cover image Don’t Call Me Inspirational: A Disabled Feminist Talks Back

Don’t Call Me Inspirational: A Disabled Feminist Talks Back

Harilyn Rousso. Temple Univ., $24.95 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-4399-0936-2

This collection of 52 short essays and meditative fragments is aptly described by the author, a psychotherapist, disabilities activist, and artist, as “a collage or a series of images” rather than a more formal memoir. Rousso (Disabled, Female and Proud!) was born with cerebral palsy, the result of oxygen deprivation at her birth. She describes an off-balance walk, involuntary movement in her arms and hands, speech which can become garbled, and a face that often makes weird grimaces in her efforts to speak. From early childhood, Rousso struggled to find her place in the world. She writes of her need to achieve independence from her loving family; her longing for a relationship with a man; her overcompensation, which throws her into a world of academic achievement; her loneliness and her need to be alone. When she writes of the psychotherapy institute where she was training asking her to leave, believing that a person with her disability would “distress [her] psychotherapy clients, causing them to flee—or at least to ask for another, more ‘normal’ therapist,” she, and her reader, recognize the prejudice she has faced. Now identifying as disabled, she is propelled into the fight for the rights of women with disabilities. Though this is a slight book, its painful honesty is affecting. (Feb.)