I talk honestly and openly about my experiences with mental illness, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome through the lens of feminism, fat acceptance and process theology. I also do recipe and book reviews. My mission is to spread the message that hope is always real for a better life, despite living in a world that is often very harsh.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Janet Evanovich's "To The Nines" Stigmatizes

First, my computer crashed and I had to buy a new computer and now I am officially broke. Now, blogger is not letting me upload pictures! Gah! I got a fabulous new camera for Christmas and I am dying to show you pictures of meals that I have helped make. Since I cannot, I will write about something else: stigma.

On the way back from Maryland, which is a twelve hour drive, we listened to a Janet Evanovich book on CD titled, "To The Nines." This is the second time that I have listened to one of her books and they are good in that they make you laugh while driving, which helps one not to fall asleep. I loved listening to my dad laugh! But Evanovich relies too heavily on stereotypes. Every bit of her writing is a stereotype and the woman who reads aloud makes me uncomfortable with her caricature of a black woman's voice. But what I really do not like about this particular book is the references to "crazy" people, especially with those who have paranoid schizophrenia.

Twice, when a character is suspicious about the killer being around, she is asked if she had seen a "paranoid schizophrenic around back." The meme about paranoid schizophrenic being dangerous and violent is not true, but it is a very damaging stigma. I know that mysteries are often formulaic and use stereotypes and that's fine, but I do have a problem when the stereotypes enforces a dangerous idea. People who happen to have paranoid schizophrenia usually are not violent. In fact, since they are experiencing paranoia, they are usually more withdrawn. There are some people with paranoid schizophrenia who are violent-just like there are violent people who do NOT have it, but it is rare. Some of the nicest people I have known have paranoid schizophrenia.

I hope you have noticed that when I write about this that I always write about people with paranoid schizophrenia and never "those paranoid schizophrenics." People that have any kind of disease have more to them than just their disease-a person with paranoid schizophrenia may be artistic, studious, humorous, etc. When one reduces someone to just their disease, then one disregards their humanity and the possibility to see Christ in their eyes.

Another thing that just kills me about saying something like that is that Evanovich alienated her reader, which as any writer knows, is the biggest writing no-no. I have schizoaffective disorder, which has similarities to paranoid schizophrenia, so every time I heard the characters talk about paranoid schizophrenics in a derogatory manner, I felt a little stigmatized myself. "Crazy" people read and listen to books on CD! We do many things-our repertoire of activities is not limited to pacing up and down mental hospitals, contrary to popular belief.

Eventually, I would like to be published and I get a little scared sometimes when I realize what sells and that my standards are higher. But I know that I must keep on writing, even if nothing I write ever gets sold.

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