Signs of Attraction, Representation and Me

There’s a lot of talk about representation in fiction and how important it is. Since I’ve first learned about the concept I thought yea, everyone should be able to see themselves in books, and I’ve seen bits of me represented in books before outside of my gender and race. I’ve also seen its importance reflected in the lives of many others. I had an experience recently though that really hit me.

Signs of Attraction By Laura Brown, who is Hard of Hearing, is a book about a woman named Carli who is hard of hearing and was raised to hate that fact, feeling it makes her imperfect and that that imperfection is something to be reviled. She desperately tries to hide it out of embarrassment and fear of judgement. On the other side is Reed, a Deaf man who is completely comfortable with the fact.

The book is a contemporary romance, so there is a romance between the two during which Carli is introduced to the deaf community, meets more people who are hard of hearing and becomes comfortable with who she is.

This isn’t something I’ve mentioned on the blog, but I am Hard of Hearing. I have a profound hearing loss in one ear, for which I need a hearing aid. An aid that I didn’t get until High School because prior to that there weren’t hearing aids for my kind of hearing loss.

Now, unlike Carli I’ve never been terribly insecure about my hearing loss, my parents fought for every advantage I could get so growing up it was just another part of me. Prior to this book I honestly hadn’t thought much about it in years.

Signs of Attraction was my first exposure to the deaf/hard of hearing community, something I only learned about a few months early while doing research to write a deaf character in my WIP. I guess you could say it was the first time I’d seen hearing loss normalized as a thing for people my age, in books or in real life.

Maybe I never noticed much because it was just one of several weird things about me, but I don’t remember thinking much about it growing up. I could hear so I didn’t think I’d need ASL, so I didn’t try to learn it, I only had one friend growing up who were hard of hearing and we didn’t really talk about it, and we lost contact before I got an aid of my own. I never met anyone who was deaf.

I recently heard someone say representation makes people feel seen and found. I think found fits my feelings perfectly, like my eyes have opened to a whole new world that’s been there all along if only I could see it. Because of this book I am now doing more research, learning ASL and planning to take classes and I hope to meet more people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Signs of Attraction also has wonderful representation of chronic pain and suicide, which Carli struggles with after events about half way through the book. She starts to have fears about herself and her future that hit me so hard and personally that I cried.

One of the best parts of the book was the uplifting ending, how hopeful it was and its message about belonging and overcoming obstacles in addition to the found family theme for which I am a complete sucker. It wasn’t a perfect book, I didn’t like how obsessed with sex everyone was. It wasn’t all hetero sex, but everyone seems too keen on it to me, plus the assumptions that any guy has had sex by his early 20’s, some of which could have simply been individual character attitudes.

This didn’t detract from the book though as a whole and it still has had a huge impact on me. Laura Brown clearly knows her stuff and her book has sent me onto a journey into the unknown yet strangely familiar. I look forward to the trip.

Standard

Series review: Exo/Cross Fire by Fonda Lee

100 years ago, the Zhree came and conquered Earth., Humanity tried to fight back, but we lost. 100 years later humans live in a cast system under Zhree rule, it is in this system that Donovan lives comfortably. That is, until he is captured by the rebel group Sapience and his world is turned upside down.

Going into this series I expected it to be good. Having read Jade City I figured her scifi series couldn’t be bad. A series where humanity lost the invasion and we have a perspective, not from the rebels but from someone who works for the military in  support of alien occupation.

I didn’t know what to expect with this series but boy, oh boy did it deliver. The divide between good and bad is murky and nothing is ever quite what it seems. This series tackles questions of colonization, power, responsibility and the divide between what society says you must do versus what is right, and what is really right?

All of the characters, rebel, soldier and Zhree are complex and nuanced, and the relationships between them are intense and add so much to the story. And arcs that start in Exo end in Cross Fire in fantastic ways that add to the intensity of the end.

I went into this series assuming it would be good, but this series was an absolute ride that had my mind spinning from beginning to end. An absolute must read.

Standard

Writing Mental and Physical illness

Mental illness, disability and other chronic illnesses impact billions of people globally to varying degrees and severities, so it is no surprise that it often comes up in writing. Unfortunately, it is also a subject that is also frequently glorified, exaggerated and sensationalized by people who haven’t done enough research or in some cases are looking to exploit some condition for sensationalism. Looking at you, Hollywood.

That said, there are also many works in different forms of media that portray mental illness very well. So how do you do it? How do you write a mental illness that you may have no experience with.

The first thing you should do, whether you’re portraying something you have or not, is research. Not all experiences are the same, and it can’t hurt to know too much. Another thing you can do is talk to people who have experience with the condition, as they will give you real-life examples of people living with it.

I would also recommend a site called The Mighty. It’s a massive blog where people post about living with various illnesses, both physical and mental. It’s a great place to connect with people who have your same condition and also a great place to learn something about the daily experiences of people dealing with a certain condition.

In the end, doing research and showing respect for the subject and the people who deal with it is the best policy when writing about illness people struggle with, both mental and physical. Avoiding stereotypes is an absolute must as well. It can be difficult to write these things well, but when done, it provides characters that we need in fiction, and portrays people who in some form or anther exist in real life.

Standard

Coup De Grace By Hollie Hausenfluck and Avrin Kelly

Hayden is living a normal life. She is a successful career detective, she lives with her fiance, everything is going well. Until, that is, a murder case becomes more than it first appears. Now Hayden is in a race against time in a battle with forces she didn’t know existsed.

When I first went into this book I didn’t know quite what to expect, except that it was a detective novella that featured a wizard. So shoving all Dresden Files comparisons out of my head I dove in.

Overall I thought it was a good book. Both Hayden and Theirry are great characters who play off of each other well, the pacing is good through most of it and it had a satisfying ending. I was a bit confused on the POV at the beginning but that resolved itself quickly and did not waver through the rest of the story. I also thought it was a bit slow at first, but that could have been me waiting for the wizards and magic to happen, and it never felt slow once that revealed itself.

That said, I still enjoyed this story and would recommend it to Urban Fantasy fans.

*disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Standard