Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Book Review: I'm Not Here to Inspire You

I'm Not Here to Inspire You: 

Essays on Disability from a Regular Guy Living with Cerebral Palsy
by Rob J. Quinn

Reviewed by Gary Presley

Rob Quinn has cerebral palsy. Rob Quinn is disabled. He doesn't think it is really necessary for you to refer to him as a "person with a disability." That much is clear from the essays that he includes in his book, noting there is something disingenuous about "the illusion of respect for people with disabilities created by politically correct language."

Rob Quinn wants your respect as a fellow human being, and in that respect, he wants you to under that his disability and how it's classified and named is irrelevant.

In some measure, it's that sort observation from Quinn that sets the tone of the book—that, of course, and the book's title. Quinn wants you to understand the reality of disability, which isn't always life at the beach, and he wants to scrape away all the sentimental clap-trap that frames the discussion of disability in our society. Simply put, Quinn thinks it's possible to live fully as a disabled person, but it would be much easier if the attitudes of the nondisabled were a bit less antiquarian.

I'm disabled too, and from my perspective, one of the best elements of this book is the title Quinn has chosen and the essay he writes to expand on the thought. Like Quinn, "I cringe when I hear the word"—that word being "inspiration." And for much the same reasons he offers. "I am here to seek all of the same things that anyone else in the world wants, including happiness, fulfillment, success, and finding someone to love." That means, like me and most other disabled people, Rob Quinn would like to go about in his day-to-day life without having to live up to some unattainable standard established by a fantasy concept regarding disability.

That's the kind of wisdom Quinn shares in his series of essays, with the titles ranging from the self-explanatory "No Magic Key for a Life with a Disability" to "From the Heart, About the Heart."

The latter is the most affecting of the essays, the most emotionally demanding, but also the most satisfying to read for a person with a disability. "Satisfying?" No, that's not the right word. Love, relationships, and sex are sometimes taboo topics in the discussion of disability. No one wants to admit it, but being a disabled person often means being "disabled" in love. Why? Sometimes it's difficult to get out and circulate. That's the practical aspect. And there are aspects no one wants to talk about—appearance, supposition that a disabled person is disabled sexuality, or even the assumption that a disabled person is asexual, too caught up in being disabled to even have a desire for romantic love or capable of expressing such an emotion.

Quinn tells the hard truths in his chapter on love. It's not an easy read, but it would be a worthwhile read for a non-disabled person.

There are other essays that speak to matters practical. Quinn bicycles. He speaks to regrets about not pushing himself intellectually. He discussion "mainstreaming" and inclusion.

The book is short, fewer than one hundred pages. Each essay within is easily readable in one sitting. Quinn's an accomplished writer, published regularly over the years in the Philadelphia Inquirer, and his work here is well-edited. 

If you're disabled, it's the sort of book to buy, read, and pass along to the important people in your life. One caution: ask for it's return; it's the sort of book worth keeping as a reference.

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