Sunday, April 17, 2011

My Squick Is Not Your Squick

Yesterday I read Brier's Bargain by Carol Lynne, and it kind of squicked me out.  You see, Brier was abused as a child, and brain damage from that abuse left him mentally handicapped.  His partner, Jackie, is of normal intelligence.

Brier is a sweet, caring person, and he's described as being high functioning.  He holds down a 40 hour a week job (although it's at a company where his twin brother is a long time employee, and it's not entirely clear what he does for those 40 hours), he gets his driver's license during the course of the story, and buys a car with his own money saved for the purpose.  But he's also described as being child-like and having problems controlling his temper (a not-uncommon problem for people who've had head injuries).

This book was actually kind of odd.  It's labeled as being the first book in the series, but it obviously picks up in the middle of the story.  After reading it I did a little research and discovered that Lynne changed publishers, and she had to change the name of the series, although it's a continuation of the old one.  As the story starts, Brier is going about his daily life and missing his lover, Jackie.  Jackie is on assignment in the Middle East.  Brier hasn't heard from Jackie in a while, and as a reader it's not clear if the relationship is real or if it's all in Brier's mind.  It turns out that Jackie was injured in an explosion, and everyone kept the news from Brier.

Jackie comes home missing part of his leg, and Brier settles in to take care of him.  At this point it's clear that there really is a relationship between the two men.  What's not clear is why.  We never get to see the falling in love portion of the relationship, even in flashback.  Why did Jackie, a man who's highly skilled and speaks at least two languages, fall in love with a man with the mind of a child, who at 35 is just learning to take care of himself?

There was more that left a bad taste in my mouth, like the fact that Brier was sexually abused while institutionalized.  It left me wondering if Brier really had the capacity to consent to a sexual relationship.  At one point Brier asks Jackie about sex with girls.  His only knowledge or experience of sex was with his abuser and then Jackie.  Can anyone really be gay or straight when they're so ignorant of their options?  I don't doubt that Brier loves Jackie.  But in a way it feels like a continuation of the abuse, not a choice freely made.  Would I feel differently if this was a straight relationship instead of a gay one?  I'd like to think not, but I might.  Would I feel differently if Brier was of normal intelligence?  Definitely.

My discomfort with this story has me thinking about disability and my attitude toward different types.  Brier has no problem with Jackie losing part of his leg.  It makes no difference at all in the way he feels about him.  He works hard to learn how to care for Jackie, because he doesn't want his lover to be in pain.  And yet it's a little creepy to me that Jackie takes the same attitude toward Brier and his disabilities.  People who are mentally handicapped are just as worthy of love as everyone else.  But it squicks me when that love comes from someone of normal intelligence.  It feels like the partner of normal intelligence is somehow taking advantage.  And in this situation Brier's history of abuse just increases that feeling.

Am I a terrible person for feeling this way?  I like to think that I believe that everyone is equal and deserves equal respect.  (Except, you know, for asshats who have personally shown that they don't deserve my respect.)  Does this squick come from a reasonable urge to protect someone who may not have the capacity to make the best decisions for themselves, or is my inner asshat showing?  I don't think any less of Jackie because of his physical disability, and would think quite a bit less of anyone who would hold it against him.

The choice of Brier as a romantic lead was a bold one.  I'm all for pushing boundaries and giving all kinds of people a voice in fiction.  But this one left me unsettled.

If anyone wants to check out the book in question, Brier's Bargain will be available tomorrow, Monday, for free from All Romance eBooks.  Or, you can weigh in now and tell me I'm an asshat.

Friday, April 15, 2011

I Really, Really Wanna Go

If you're at all plugged into the book world, especially anything to do with romance, you probably noticed that the RT convention was last week.  I've been wanting to go for a long time, but with one thing or another-- the expense, travel, work, being sick and having no money-- I just haven't made it.  Next year it's in Chicago, and I really want to go.

There are a couple of things holding me back at this point.  One is the expense.  This is not a cheap convention.  It's almost $500 just to sign up.  If I don't have a roommate, which with my weird sleep and bathroom habits would probably be best, I'm looking at about another $800 would be my guess.  Transportation shouldn't be a biggie.  Amtrak has a train that runs from Indy to Chicago, and the schedule looks like it should work well for me.  Only $50 round trip, and I don't have to borrow one of my parents' cars for almost a week, pay for parking, and then be alert enough to pilot it for several hours.  All together, I figure this thing will cost me $1,600.  If the social security comes through between now and then, it might be doable.  If it doesn't (and I've learned at this point not to bank on anything when it comes to the government turning over the benefits I'm owed), then there's no way in hell I can afford to go.

The second problem is as much a deal breaker as the money.  Can I physically handle it?  At this point a trip to the grocery store wears me out.  I only leave the house on average about once every 3-4 weeks.  Am I going to be able to manage 5 days of workshops and brunches and chatting in the hotel bar?  I can tell you right now that there are some events I'll take a pass on.  The cover model pageant?  No, thanks.  The awards ceremony?  If an author I really love is up for an award, and present to accept, maybe.  But I'll likely skip that, too.  In fact, I'd probably skip most of the evening parties.  I expect to be nearly comatose from exhaustion and over stimulation by dinner time most days.  I don't know if I can do this, and I'm afraid that it will end up making me really sick.  But I still want to go.

Why?  I want to connect with readers in real life.  I'm getting active on Goodreads, and I have all my Betty friends.  It would be beyond awesome to get a chance to meet a few of them.  And then there are all those other people out there who love to read and talk books.  There will be authors there.  Maybe I'll get a chance to meet some of my favorites!  And as much as anything, it would be amazing to go out and do something like a normal human being.  A late-thirties adult woman who actually goes places without her mommy and daddy taking her.  Adult socialization with someone I'm not related to.  NO Little House on the Prairie or The Waltons on TV in the background.  Does that not sound magical?

So, all I have to do is convince the government to give me my money and then somehow find the energy to manage a five day conference.  Yeah, not likely to happen.  But I still really, really want to go.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

March Review and April Goals

At the beginning of last month I set a few goals, so I thought I'd update you on how they went.

Goal #1: clean

Weeeeeeel, I made some progress here, but it was cancelled out by new mess.  There are still two baskets full of clean laundry in my room, but one of them is a new basket with new clean laundry, so that's progress.  I did some dusting, but I made all new dust.  (I feel this is completely unfair, by the way.)  I got rid of some of the junk mail and random paper that I collect like a magnet, but not much.

Bottom line on this goal: my bedroom is still a pit, but not as much of a pit as it would be if I hadn't worked on it a bit.

Goal #2: get my Goodreads Books to Read in 2011 list under 100 titles.

Hahahahahahahahahaha!  I did manage to read 12 books that had been sitting on my list for a while, some of them over a year.  But I added a bunch of titles, too, and the current total stands at 116.

Goal #3: blog more than once a week

Personal stuff derailed me on this one.  I'm getting a handle on it, but no guarantees that I'm going to be any more regular this month than I was last month.  But I'm going to try.

And I want to say thank you for all the kind comments on the last post.  I appreciate the support.

Goal #3: return movie to Netflix

I did it!  And I managed to watch and return a couple other movies, too.  Success!

So that's March.  Goals for April are:

to finish my taxes (I'm working on them, but slowly)
clear some more floor space in my room
dust and tidy my dresser, which is currently piled high with holiday cards and an inch of dust, in addition to all the usual stuff
blog more
continue to pick a lip balm flavor of the day, because it makes me happy
try to keep my 2011 reading list from growing past 116 this month-- read at least one book for every book that gets added to the list

Sounds good, I think.  Doable.

Lip Balm Flavor of the Day: Lavender Lemonade