How Does Nancy Mair's Autobiography Re-Symbolize Disability?

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How does Nancy Mair's autobiography re-symbolize disability?

In a wheelchair, with little she can do for herself, Nancy Mairs calls herself a "cripple". This, she explains, lets us know what her condition is. In her book Nancy candidly and often humorously addresses her life, her philosophy, and her methods of coping with MS for the last 25 years. When she asks whether "crippled" people have a place in the world, her answer is an emphatic "Yes!"

Nancy writes about her relationship with her husband, George, discussing their sexuality, his temporary escape to another woman, and his battle with a particularly virulent form of cancer. She also writes of her relationships with her two children and the others who inhabit her world. She has always loved to be alone yet she has adjusted to life as a person who needs someone to assist her with even the most private of tasks.

In 1988 she and George journeyed to Zaire to visit her daughter who was there working in the Peace Corps. In 1990 they ventured to England and have gone back several times since. Despite the complexities of travel, she and George deal with these issues, and have a wonderful time.

Nancy Mairs views her MS as a challenge to be met and mastered. She lives a full, interesting, exciting, and useful life. In writing this book she inspires us to do the same.

May you live until the word of your life is fully spoken." This benediction, which points to the importance of being heard, came to my mind while I was reading these books. Nancy Eiesland, whose doctoral work at Emory University was in ethics and society, writes out of her experience of lifelong disability. Her words call the church to be a body of justice for people with disabilities. Eiesland terms her theology "liberatory" and views the disabled as a minority group. By proposing an image of a disabled God, she offers a creative and redemptive response to the barriers which keep the disabled isolated and feeling responsible for their own condition.

Eiesland carefully prepares the reader for the image of the disabled God. She discusses scriptural and social paradigms that contribute to and perpetuate cultural barriers and then explores the implications of seeing the resurrected Christ as the disabled God. She cites Luke 24:36-39 (an appearance of the risen Christ to the disciples) to support her claim:

Here is the resurrected Christ making

good on the incarnational

proclamation that God would be with

us, embodied as we are. . . . In

presenting his impaired hands and

feet . . . Jesus is revealed as the

disabled God, . . . underscoring the

reality that full personhood is fully

compatible with the experience of


For Eiesland, this image is a divine affirmation of the wholeness of nonconventional bodies. The acceptance of such an image affirms the right of the disabled to full participation in the community of faith and implies the necessity of making the church accessible to them.

In contrast to these tales of spiritual compensation, Mairs and Kuusisto explore the intersection of faith ...
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