Austensibly Ordinary by Alyssa Goodnight- A review

Austensibly Ordinary is a novel which follows the main character Cate Kendall, a high school English teacher who loves Jane Austen. Cate is bored of her life, and wants to shake things up. Just when Cate thinks she’s going to be stuck in her rut forever she finds a mysterious journal and thus begins a rollercoaster which includes a saucy alter ego, a mysterious but handsome man, and uncovered secrets about her long time Scrabble partner, Ethan.

This novel is…something, that’s for sure. I’m not quite sure if “something” is good or bad, even as I was reading it I found myself putting it down and sighing with frustration at the glacial pace of the plot, and simultaneously confused when the plot seemed to surge forward to an entirely new subplot with little to no warning.

As I was flipping back through the early chapters to write this book review, I realised that this book defies categorising in a genre. It has elements of mystery, supernatural with an overall wrapping of chick-lit, with some literary references to Jane Austen thrown in for good measure, I guess?

This book meanders… my god, it meanders for page after page, with an inner monologue from the primary character that left me with the urge to do a shot of vodka just to force myself through the next chapter (I didn’t do the vodka shot, I wanted to be on top of my game to write this review). The “romances” come in two varieties, “insta-love” and “oh my god, I just realised I love you”. Without going into too much detail and spoiling the entire book, it’s a horrible mass of cliches when it comes to romance. I suppose one could argue that Jane Austen used cliches to write her romances, but her books are remembered as classics…this will not be remembered as such.

It’s like the author spun a big wheel with a bunch of different plot options on it and picked them at total random, then looked at the list of results and went “yeah, this works.” In my opinion it does not work.

Everything I’ve read about writing a good book review say that you should write about the things you disliked about the book first, and finish on the positives, so I’m going to give that a try… Bear with me.

It…has words?

Okay, but seriously, the book is pretty awful. It might be worth the read if you’re looking for something that you can literally zone out to while you read it, and don’t really care about engaging with, because let me tell you, you are unlikely to feel any empathy for the whiny main character in her quest to “shake things up”

In summary, read this book if you feel you might like it, but don’t go pick it up based on the punny title (exactly why I picked it up, and clearly I didn’t love it) or if you’re under the impression that it will make you think of Jane Austen as a literary genius and hold Alyssa Goodnight up as her equal.

Goodreads average rating: 3.27 stars out of 5. (at time of publication of this blog, there are 297 ratings, and the majority are 3 stars)

My rating: 1 star out of 5.

Able-bodied normality- what is it and how can we fight it?

Able bodied normality

Why is it that being able bodied is seen as the default, the norm? Is it because the majority of people are physically able bodied or at least perceived to be that way?

Able bodied is defined as “fit and healthy, not physically disabled”. At face value that makes sense right? If you’re able bodied your body is able to do normal activities of daily living as well as recreational activities. What about those who are able to do activities of daily living, but do so in an adjusted way, for instance showering whilst sitting in a shower chair, or using a wheelchair to be mobile, what if they do the same things as so called “able bodied” individuals but in ways which are adjusted to their physical capabilities, does that then make them somehow less abled? Or is it just that they’ve adapted to a world which takes two arms and two legs functioning at full capacity as the status quo?

At face value it makes sense that the majority is considered the norm, but when it is considered how harmful that mentality it is, it becomes blatantly clear that the idea of a “norm” is inherently biased towards those who fit in with the norm and actively excludes those who are outside of it.

This is seen in all facets of society, and is by no means limited to able bodied vs physically disabled, it is seen in males vs females, black/latinx/asian/Indigenous populations vs white.

When these examples are examined carefully the trends are frightening, society has this “default” setting which allows certain demographics to get ahead in life, while actively holding back those who are outside of this default.

In western countries it comes as no surprise that white males are statistically more likely to go to university or college, have high paying white collar jobs, own their own home and car, and have disposable income; and because society has these advantages ingrained for white men, it is again no surprise that white males comprise the vast majority of those in positions of power.  A quick google search revealed that at Stanford University 42.5% of the whole student population is white and 52% of the whole student population is male. I could go on and on about the disparities in higher education and how the system is predisposed to advantage white middle class males, but I think the point is made.

This blog post could honestly go on for pages and pages and pages, on all the inequality in society and the way those who are viewed as “other” are pushed aside in favour of the “normal”, but I will endeavour to limit my discussion to disabled vs non disabled.

If we flip the norm on it’s head and view disability as the norm, and those who are not disabled as the outliers, society looks very different, all buildings would be entirely accessible to 100% of the population, there would be adequate public restrooms for all those with disabilities. These 2 accommodations for those with physical disabilities are so far outside the norm for a lot of people that it is hard to fathom the idea of that even being possible.

As you’re reading this, I want you to walk through a busy street in your hometown/city in your mind, and count how many of the shops/businesses have obvious disability access, and how many either don’t have access at all, or have a sign pointing to some seedy alleyway, where a ramp is accessible but requires more effort to get to. In my hometown, with a population of around 50,000 you’d be surprised to find that a lot of businesses don’t have disability access, and how many people accept that as the status quo, and when I raise the fact that a business has stairs out the front I get met with blank stares as if to say “So?”

It’s not unusual for disabled access to be placed somewhere out of the way, as though being disabled makes you less than, and means you should enter through another door. I vividly remember being 16, going to the NSW parliament house on a school excursion, and having to go almost around an entire city block, to get to the wheelchair access, and then having to wait another 15 minutes for someone to buzz us in, because no one was watching the door camera of that entrance. It may seem like a minor inconvenience, but imagine doing that for almost half of the public buildings you want to enter, and having to wait until someone acknowledges your existence before you’re allowed entry. It’s exhausting, both physically and emotionally. Physically because you have to go further to access the entryways, and emotionally because it further emphasises your “otherness” and makes you even more of an outlier than you were before. And let me tell you, at 16, being other is so not what you want.

These seemingly small inconveniences build up over time and leave me feeling exhausted, and angry. It may sound like nothing when you read this single instance, but imagine being disabled, 26 years old, and still having to do that every time you want to go somewhere new and you’re unsure what the access is like, or worse, having to decline invitations to places or events with friends because there’s just no feasible access at all.

Which brings me nicely to the point of disabled access public restrooms. The number of times I’ve heard people say something like, “They’re not ONLY for disabled people, they’re for everyone, it’s just that people with disabilities can use them too”. Geez thanks, for allowing me the privilege of peeing in a public restroom, how generous of you. You have the ability to go into any stall in the women’s bathroom, and it’s no problem at all for you, whereas I have to make sure the disabled access bathroom is unlocked (some places hide the key in the centre management area, and then I have to go all the way to that office, and all the way back to the bathroom), make sure no one is in it, make sure it’s been cleaned sometime this decade, and then I have the privilege of voiding my bladder. I cannot tell you the number of times I have waited outside a bathroom thinking that someone with a disability is in there, and someone walks out and won’t look me in the eye, or worse, mumbles something like “the line was really long at the other restroom”

Without getting too graphic here, I’m going to take a second to talk about the fact that with my specific disability, I don’t get a whole lot of warning when I need to go to the bathroom, if I gotta go, I really gotta go, yes there are times when I’ve had to wait because someone with a disability has been using the disabled access bathroom, and that has resulted in my having an unfortunate accident, which while it’s embarrassing I can deal with it because I know that the person who was using the bathroom was probably in the exact same situation as me. But when someone walks out of the bathroom, and blushes bright red and mumbles a half assed “apology” about the big line at the women’s/men’s restroom, I see red. I rarely say anything, because I’m already busting for the bathroom, so time is a factor, but on the few occasions when I have said something I have been met with defiance, and anger. And on a few memorable occasions with flat out insults.

In essence, it appears that a small portion of the population views disability of others as an inconvenience to them rather than an inconvenience to the person with the disability, and this prevailing attitude of “well it inconveniences me, or makes me feel uncomfortable” is why people with disabilities have been, and still are, treated as outliers and undesirable members of the community.

Imagine your very being is viewed as an inconvenience or something to find uncomfortable, imagine people averting their eyes or pulling their children closer to them as they pass as though we’re to be feared or are contagious. Now imagine, others view you as disabled, and solely disabled, no other facets to your identity, no other attempts to delve into your personality or exploration of your goals and aspirations. These are all issues people with disabilities face on a daily basis.

In essence, people with disabilities are people! It’s not difficult to treat people with disabilities like you treat everyone else, and that does not mean treating them as “special” or doing that sickly sweet condescending way of talking as though they’re either doing us a favour by speaking to us at all, or that we’re too stupid to understand “normal” speech.

Treat people with disabilities like people and we’ll all get along perfectly fine.

If you think I’ve missed any important points please feel free to leave a comment down below! Keep it respectful and friendly guys!

Launch Day!

Welcome to Five Big Things!

Welcome to Five Big Things Blog!

Saturday, 22 April 2017

1:02 am

Five Big Things came to me the same way plenty of ideas do. Quietly, in the night.

I was half asleep, listening to a nifty little meditation app that I’ve been trying out for a month when my mind drifted away from my “intentional breathing” and I thought about how I have always loved writing, even going so far as writing 2 very rough drafts of novels, as well as many, many poems.

As I lay there, thinking about writing, I started to think more about all the things I am passionate about for one reason or another.

Over the next few days the idea percolated away in the back of my mind, and in the end I was left with this list of five things:

  • Mental health/religion/spirituality
  • Disability advocacy/ableism
  • Books and reading
  • Feminism
  • Bullet journals/organisation/study

An eclectic list to be sure, but one that sparked so much excitement in me that I couldn’t leave the idea alone and I broke out a new bullet journal just for the ideas and thoughts I was having.

This blog is the result of those half formed thoughts, late night ponderings, and the scribbled notes that have blossomed into fully formed articles.

At the time that this post is going up the plan for this blog is this:

Mental Health Monday will encapsulate my experiences with Mental Health, spirituality and things like meditation, as well as hopefully some guest blogs from people who either work in the Mental Health sector or have experience as clients.

Teach me how to be “normal” Tuesday is going to focus on disability advocacy. The name came about after a brainstorm session with a friend of mine who has Cerebral Palsy, and we were venting about the idea that people have this idea of what is “normal”.

What I’m reading Wednesday is pretty self explanatory, I will do a book review each week, spanning many genres and also include non fiction and biographies.

Thinking it through Thursday will focus on things like organisation and study tips, as well as other interesting productivity tips I have found and tried, and will often have bullet journal related posts, because bullet journalling is the only system that has ever worked for me.

Feminist Friday is about…feminism. Shocking right? I know there are hundreds of blogs that focus on feminism, but I hope to add my own voice to the movement and hopefully make a difference in a small way.

Like I said, that’s the post schedule and plan for right now, but that is subject to change as this blog grows and adapts. If you have any suggestions for future posts please feel free to leave them in the comments or send me a message via the “Contact me” link.

Welcome to Five Big Things, enjoy your stay and tell your friends all about it!