on August 25, 2020
Genres: Personal Memoirs
A memoir-in-essays from disability advocate and creator of the Instagram account @sitting_pretty Rebekah Taussig, processing a lifetime of memories to paint a beautiful, nuanced portrait of a body that looks and moves differently than most.
Growing up as a paralyzed girl during the 90s and early 2000s, Rebekah Taussig only saw disability depicted as something monstrous (The Hunchback of Notre Dame), inspirational (Helen Keller), or angelic (Forrest Gump). None of this felt right; and as she got older, she longed for more stories that allowed disability to be complex and ordinary, uncomfortable and fine, painful and fulfilling.
Writing about the rhythms and textures of what it means to live in a body that doesn’t fit, Rebekah reflects on everything from the complications of kindness and charity, living both independently and dependently, experiencing intimacy, and how the pervasiveness of ableism in our everyday media directly translates to everyday life.
Disability affects all of us, directly or indirectly, at one point or another. By exploring this truth in poignant and lyrical essays, Taussig illustrates the need for more stories and more voices to understand the diversity of humanity. Sitting Pretty challenges us as a society to be patient and vigilant, practical and imaginative, kind and relentless, as we set to work to write an entirely different story.
I would recommend this book to everyone, especially people who haven’t had the experience of having a disability or knowing someone with a disability that changes the way that they interact with the world. I have had a small taste of this when I broke my pelvis and used a motorized scooter in grocery stores. People were quite mean. I totally did not expect that. I also wrote about experiences traveling with a coworker who uses a wheelchair sometimes and the issues that we faced.
Rebecca Taussig has been using a wheelchair since she was a child. She writes about recognizing her own internalized ableism that told her that she would never have a successful adult life. She talks about the specific difficulties she faced with finding accessible housing and navigating the government bureaucracies surrounding her benefits.
I was very interested in her experience teaching classes featuring disabilities in high schools. The absolute disinterest from her students was heartbreaking. Their inability to see how any discussion of disability could ever impact them was infuriating.
She makes great points about how people should embrace the ideas that disabled people have about how to improve society. She uses the example of curb cuts in sidewalks were for wheelchairs but they also help people with strollers and bicyclists. I think of how many events I was able to see during the height of the pandemic because they were online instead of in person only. That was a change that many disability activists have been advocating for a while. Once it benefited everyone it was easily done and now a lot of places are doing away with it when keeping it would still help people.
The author narrates the audiobook and does a very nice job. The writing and narration are conversational so you feel like you are just listening to someone talk about their experiences. It is a very approachable book especially for people who are just being introduced to these ideas.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: