Book Review: QDA: A Queer Disability Anthology (Raymond Luczak, editor)

Reviewed by John McClafferty

“The concept of ‘normal’ is a very dangerous one. It implies a standard that one must meet in order to be accepted…the expectation of ‘normal’ however defined by any religion or society, could be considered the root of all prejudice including homophobia…. Disability is a slap in the face of normality…. We are much more than wheelchairs, hearing aids, canes, oxygen tanks and service animals. We are you, and you are us.”
                            -Raymond Luczak

Raymond Luczak’s powerful and provocative proclamation thus sets the stage in his "Introduction" to QDA: A Queer Disability Anthology. If any potential reader of Luczak’s newly published anthology expects to find works depicting subservient, embarrassed, self-conscious, or apologetic writers kowtowing to the norms espoused by society in general, he will be sadly and sorely disappointed. Luczak has assembled a collection of writings including fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and even comics by 48 international authors that provide powerful, honest and revealing insights into individuals who allow us to see into their hearts and souls with unabashed forthrightness and defiance, while exposing their personal vulnerabilities as well. In addition, most of these authors just happen to be part of or closely associated with the LGBTQ community.

In determining the pieces selected for inclusion in QDA, Luczak has also entered into another realm of personal and societal relationships; namely, that of intersectionality. Not only are disabled individuals frequently dismissed and disparaged by a large section of the population as objects to be derided, disrespected, and ridiculed, but also they are generally ignored. If "unseen", they cease to exist. Conversely, they might even become subjects of "inspirational porn" where supposedly compassionate efforts are made to depict a disabled person’s condition and his/her efforts to overcome it as being an inspiration for those able bodied persons facing daunting challenges that may exist in their lives, to rise above and overcome those obstacles. The disabled are therefore portrayed as symbols or icons and not as the living, breathing, emotional, loving, and sexual human beings that they truly are. Add to that that the authors included in Luczak’s anthology also belong to a community that has endured the same type of treatment and discrimination they have experienced as disabled, and the intersectionality becomes more apparent.

The concept of intersectionality is further enhanced in QDA by the integration of the works Luczak has chosen to incorporate into the anthology. There are no specific poetry sections, or fiction and nonfiction sections for example, but rather the selections seemingly appear randomly placed in order to reinforce the interconnection among them as a whole. The disabilities and situations treated in each also mesh and interflow. There is no group of works strictly limited to one or another specific type of disability. A piece concerning deafness could be followed by an essay concerning emotional trauma; an accounting of a debilitating disease or medical condition; a remembrance detailing psychological browbeating; poetry presenting the experience of blindness; the awaking awareness of trans-sexuality; or the challenge of living with a physical deformity. Rather, it is the emotion, the intensity, and the desire of the writers to be seen, understood, loved, and appreciated as unique and complete individuals in their own right as well as sexual human beings who desire what the able-bodied world often takes for granted that cements the works into a powerful and poignant whole. Does being both disabled and LGBTQ deny these individuals the rights their place as human beings deserve?

Jax Jacki Brown challenges uneasiness with public displays of affection in her essay "The Politics of Pashing". Kenny Fries asks to see beyond the scars and wounds of his body to touch, caress, and love him in his poem "Body Language". Whittier Strong longs for the opportunity to have a functional loving family and children in his reminiscent "On Inheritance". Jason T. Ingram searches for self-acceptance and someone to love and be loved by in his non-fictional selection "They Called It Mercy". Kathi Wolfe sexually desires and yearns for love and life in her poems "Love at First Sight"” "Mind’s Eye," "Blind Porn," "If I Were A "Boy, " and "Want", thus giving new meaning to the time-worn adage “love is blind”. Larry Connolly humorously details the joys and exasperations of married life (albeit spent in wheelchairs) in his personal essay "The Worst Husband You Can Imagine". What person has not experienced many of these same human desires, emotions, wants, and needs? The remaining selections in QDA take the reader to even more intense and varied emotional levels as they reveal the human nature of their individual authors.

If there is one criticism that can be leveled against QDA, it is that the anthology is almost too ambitious. With 48 authors and multiple entries from several of them, a reader could become overwhelmed. It’s as if Luczak has tried to get a sample of every conceivable disability into the collection. In some cases, it was difficult (for me anyway) to determine exactly what the difficulty/disability in question was. Fortunately, the index of authors at the end helps to clarify/identify what the disability is, and what the author’s point of view or philosophy is, i.e. where he/she is coming from. It might be advisable to suggest that the reader consult this index before tackling an individual author’s selection.

QDA: A Queer Disability Anthology may not be everyone’s ideal read. It contains selections and individual stories that are startling, provocative, gut-wrenching, and sometimes emotionally draining; however, it also displays moments of joy, fulfilled desire, pride, determination, compassion, warmth, and humor, not to mention irony. It holds both the general and the LGBTQ communities accountable for further inclusion of the disabled and LGBTQ individual into their ranks. It advocates for dialogue and mutual understanding among us all. It makes its case for accepting and seeing the disabled as who and what they are: human beings who live, love, and want what all persons innately deserve….RESPECT. The reader may or may not accept or enjoy what he will find in QDA, but he certainly will not forget it. We are you, and you are us.

Title: QDA: A Queer Disability Anthology
Editor: Raymond Luczak
Publisher: Squares & Rebels
Publication Date: 2015


John G. McClafferty is a retired English teacher and Language Arts Curriculum Coordinator for the School District of Cheltenham Township (PA). He is also a past Executive Board Member of the PA Council of the Teachers of English, and is the former Director of Therapeutic Education at Inglis House, a long term resident health care facility for the disabled and physically challenged located in Philadelphia. He is an active and proud member of the LGBTQ community, and currently resides in Philadelphia with his partner of 25 years.