Pen 2 Paper: The Ones that Got Away May

Every year, Pen 2 Paper receives so many entries that we love, but that never make it to the finalist round. This year, we wanted to recognize some of those from 2017, so we present a monthly web feature: The Ones that Got Away. From January through October, P2P co-coordinators Susie and Laura will each post one of our favorite non-finalists from the 2017 contest. Enjoy!

All entries posted with permission, authors retain all rights.

May 29, 2018

Susie's Pick: Nellie and June by Wendy Sheehan

Before I start on the story, let me clarify: I realize being partially deaf isn’t a reason for anyone to be a troublemaker, and abandonment isn’t a disability. But I do think having abandonment issues can come with an emotional disability.

As for the story, I really found it interesting because Sheehan used a unique twist to demonstrate how hard it is for a person with a hidden disability to be understood and accepted. Most the time, it’s able-bodied people who have trouble recognizing and understanding the hidden disability. However, in Nellie and June, it’s two older ladies who have physical challenges of their own. They become resentful of the neighbor boy and actually seek revenge on him. Their perception of the boy doesn’t change until one of the ladies finds out that he is partially deaf and dealing with abandonment issues. I also like how there is no hint of his challenges until the lady finds out. It’s like the old saying “don’t judge a book by its cover,” because if most readers are honest, the idea of him having any disabilities probably doesn’t cross their mind as they are reading it—which only reinforces some of the obstacles that come with having a hidden disability.

Laura's Pick: Upon Considering Boob Privilege by Kimberly Jackson

A while ago, I was tabling for Pen 2 Paper at a writer's conference. I was telling someone about the contest and its focus on disability, and she said, "Oh, so it's inspirational stories?" I wish I could have handed her Kimberly's Jackson's Upon Considering Boob Privilege. The first time I read Jackson’s slam poem about the social fallout from a breast reduction, it smacked me right in the face. She’s not being nice about the struggles she’s encountered with her body—and why should she be? Doctors and the medical establishment, employers, even family members don’t hear her when she speaks about her physical pain and doing what’s right for her own life. On top of that, her efforts to express feelings are constantly cut short by demands that she be a "strong Black woman." Among many other things, this poem shows why it's crucial to consider intersectionality as a disability (or any) community. Note that Jackson’s reflections include some profanity. Keep up with her on instagram at @kimberlyjae1.

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