The Anomaly That Is Pandacorn
Previous
RANDOM
EBEL'S LABEL VOL.1 (Tooth and Nail Mix Tape 1994-2012)
Next

REPRESENTING THE UNDERREPRESENTED: BEVERLEY BRENNA’S THE WHITE BICYCLE

by Dustan Hlady on Friday, May 8, 2015

 

In Wild Orchid Taylor Jane Simon wanted a boyfriend, in Waiting For No One she wanted a job. In The White Bicycle we see what she wants next. In the final installment of the Wild Orchid Trilogy we tag along with Taylor to the South of France where she spends the summer, being a personal care assistant for a boy who has Cerebral Palsy and a great sense of humour.

Taylor is a normal young woman. She’s obsessed with the plays Waiting for Godot and Pinter’s The Party, her favourite article of clothing is a jean dress,

jeandress(The book is set in 2000. This looked good then.)

, she has two gerbils, worries about things, fights with her mother,  thinks boys look hot in tight blue jeans… oh, and she happens to have Asperger’s Syndrome. If you don’t know what that is (and you might not because it still comes up as a typo on WordPress) here’s a definition.

As·per·ger syndrome n.

A pervasive developmental disorder, usually of childhood, characterized by impairment in social interactions and repetitive behavior patterns.
Or if you learn better through another medium, here’s a video of two friends hanging out. One of them has Asperger’s Syndrome:

REPRESENTING THE UNDERREPRESENTED

While Asperger’s Syndrome can seem to be all-encompassing in the narrative, in another way it isn’t. If Taylor didn’t have Asperger’s the story would still work but Beverly Brenna is committed to stories being told from the perspective of characters who are not typically represented in literature. In The White Bicycle we have characters who happen to have Asperger’s Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy and dementia. The characters give perspective different than the typical protagonist would.

One example of this is when Taylor thinks back to her experiences growing up on the Asperger’s spectrum. She recounts events she doesn’t understand fully but the reader does. This stirs empathy for the character because you understand the pains of her world in a way even she doesn’t. This is an incredibly effective literary device.

As one example, Taylor recalls getting a lot of notes sent home from the teacher as a child. She notices the connection between the length of the teacher’s note and her mother’s reaction. Whenever there is a two page note her mother goes into her room, shuts the door and cries. She notices the cause and the effect but does not understand how much her condition is stressing her mother out and making her question her abilities as a parent.

Since publishing the Wild Orchid series, Asperger’s Syndrome has become more present in literature, most notable in Mark Haddon’s, The Curious Incident of The Dog in the Night-time. NBC’s Parenthood features a child on the Asperger’s spectrum. Since the show’s premiere, Asperger’s has become one of the most Googled words in North America. 

Beverley told Taylor’s story because people like Taylor weren’t having their stories told. But things have changed. Asperger’s Syndrome has entered the mainstream conversation. Because of that, Taylor’s journey is over. Beverley Brenna has moved on to new under-represented youth. In The Moon Children, she tells the story of a boy with FASD who makes friends with an orphan from Romania.

I met with Beverley and chatted about this. you can hear our conversation here

 

fetal alcohol syndrome

noun

:  a highly variable group of birth defects including mental retardation, deficient growth, and malformations of the skull and face that tend to occur in the offspring of women who consume large amounts of alcohol during pregnancy

 

 

Beverley Brenna is here to save us from the average YA fiction character who, if you haven’t noticed, is a privileged, fully-abled, white, angst-filled teenager who can’t seem to fit in despite being very attractive, smart and financially well-off. I’m sure Brenna will continue to write characters who challenge our perceptions of what a protagonist looks like.

 

 

Dustan Hlady
dustan j. hlady is the founder of Middle of Nowhere music and sings and writes songs for his band, Friend Friend. www.middleofnowheremusic.com

Let us get your take on this