Zachary Welsh’s Final Paper

“How are an individual’s race and Autism related to one another?” This was the naïve, privileged question that I had initially asked myself when I read the opening title to Morénike Giwa Onaiwu’s Preface: Autistics of Color: We Exist… We Matter and E. Ashkenazy’s Forward: On Autism and Race. However, upon reading these two theoretical pieces, I, and other fellow readers are given two firsthand accounts of individuals living a life of being both colored and autistic, allowing us to momentarily be placed in their shoes. Through Onaiwu and Ashkenazy’s theoretical texts, it becomes clear to readers that there not only exists a relationship between one’s race and Autism, but that Individuals who fall in the category of both colored as well as autistic, are forced to struggle in society and life significantly more than individuals who do not identify as colored or autistic due to concepts such as microaggressions and the way in which their communities react to said individuals. 

To fully understand the way in which autism and an individual’s race are linked, we must understand the ways in which exclusively, a person’s race affects their everyday lives in society. We are given examples of this firsthand in Onaiwu’s Preface: Autistics of color: We Exist… We Matter when she states that growing up, before she was even diagnosed with autism, the color of her skin and the way society reacted to her made her “alone”, “strange”, “weird”, and like she “never fit in” (Onaiwu 12). Onaiwu provides readers another example when she mentions that growing up, her teachers were unable to properly pronounce her last name “which was two syllables and four letters long” (Onaiwu 13), but were able to pronounce her classmate’s western, caucasian names such as Kowalczyk or Schwarzkopf. Both Onaiwu and Ashkenazy also mention the concept of microaggressions, which are described as “Brief and common place daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slides and insults toward people of color” (Ashkenazy 27), and the way in which said microaggressions make them feel like the “other” in our society. For example, Ashkenazy mentions how often she is being told things like “yeah with that dark thick wild curly hair, I definitely knew you were black” (Ashkenazy 28) and “It’s really cool to have a black friend! My world is just too white” (Ashkenazy 29). What is perhaps most telling about these claims, is that Ashkenazy mentions that they come from close friends, and are out of ignorant innocence (Ashkenazy 30) rather than ill intent, as it shows that racism and racist remarks can often stem from a person’s lack of knowledge on the subject and even if they don’t intend to, can create difficult and uncomfortable situations for these individuals. Through examples such as these, both Onaiwu and Ashkenazy are able to paint a clear, vivid picture of how the color of their skin as well as their other physical attributes affect their everyday lives. 

We must now shift our focus on to how Autism can exclusively affect an individual’s life and their status in society. Autism is typically defined as a developmental disorder that can oftentimes diminish an individual’s ability to interact with others and communicate. Onaiwu gives us a firsthand example of how autism affected her life when she mentions that the way she “spoke, interacted, moved, and processed things was so very different” (Onaiwu 14) than any of her fellow classmates. The author also briefly touches on the divide created by society that exists between able bodied individuals and those diagnosed with Autism, as she mentions that growing up,  there was no place she “belonged”, no place where she could “find someone who understood” (Onaiwu 15) her. An individual with Autism may be forced to maintain a repetitive schedule due to them typically wanting to stick to familiar things. On top of these, Ashkenazy also notes that an individual diagnosed with autism may be “struggling with cultural expectations on top of general expectations from parents, significant others, family, and/or friends” (Ashkenazy 34). Ashkenazy also mentions that an individual diagnosed with Autism may not only be “struggling with culturally based power dynamics and/or hierarchal structures both formal and informal” (Ashkenazy 34), but they might also be struggling at home in the fact that they may be having “feelings of being an embarrassment to both family and community members” (Ashkenazy 34). Through examples such as these that have been presented to us as readers, it becomes clear that while Autism itself may present a wide range of challenges for an individual that is diagnosed with it, society amplifies those challenges, and presents individuals diagnosed with autism with completely new obstacles as well. 

By understanding the ways in which an individual’s race and being diagnosed with Autism can both exclusively affect an individual and their lives, we can now properly understand the way in which “we bring race into the great conversation about autism” (Ashkenazy 34). For individuals who are not only a person of color, but are also diagnosed with Autism, the pressure of not only society but of their community can present an innumerable amount of difficulties and challenges for the individual. Onaiwu mentions that “those of us who exist at the intersection of disability and race, aren’t treated as if we are real” (Onaiwu 12). This stems from the previously mentioned divide between abled bodied individuals and autistic people of color, as Caucasian, abled individuals typically only acknowledge autistic people of color when “others need to use” them to “make a point” (Onaiwu 12). The only sense of acknowledgment they get from other individuals is when they are forced to feel like “unwilling tokens for someone else’s cause” (Onaiwu 12). Perhaps Onaiwu’s most touching moment in the text is on page fourteen when it is mentioned that she was not only a person of color, but she was also a hyperlexic, twice exceptional autistic. In this realization, she mentions that she is a “minority within a minority” (Onaiwu 14). This short quote briefly describes in three words the challenges that Onaiwu and other individuals like her are forced to face simply for the color of their skin and for having Autism.  We as readers are also given a second chance. to be placed in the shoes of a colored, autistic individual in Ashkenazy’s piece, as they mention that “people often assume things about” them or labeled them “based on either innocent or intentional biases and prejudices” (Ashkenazy 26). Ashkenazy specifically mentions a connection between race and Autism on page thirty two when it’s mentioned that “we bring race into the great conversation about autism because artistic people of color are often times having a vastly different life experience in comparison to their white peers” (Ashkenazy 32). Ashkenazy immediately follows this up by providing multiple examples in which a colored, autistic person is faced with insufferable challenges such as “feeling out of place not only within the world or society in general, but within their own ethnic group as well” (Ashkenazy 34). 

Onaiwu and Ashkenazy’s theoretical pieces allow for individuals such as myself, who may not have acknowledged a relation between Autism and one’s race, to finally understand the link between them. By providing specific examples of ways in which a person’s race can exclusively affect their everyday life as well as ways in which Autism can exclusively change someone’s social life, we are able to better understand not only that a link exists between the two, but that they actually play into each other more than most people realize. By allowing readers into this aspect of their lives, Onaiwu and Ashkenazy give readers the chance to experience and understand what it is like being a part of two minority groups. Through this, Onaiwu gives us the answer to our long sought question of what race has to do with Autism. “Everything” (Onaiwu 22) Onaiwu says. It has everything to do with Autism, and we as readers, whether we are part of this double minority group or not, can finally understand that.

Word Count: 1347 

Honor Pledge: I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this assignment

Zachary Welsh’s Thoughts on Craig Romkema’s “Perspectives”

I thoroughly enjoyed this poem because I feel like in a way it acts as a kind of “full circle” moment for our class. The poem itself is assigned reading on the last day of our class meeting and it touches on the topics we talked about and discussed all the way back in week one. The poem itself obviously touches on how our society makes individuals with a disability feel isolated or like the “other” and it also touches on labels associated with disabilities. (another thing we talked about in the first few weeks of class) The poem itself not only talks about these topics and provides commentary on them eloquently, but it’s also acting as a test for oursleves and our class as a whole. When we first started taking part in this course, we (or at least I) knew very little about disabilities and the way our society responds to and reacts to them but now we (again maybe it’s just myself) are fully able to pick apart and understand what the author is talking about. We are able to show how we ourselves have grown and gained knowledge on the subject and that’s a beautiful thing.

It has been great getting the chance to share my thoughts with you all while we’ve been in this class together. I’ve not only received a lot of helpful feedback on my posts, but you all made great posts on here as well and it’s been really fun getting the chance to hear your thoughts on the readings we’ve done. I hope you all have a great break and here’s hoping we’ll get another class together.

Until next time 🙂

Zachary Welsh’s Thoughts/Questions on “Misfit” by Tito Rajarshi Mukhopadhyay

Okay so the reading that stood out to me the most this week was actually An Unkindness of Ghosts, but I wanted to write about Tito Rajarshi Mukhopadhyay’s “Misfit” in part because I found it to not only be very intriguing, but also because I found myself struggling to understand what it was saying. Now this of course is not an insult to the author, but rather an admission that I myself am not the best when it comes to decoding the meaning of poetry. That being said, I’d like to offer up what I think the poem is saying. The poem opens with lines essentially stating how the Earth revolves round and round, and from it stars recede, night and day are formed, and nothing goes wrong. However, Mukhopadhyay immediately follows this up with a ferocious contradiction in which he says that when he himself spins round and round, men and women stare and him and they label him a misfit. I believe Mukhopadhyay is using this stark contrast as a way to provide some type of commentary on Autism and how it is perceived by our society. Maybe he is saying that when the world turns round and round, no one bats an eye, but when he turns round and round, he’s suddenly labeled as an outcast? I may be reaching but it’s the best I was able to come up with. This then brings me to the last two stanzas of the poem. Mukhopadhyay turns into the wind after being called a misfit, but I am struggling to understand the significance of it or what it means. The final stanza of the poem leads me to believe that I am at least heading in the right direction, but I can’t say I know for sure.

If anyone is able to clarify the meaning of the poem for me or offer up their interpretation of it, I would love to hear it and I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you.

Zachary Welsh’s Thoughts on Cultural Commentary: Communicate with Me and “Alaska” by Savarese

For today’s readings, I was actually really interested in and inspired by our readings by Savarese and so I really wanted to not only do my write-up on his works but also just share some of my general thoughts on them and how they relate to class.

One of the first readings we did for today by Savarese was Cultural Commentary: Communicate With Me. Here, Savarese describes to readers his experience of living with autism and how his social and. school life were influenced by it. Savarese opens his piece by explaining to readers that during his school years, no one. really talked to him because they didn’t know how to, not only shedding light of societies’ lack of inclusion, but also touching base on the. societal divide between able bodied people (or The Frees as Savarese refers to them) and disabled individuals. Savarese also takes the time to directly address some of the questions others have been afraid to ask him, as well as giving tips on how The Frees are able to help. While of course providing said helpful ideas to the readers, perhaps the biggest tip Savarese gives is when he says to “Look at and talk to me, not to the facilitator.” With this tip serving as a reminder to readers and his schoolmates that he is a person just like any of us and when being addressed, the speaker should look at no one other than him.

With “Alaska”, readers are actually given the opportunity to experience Savarese’s work firsthand. The poem, while short, manages to brilliantly portray the feeling of isolation felt by Savarese as well as touch on facilitated communication. The said message of isolation is particularly felt in the line “great icebergs feel the cries of hurt / just. like they’re trying really, really to be free.” It can also be seen when Savarese says “forever then they have to let go / your hand trying to go.” In terms of the facilitated communication aspect, the author points out how Savarese uses the tree as a stand in for himself and his speaker, stating that the leaves (Savarese) “yearn for freedom” and the branches (his facilitated speaker) “live forever.”

I would love to hear your thoughts on the works mentioned above or even on the other things we read for today so feel free to drop some comments below!

Zachary Welsh’s Thoughts on Readings for 4/15/2021

Two readings from today that really stood out to me were Don’t Mourn For Us by Jim Sinclair and Apologies to my OB-GYN by Rebecca Foust. Specifically, the the relationships between disabilities and society that is seen within the two pieces. With his piece, Sinclair portrays to readers how society influences the way in which a parent. reacts to their child being diagnosed with. autism. He mentions that oftentimes parents see their kid being diagnosed as autistic as some king of “great. tragedy” but then immediately. follows that up with. saying that the parents are more upset by the idea of not having what society would consider to be a “normal” child than their kid actually being autistic. This ferocious follow up allows Sinclair to paint to readers, an image that society molds the way an individual reacts to receiving a diagnosis. Sinclair further develops this idea by saying that. autism is “not an appendage,” it is “not a impenetrable wall,” and it is not “death.” Sinclair mentions that to view autism as a sort of “shell” that a person wears, is to essentially wish that the autistic child they have did not exist, and that they had a different, non-autistic child instead.

With her poem, Rebecca Foust touches on the pressures that society forces the families of disabled individuals to face. Specifically, Foust does so by having a mother apologize for and address the ways in which her physically disabled newborn son creates issues for the abled bodied individuals around them. The first example of this is seen in the very first stanza when Foust states “sorry that my boy birthed himself too early,” something that no mother should feel the need to apologize for, yet due to the increasing pressures of society, this mother feels obliged to apologize for it. Another example is seen in the opening lines of the second stanza when she states “sorry we were such pains in your ass asking you to answer our night calls like that.” This is yet again something that no individual should feel the need to apologize for (I mean after all answering calls regardless of the time is part of the nurses’ job) and yet, this mother feels the need to. I would. argue that the most telling line of the poem comes near the end of the poem when our speaker says “sorry he took so much of your time / being so determined to live.” Here Foust essentially speaks on the entire point of this poem, that these individuals are in a fight for their lives and society is doing nothing to help but make them feel pressured and like some sort of inconvenience.

I’m interested in what you guys thought of the readings or if you interpreted them in a different way than I did so feel free to leave your comments below!

Zachary Welsh’s Major Project/Paper

For my Major Paper/Project for our Disability and Literature course, I have decided to go for the visual art project option. Specifically, I will be producing a short, few page, mixed medium comic that will be laid out, written, edited, illustrated, lettered, and colored by myself. In terms of which of our texts from the first eleven weeks of class my comic will be discussing and responding to, I have chosen Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Specifically, I will be discussing the central theme of the novel that it is society that creates monsters; that an individual with a physical disability is only perceived as something to fear because of how society reacts to and treats said individual. My comic will primarily be made up of one primary, central character that I will use as a way to speak on and provide commentary about Shelley’s novel. While simultaneously providing commentary and a stance on the argument presented within the novel, I will have my character introduce himself with a plan to commit a horrendous act such as a bombing, a robbery, or a murder. In what will be set up as a sort of final recording explaining his actions, my character will read and provide a textual analysis of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. As he is doing so, the central character will discuss events that transpired in the creation’s life and compare those to events that have occurred in his own life. Doing this will not only provide an almost meta commentary on the book and the themes within it, but it will also create a sort of parallel between the creation and my main character, as he sees himself and his future actions as a product of society. As the comic goes on and the character compares his life to that of Frankenstein and explains his motivations for his future actions, he will slowly start critiquing the society represented within the book and how it handles or responds to individuals with a disability. While the comic has admittedly been primarily a parallel to Mary Shelley’s book, I want to be able to push the comic and the character a bit further than what readers saw in the novel. Now that’s not at all to say that I am attempting to create a better piece of literature than that of Shelley, but rather that I want to build on her ideas and concepts presented in her novel. In order to achieve this, I will have the main character reach the ending of the Shelley’s book and have a moment of self-reflection while discussing the similarities between him and the creation and the similar paths in which they are traveling. In said moment of self-reflection, the character comes to realize that he is not in fact the monster that he comes to believe himself to be, and that he can triumph over the negative connotations that are associated with his disability. In deciding this, he will ultimately choose not to follow through with his previously stated actions that he planned on committing. As the character gets up to walk away from his final confession, it is only then that readers get to see that he himself has a physical disability. In having the character be disabled, and reject his previous plans stated at the beginning of the comic, I create with readers, another parallel between him and the creation, but he himself serves as an example of how a disabled individual can overcome society and its way of making monsters out of disabled individuals, something that the creation was never given the opportunity to do. He also serves as a way to reject the societal belief that disabled individuals are someone to be scared of. 

In terms of the actual artistic side of the project. One may notice a surprising choice of color in the comic. To parallel the main character believing himself two be a monster, he is depicted in black and white (similar to a classic Hollywood monster movie.) However, I made it so that the objects that help him realize his innocence and his humanity are in color. These include the video camera, the book, the candle, etc. Upon realizing his humanity, the character actually starts to gain some color and by the time he fully realizes that his interpretation of himself was warped and unrealistic, he is shown in full color and ultimately walking towards a brighter future. I also used repetition in the panels (many similar panels but with a change in the colors) as a way to highlight and underline the color effect used in the comic. 

Honor Pledge: Zachary Welsh

Zachary Welsh’s Thoughts on Nick Walker’s Neuroqueer

With the reading by Nick Walker, readers are introduced to a new vocabulary term that they may have previously never heard of before. That being “neuroqueer.” The term itself is both a verb and an adjective, and as described by the author, “as a verb, it refers to a broad range of interrelated practices. As an adjective it describes things that are associated with those practices or that result from those practices.” In terms of the actual definition of the word, it is described as “a neuroqueer individual is an individual whose identity has in some way been shaped by their engagement in practices of neuroqueering. Or, to put it more concisely (but perhaps more confusingly): you’re neuroqueer if you neuroqueer.” Readers are also told that neuroqueer individuals are oftentimes people who like to subvert definitions or concepts. The author also provides a list to readers of qualifications that an individual defined as “neuroqueer” must meet, including “being neurodivergent and approaching one’s neurodivergence as a form of queerness,” having conscious awareness, “actively choosing to embody and express one’s neurodivergence,” “engaging in the “queering” of one’s own neurocognitive processes,” undoing ones cultural conditioning, being neurodivergent, and “working to transform social and cultural environments in order to create spaces and communities – and ultimately a society – in which engagement in any or all of the above practices is permitted, accepted, supported, and encouraged.” While I doubt the term itself is meant to do any harm, one must consider if classifying an individual as “neuroqueer” can create a larger gap between individuals in our society when we are already facing these kinds of difficulties. What do you think of the term and the way it classifies individuals? Do you think it does more harm than good? 

Zachary Welsh’s Thoughts on “The Right Way to Be Crippled & Naked” by Jonathan Mack

With his short story “The Right Way to Be Crippled and Naked,” author Jonathan Mack introduces to readers, a character that is not only struggling to accept his sexuality, but his physical disability as well. In fact, the character is struggling with the former so much, that he decides to become a Jain Monk at the Digambara as a way to attempt some type of homosexual conversion on himself. What is perhaps most interesting about Mack’s piece, is the relationship the character has between his physical disability and his homosexuality. It becomes immediately evident that our main character despises his physically disabled leg, as when describing it, he says that he “tries not to look at it” and that it remind him of a “half dried wishbone. Like it was meant to snap.” however, as I said it’s more the relationship our speaker has between his disability and his homosexuality that is perhaps the most intriguing part of the story to dive into. Our speaker mentions not only that he believes his disability to be the reasons no other men are interested in him, but he also believes that he was given this disability as a punishment from karma for being gay. The fact that this is the first thing our main character thinks about when he thinks of his sexuality and his disability is very telling about or society and the way it applies negative connotations not only towards individuals with a disability and the way it makes them feel ugly or like a vicim, but also about how a large portion of our society is unable to accept people’s different sexualities, as evident by the way our speaker feels immense pressure to change who he is simply because he feels like an outcast in our world. This is only further backed up in the closing statements of mack’s writing, where the character apologizes to his family for doing harm and being an embarrassment to them, simply because of who he is. Mack’s piece manages to not only portray to readers what it is like for someone who is struggling to accept themselves because of their differences, but also sheds light on issues in our own society that allows these individuals to feel this way.

Zachary Welsh’s Thoughts on Dickinson’s A Little Madness in the Spring and Much Madness is Divinest Sense

With her poem Much Madness is Divinest Sense, author Emily Dickinson seeks to portray to readers the parallels of being considered “mad” and having the “divinest sense.” In the poem, Dickinson seems to paint the two as two sides of the same coin. She states that being mad is seen by those who have “a discerning eye,” is the same as having “divinest sense.” In this comparison, Dickinson essentially argues that what is seen as madness in someone is more often sense within the person, but most people don’t see it like that. To further explore this theme, Dickinson includes the line “‘T is the majority / In this, as all, prevails.” This line essentially indicates that Dickinson is telling her readers that these individuals who are labeled as “mad” are actually quite the opposite, but society fails to recognize it that way because society tends to just blindly agree with the major opinion on matters such as these. By doing this, and pointing this out to readers, Dickinson’s poem arguably challenges the viewers to see the minority viewpoint in the discussion as opposed to blindly following the majority opinion as the rest of society does.

With her second poem we were assigned for the day, Little Madness in the Spring, Dickinson once again touches on the concept of madness and the connotations associated with it. Here, Dickinson uses seasons as a way of comparing to one’s mental state. She uses the unpredictability/(madness) of spring as a way of saying that this unpredictability/(madness) is okay at times, even for an individual such as the king. Dickinson builds on this by saying that the while the king himself doesn’t seem to understand this, there are in fact others that see this scene but these other individuals are seen as “clowns” in our society. In point this out, Dickinson brings this poem and its themes back to her previously mentioned poem Much Madness is Divinest Sense in the way she compares those who not only embrace madness but are able recognize madness as being outcasts or clowns in our world.

If I left anything out or if anyone interpreted Dickinson’s poems in a different way, I would love to hear your comments on what you thought of the poems for today.

Zachary Welsh’s Thoughts on Tulips by Sylvia Plath

So I think by now it’s certainly becoming apparent to my classmates that I am a massive poetry fan, as the poems we read are usually the reading that I share my thoughts on each day. I think my fascination with poetry coms from the various ways that the poem format allows authors to convey how they are feeling and their thoughts in a vast variety of ways. So allow me preface this by saying I know it’s no surprise, but the reading I chose to talk about today was Tulips by Sylvia Plath, because it’s a beautiful poem.

Readers are immediately introduced to the speaker, who is explaining her experience with getting some type of surgical procedure done. However, the true beauty of this poem lies not in the way that the speaker describes the events of the surgery, but in the way that Plath plays with tension and contrast and how they relate to the speakers feelings throughout her experience. The speaker, throughout the poem describes the hospital room she is in as “white,” “peaceful,” and says that in a room full of nurses, “nobody watched” her. She describes wanting to not stand out in this room and instead wanting to “to lie with my hands turned up and be utterly empty.” Her description of the room combined with how she describes her emotions in the state, portrays to readers that our speaker longs for the release of death. However, Plath introduces tension into the poem when she reveals the existence of the tulips. Contrasting with the calm whiteness of the hospital room, the the speaker describes how the tulips not only scream bright red, but also demand her attention while she is merely trying to embrace death. The speaker explains how the tulips go so far as to almost anger her, as they interrupt her calmness “like a loud noise” and are calling to her and demanding that she hold onto reality rather than let go, allowing Plath to create the tension of life versus death in the poem. This is of course further evident by the color choice in the poem, as white is oftentimes associated with the heavenly afterlife and red is usually associated with the color of blood and of life. By doing this, Plath presents readers with the question of will our speaker choose to accept death and embrace it with open arms, or will she take on the challenge of the tulips and take on life once again. While readers are never given a direct answer as to what happens with our speaker, Plath decides to end her poem with the woman describing how these previously “white,” calm walls “seem to be warming themselves.” I would argue that this line of the last stanza insinuates that our speaker does in fact choose to hold on to life rather than to embrace death, as red is considered a very warm color so to have these white walls begin to warm up, almost as if they are turning as red as the tulips, leaves readers to believe that the woman decided to give life another chance.

I’d love to hear anyone else’s thoughts on the poem if I missed anything or if you interpreted it a different way so feel free to drop a comment!

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