Atypical Authors: Celebrating Neurodiversity in Literature
The 13th-19th of March marks the annual Neurodiversity Awareness Week, an initiative conceived in 2018 with two specific aims; help to eliminate misconceptions surrounding neurodiversity in its various forms, and aid teachers in receiving the training they require in order to meet the needs of neurodiverse students. You can read more about the initiative here.
Neurodiversity permeates many aspects of our society; education, the workplace, our interpersonal relationships, the creative arts, the list goes on. There is often a kind of cruel and dismissive stigma attached to neurodiversity; something that Neurodiversity Awareness Week seeks to push back against so the strengths and talents of neurodiverse people can be celebrated and uplifted.
At Pegasus Publishers, we strongly believe in the talents of neurodiverse authors, and are very eager to welcome them onto our roster. Neurodiversity, by definition, is when someone displays neurologically atypical patterns of thought or behaviour, and because of this, people who come under this definition-in its various forms- may have a very different perspective on the world than those who are classed as “neurotypical”.
In the realm of the arts, unique and individual perspectives are required to push things forward. People are always seeking out that which feels new, fresh or exciting when it comes to music, art, film and literature, and atypical brains can be crucial in creating such things.
When it comes to literature and writing, there are a plethora of famous, world-renowned authors who embody various kinds of neurodiversity; from autism spectrum disorder to ADHD, to dyslexia as well! When it comes to dyslexia, there are many widely celebrated writers who have admitted to struggling somewhat with spelling and grammar, but their immense talent as storytellers and worldbuilders has not suffered in the slightest. Listed down below are some examples:
1). Agatha Christie
A titanic name in literature known even by those who turn their nose up at reading, Agatha Christie authored 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections and is the creator of two of the most beloved detective characters in literature, Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. Her work has been adapted time and time again into film and television, and it’s safe to say that she has earned her place in the literature hall of fame.
A lesser-known fact about Christie is that, by her own admission, she struggled with spelling for much of her life, saying; “Writing and spelling were always terribly difficult for me. My letters were without originality. I was…an extraordinarily bad speller and have remained so until this day.”
As evidenced by her output and her legacy, this hinderance did not deter Christie from realising her visions for her work.
2). Jules Verne
Famed French novelist Jules Verne is yet another case of an author with a troubled school-life, with psychologists strongly arguing to this day that he suffered from ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder).
When it comes to literacy, ADHD can create obstacles related to poor working memory, meaning that writing can become a challenge when trying to recall specific vocabulary or follow a train of thought, which can result in somewhat disorganised writing.
Despite this, these are not immovable roadblocks by any means, and writers such as Verne are proof of this, as he authored several incredibly well-known and celebrated adventure books, including the beloved “Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under The Sea”, “A Journey to the Center of the Earth” and “Around the World in Eighty Days”.
3). Helen Hoang
Let’s take a leap forward in time here to the 21st century; as recently as five years ago, in fact. Helen Hoang is a name that may be familiar to you, considering the roaring success of her debut novel “The Kiss Quotient”, which was released in June of 2018.
Conceptually, the novel is in keeping with the theme of neurodiversity, as it follows an autistic woman who hires an escort to experience intimacy with other people. More than this, though, the novel does not depict an autistic woman through the lens of someone who is neurotypical, as Hoang herself was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in 2016.
Going back to the theme of fresh and unique perspectives, Hoang’s work exemplifies that. Not only is she an autistic writer, she has also created an autistic character for us to delve into and get to know intimately, providing a realistic window into the neurodiverse mind for the neurotypical brains among us. It is imperative that the spotlight is directed toward work such as this.
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