? Do you find it difficult? What and who sustains you and gives you support? #CripLit  

Q8 What new non-fiction narratives about disability would you like to see? Who and what is missing when it comes to diversity and different perspectives? #CripLit

Q9 Where should we look to discover new non-fiction by disabled/sick/chronically ill writers? How can we help each other write and publish more? #CripLit

Thank you for joining our #CripLit chat. A big thank you to our guest host @thinkfreestyle. Please continue the conversation!

A Wakelet will be up shortly. Check the #CripLit hashtag. Feel free to contact @DisVisibility @nicolaz with any ideas/feedback for future chats! 😀

So Lucky video

Gathered in one place for your amusement, here are a few bits of So Lucky-related video and animation.

Oh you know you want it…

A post shared by nicolagriffith (@nicolagriffith) on

A wee tease for SO LUCKY cover reveal tomorrow…

A post shared by nicolagriffith (@nicolagriffith) on

Tonight: Chuckanut Radio Hour, Bellingham

Tonight, starting at 6:30, I’ll be taking part in Village Books’ Chuckanut Radio Hour at Whatcom Community College’s Heiner Theater, Bellingham. Tickets are $5 and for that you get two hours of entertainment (music! jokes! reading! conversation! Q&A!) plus a discount on the price of a book. So come and help me amuse, frighten, and delight with stories of So Lucky.

Bring everyone you’ve ever met! This one should be a blast.