I am reading Mary Balogh’s Silent Melody in which the heroine is a deaf-mute (that’s how she is characterized in the story). It’s fascinating to read the way Balogh describes how Emily views/lives in her silent world, how she communicates with others, and how they communicate with her. And how sensitively/insensitively the other characters treat her. Some of the language used in reference to the character makes me uncomfortable because part of my day job is public school system special education administration. I keep telling myself that it’s like reading a romance novel from 1972 – yes the rape scene is understandable given the genre and societal norms at the time, just as in 1780, there was no such thing as political correctness when referring to someone with a disability.
Mary Balogh has a blind hero in The Arrangement – also a good read IMO. I read one by Tessa Dare, Must Love Dukes, recently with a blind (in modern terminology would be considered legally blind) hero. He counted steps. I read it just prior to attending the RWA session on characters with disabilities in which one of the presenters said to never have a blind character count steps. Tessa Dare was on the panel and fessed up to doing just that, which opened a dialogue about resources for author research that could lead to more authenticity and autonomy of characters with disabilities. I had wanted to go to the follow-up session, but had a conflict. I haven’t listened to the recorded session of the follow-up yet, but plan to.
Lisa Kleypas has a character with a hook for a hand. One of her contemporaries has a girl who doesn’t speak. If I recall correctly, that was due to trauma. I read one a long time ago with a deaf heroine that was really good (Mouth to Mouth, Erin McCarthy). I couldn’t remember the name of that one so I googled “romance novels with deaf heroines” and this page popped up. Some of these stories look pretty good – adding to my extensive TBR list.
I have a secondary character who is deaf, but he doesn’t have a whole lot of print. Do you have any characters with disabilities? Have you read any that you feel are realistic or not so much? Other thoughts on characters with disabilities and how to or not to portray them?