MY BODY POLITIC
by Simi Linton, © 2005
University of Michigan Press
This gutsy, honest, sexy little memoir is being released this month in paperback (no hard-cover edition). Its author, Simi Linton, is a woman who holds a Ph.D. from Columbia University, and who taught until a few years ago at Hunter College. She is the author of Claiming Disability: Knowledge and Identity. She has been in a wheelchair, both legs paralyzed, since an accident that took place in 1971, so when she speaks of being disabled in America, she speaks with authority. She manages also to speak with passion and with humor, which keeps this book from being just another clinical overview of the difficulties faced by people with disabilities.
Linton describes the heartbreaking accident that, in addition to her paralysis, caused the death of her young husband and her best friend. The three were hitchhiking en route to an anti-war ( Vietnam) protest in Washington. They were youngsters who were very much a part the ‘60’s youth rebellion.
The memoir traces Linton’s determination to define and live her own post-accident life. Once released from the hospital and rehabilitation center, her ferocious drive for independence took her Berkeley, to Paris, and ultimately back to New York City (her family home) to take up the college studies she had abandoned as a freshman dropout. She recounts her struggles to balance her need for independence with her caring family’s support, especially that of her tough, smart, accomplished mother, from whom one suspects Linton derived her own iron will.
She is up-front about such rarely mentioned subjects as the sexuality and physicality of the disabled. Eventually remarried, she shares with us her delight in the close relationship of her marriage. She also shares a delicious moment when, at a friend’s wedding, she was able to get past her self-consciousness about her condition, and engage in dancing-en-wheelchair, an absolute joy.
The story that begins during the Vietnam War ends with an incisive description of the War in Iraq, including the horrors faced by our wounded soldiers, and the difficulties they will face upon returning to civilian life.
Linton’s memoir will give readers great insights about her progress as she dealt with her own disabilities, and beyond that will educate us about the large population of disabled people. That the author manages to make a good read out of her story is really just icing on the cake – but tasty icing it is. The book is testament to her ability to enjoy life fully, and there are marvelous anecdotes and descriptions of people she loves and admires. This is a lively read, as well as an instructive one.
Linton’s memoir is a summoning to the necessity for “affirmative actions of a new and as yet unwritten form to make inclusion, integration, and participation a given of the twenty-first century.”