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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Writer/Curator/Founder of The Autism Acceptance Project. Contributing Author to Between Interruptions: Thirty Women Tell the Truth About Motherhood, and Concepts of Normality by Wendy Lawson, and soon to be published Gravity Pulls You In. Writing my own book. Lecturer on autism and the media and parenting. Current graduate student Critical Disability Studies and most importantly, mother of Adam -- a new and emerging writer.

“There is no hope unmingled with fear, and no fear unmingled with hope.” -- Baruch Spinoza

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


The Archeology of Ideas, Writing and Censorship

I'm a controversial figure. My friends either dislike me or hate me.

--- Toni Morrison, speech, Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, New York,1978

Censorship is tough stuff. How much should one reveal or censor a private conversation in non-fiction, or reveal the line of a furrow so deep that my friends would recognize the person in fiction? I recall a course I once took with writers David Bezmogis, John Metcalfe and others talking about this very subject – about using friends and family and people we know in writing, to which the final conclusion was “don’t they know you’re a writer?” In other words, every experience, every conversation, every aspect of a writer's being and perspective is… “material.” I need not ask permission to write and shape things as I see them. I have a right to see things the way I do. I may wrap someone in another "identity," in the context of an event or conversation to protect that person, but even if I changed the colour of someone's shoes, s/he would know about whom I was writing, even if others do not. The question always on my mind is, if the intent is to further an argument, to shape an argument bathed in descriptions of the experience, how much does one have to reveal? How much truth is there in fiction, how much fiction in the truth? John Metcalfe critiqued my draft book about my experiences and noted that even in a piece of non-fiction, the "artifact" is what's left. The craft of writing, the descriptions of people all have a purpose in writing, in an argument. In writing, both fiction and non, everything is shaped by the perspective of the writer. Further, there is not one fiction writer I've met so far, who does not "use" all the people in their lives to shape their characters.

This blog is about discussing human diversity within the context of acceptance. Once one begins to think about things, to go on the archeological digs of "why" and "how" and "to what end," it is natural to consider how one lives as a reflection of belief. Every point I raise is something that is on my mind in this vein. Somtimes I reflect on the origins of our current ideas, as innocuous as they may seem, to question how pervasive our ideas of perfection are within this context. Everyday conversations are examples of ideologies, known or unknown. I can’t censor my thoughts or my words and no one should try. Explorations into how we feel, think, and what we do are essential in looking at the complexity of autism.

I've had hundreds, if not thousands of episodes and conversations yet to write about in the subject of autism, and hundreds of more personal past "mistakes" in the way I've lived which juxtapose my emergent ideologies. I've had friends who with the best of intentions, have left me feeling utterly isolated in the way they view autism and disability, the way they disperse "empathy", and the way they look at and behave around Adam -- I intend to write about these experiences in order to continue to promote awareness and understanding. This is important stuff to write about, the meat and potatoes of living with autism. Should I edit the conversations? Censor the characteristics that shaped the experience? The ones that evoked strong emotion in me as I write about my experiences will likely remain on the page.

I may be wrong and I may be right in my evolving opinions, and the importance is in the asking "what does this mean," and "what is the origin of that idea?" Here are some other good quotes on writing I thought some of you might enjoy:

David Ben Gurion:
Anyone who believes you can't change history has never tried to write his memoirs.

Denise Levertov:
One of the obligations of the writer is to say or sing all that he or she can, to deal with as much of the world as becomes possible to him or her in language.

Jessamyn West:
Writing is a solitary occupation. Family, friends, and society are the natural enemies of the writer. He must be alone, uninterrupted, and slightly savage if he is to sustain and complete an undertaking.

Ralph Waldo Emerson:
Put the argument into a concrete shape, into an image, some hard phrase, round and solid as a ball, which they can see and handle and carry home with them, and the cause is half won.

Margaret Chase Smith:
Moral cowardice that keeps us from speaking our minds is as dangerous to this country as irresponsible talk. The right way is not always the popular and easy way. Standing for right when it is unpopular is a true test of moral character.

Martin Luther King, Jr.:
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

As I learned from writer teachers and friends, the stuff of life, of conversation, is material. I do, however, believe in respect. It is difficult to draw the censorship lines in writing.

First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.


Blogger Jannalou said...

I found this quote in Jane Yolen's Take Joy (a book I absolutely adored and need to purchase ASAP):

"I want to remake the world; anything less is not worth the trouble." - Karen Cushman

I love to write. I use people I know in my fiction all the time. I use myself most of all, because I know myself best. But I use situations I have heard of or encountered quite a bit, too - and just plop people I've created into those situations, and see what happens.

It can be quite entertaining. :)

1:12 PM  
Blogger Kristina Chew said...

Then there's Plato (via Socrates) reminding us that writing (as in the written text) is just a tool for remembering what ought to be written on the soul-----

2:46 PM  
Blogger Estee Klar-Wolfond said...


Thanks for that is a great idea!

2:50 PM  
Blogger Estee Klar-Wolfond said...

There is also something else another teacher said to me:

"This is your story to tell." However I see it, it belongs to me.

3:01 PM  
Blogger Jannalou said...

People say that "everyone has a book in them". I don't believe that.

I think everyone has several books in them. Plural. It's up to the writers of the world to find the stories, to hear the stories, to communicate the stories.

I think that, when we read (whether fiction or non; books or articles or blogs), we are looking for similarities. Some sense that we are not alone in the world, that someone else has experienced (or is experiencing) the same things we are.

(I am becoming a little nonplussed with the coincidences of how others' blogs keep tackling issues that I am also writing about...)

5:15 PM  
Blogger Estee Klar-Wolfond said...


There is always a pulse and connectedness to everything. It's as if we "know" it and are always surprised by the manifestations of it.

5:37 PM  
Blogger Jannalou said...

I wonder if we are surprised because we have forgotten how to purposely access the collective unconscious. But then, you need to believe in a collective unconscious for that to pan out.

I do think that connection is a very big part of being human. It's what I've been writing about over on my God-blog, and some of those stories I love to tell that are borne of imagination (but have some basis in fact) are up at my new web site... which is being developed slowly but surely. I'm taking my time with the site design and build. But it's started.

11:55 PM  
Anonymous Bonnie Ventura said...

Here's a quote from the preface to Ursula K. LeGuin's novel The Left Hand of Darkness:

"All fiction is metaphor. Science fiction is metaphor. What sets it apart from older forms of fiction seems to be its use of new metaphors, drawn from certain great determinants of our contemporary life -- science, all the sciences, and technology, and the relativistic and the historical outlook, among them. Space travel is one of those metaphors; so is an alternative society, an alternative biology; the future is another. The future, in fiction, is a metaphor.

A metaphor for what?

If I could have said it non-metaphorically, I would not have written all these words, this novel; and Genly Ai would never have sat down at my desk and used up my ink and typewriter ribbon in informing me, and you, rather solemnly, that the truth is a matter of the imagination."

11:04 AM  
Blogger Jannalou said...

I love Ursula K. LeGuin. Have you read Always Coming Home? That's a story that spoke to me on a very deep level. But I will always love the Earthsea novels best. :)

12:13 PM  
Anonymous Bonnie Ventura said...

No, I haven't yet read Always Coming Home. Thanks for the recommendation... I definitely will read it sometime!

1:22 PM  
Blogger Catherine said...

I also love Ursala LeGuin, what a soul. . . try Kate Wilhelm's Juniper Time and also Mary Doria Russell (start with The Sparrow)you will recognize the territory, Jannalou and bonnie. I also believe metaphor is the essential story teller and maybe the operative verb in all story telling, so to speak. To be human is to seek meaning I believe, and also to *be* meaning, as part of the collective unconscious 'entity'. I stumbled on this site with search for quote "censorship is the editing of the collective human unconscious" just quoted on PBS Google documentary/examination of freedom of thought. This is the first time I have been inspired to blog, at almost 60! I admire all of your thoughts and expression thereof. . .and I also hope to express myself, more perhaps as an apologia for my children and neices, nephews, everyone, but certainly I have been blessed with an interesting life, in the Chinese sense.
May All Beings Be Happy, Cath

9:50 PM  

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