One of the great joys of living in Chicago was getting to know Ada Palmer, brilliant historian and speculative fiction novelist. I was privileged to interview her at her last two book launches in Chicago (one of which I subsequently published some of).
Last August, she received the Campbell award for best new writer at Worldcon, a major prize indeed, and mounted the stage with a cane and delivered a speech about invisible disability, on which she then expanded at length in this blog post.
I had not discussed this in public before because being public about disability (especially for women) so often results in attacks from the uglier sides of the internet, a dangerous extra stress while I’m working hard to manage my symptoms. I have been open about my disability with my students and colleagues at the University of Chicago, every one of whom has been nothing but outstandingly supportive. In fact, much of the strength which helped me get through last night came from the earlier experience of discussing my disability with my students this past year when I had to explain that I might miss class for surgery. Their outpouring of warmth and support was truly beautiful, but I was also awed by how eager they were to discuss the larger issue of invisible disability, and to hear about how I’ve worked to balance my projects and career with my medical realities, a type of challenge which affects so many of us, and many of them. Thinking of their kindness helped me keep my courage up last night, when having an attack at such a public moment made it impossible to avoid having this same conversation in a much more public and therefore scary space.
Go read Ada’s books!