Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies

"You're Supposed to Be a Tall, Handsome, Fully Grown White Man"

Theorizing Race, Gender, and Disability in Octavia Butler's Fledgling

Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies (2014), 8, (1), 33–48.

Abstract

In Octavia Butler's Fledgling (2005), the disabled, black female subject complicates the relationship between racism and ableism—both vie for power over her body; the places where they contradict each other expose instability. Said contradictions open up space to imagine black female disabled subjects wielding radical political potential to build coalitions and alliances and to transform how others understand their positions to privilege. The article examines three major relationships in Fledgling—antagonists, allies, community—to underscore where racism and ableism contradict one another or undermine larger goals. The protagonist mobilizes her own embodied knowledge as a defense, suggesting that, despite others' desire to imagine her as such, her identity is not collapsible into the binary of being a super-able black woman, nor an abject disabled person.

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Pickens, Theri