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Accidents of Natureby Harriet Mcbryde Johnson
Synopses & Reviews
I'm in the middle of a full-blown spaz-attack, and I don't care. I don't care at all. At home I always try to act normal, and spaz-attacks definitely aren't normal. Here, people understand. They know a spaz-attack signals that I'm
excited. They're excited too, so they squeal with me; some even spaz on purpose, if you can call that spazzing . . .
An unforgettable coming-of-age novel about what it's like to live with a physical disability
It's the summer of 1970. Seventeen-year-old Jean has cerebral palsy, but she's always believed she's just the same as everyone else. She's never really known another disabled person before she arrives at Camp Courage. As Jean joins a community unlike any she has ever imagined, she comes to question her old beliefs and look at the world in a new light. The camp session is only ten days long, but that may be all it takes to change a life forever.
Henry Holt published Harriet McBryde Johnson's adult memoir, Too Late to Die Young, in April 2005. Ms. Johnson has been featured in The New York Times Magazine and has been an activist for disability rights for many years.
"Through the eyes of 17-year-old wheelchair-bound Jean, readers of this wry, at times searing debut novel gain access to an intimate world that few Norms (what Jean calls fully functioning people) ever see. Her family has always treated Jean as a 'normal' child; her 10-day stay at Camp Courage is her first time away from them. Johnson, like her heroine, is confined to a wheelchair (due to a neuromuscular disease), and possesses a rare gift for writing in the present tense: readers will feel as if they are experiencing Jean's many small discoveries right along with her. Each chapter covers a day at camp, and Jean's world view begins to shift on day one, when she meets Sara (also wheelchair-bound), a veteran camper. A straight shooter, Sara nicknames Jean 'Spazzo,' and exposes the insidious ways in which the Norms condescend to the Crips. Taking stock of the cabin they share, Sara says, 'It looks like we've got about the right mix — three wheelchairs, a one-leg amputee, two MR's [mentally retarded], and two walkie-talkies.' When Jean asks Sara why she comes to camp, she replies, 'I need to be with my people. The Crip Nation.' In one of the novel's many revelatory scenes, Jean describes swimming with the other campers: 'I count it a rare privilege to see them all without their coverings, their equipment, their attachments, their replacement parts, as they really are, in all their strange variety.' Readers, too, will find this journey with Jean a rare privilege, as she rethinks her place in the world. Ages 12-up." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Seventeen-year-old Jean has cerebral palsy, and has never really known another disabled person before she arrives at Camp Courage. As Jean joins a community unlike any she has ever imagined, she comes to question her old beliefs and look at the world in a new light.
About the Author
Harriet McBryde Johnson has been a lawyer in Charleston, South Carolina, since 1985. Her solo practice emphasizes benefits and civil rights claims for poor and working people with disabilities. She is the author of Too Late to Die Young.
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