A deafblind writer and professor explores how the misrepresentation of disability in books, movies, and TV harms both the disabled community and everyone else.
As a deafblind woman with partial vision in one eye and bilateral hearing aids, Elsa Sjunneson lives at the crossroads of blindness and sight, hearing and deafness—much to the confusion of the world around her. While she cannot see well enough to operate without a guide dog or cane, she can see enough to know when someone is reacting to the visible signs of her blindness and can hear when they’re whispering behind her back. And she certainly knows how wrong our one-size-fits-all definitions of disability can be.
As a media studies professor, she’s also seen the full range of blind and deaf portrayals on film, and here she deconstructs their impact, following common tropes through horror, romance, and everything in between. Part memoir, part cultural criticism, part history of the deafblind experience, Being Seen explores how our cultural concept of disability is more myth than fact, and the damage it does to us all.
Elsa Sjunneson, seven-time Hugo Award finalist, is a Deafblind speculative fiction writer living in Seattle, Washington. She has been published in CNN Opinion, The Boston Globe, Metro UK, and Tor. Her work has been praised as “eloquence and activism” in lockstep and can be found all over the internet. Elsa writes and edits speculative fiction and nonfiction. She has been a finalist for the Best Fan Writer and Best Semiprozine Hugo Awards, a winner of the D. Franklin Defying Doomsday Award, and a finalist for the Best Game Writing Nebula Award. As an activist for disability rights, she has worked with New Jersey 11th for Change and the New York Disability Pride Parade. And as an educator and public speaker she has presented work at the University of Chicago and The Henry Art Gallery, and taught workshops with Clarion West, Writing the Other, and various Science Fiction conventions.