Older Adult’s Problem: Physical disability linked with age
Youth Savior Solution: Needing help
The Moral: We’re more effective when we’re abled & youthful
Aaah! I don’t want to write about this one, because Zetta Elliott is the best, I and other than this one nagging thing, I utterly love everything about this book. For accountability reasons though, I have to, because Elliott is one of my lovely and wonderful Patreon supporters.
Here is the problem: That Magic Cure.
The Magic Cure is a deux ex machina (when we can’t come up with a clever solution for how a character gets out of a bind). Folks with disabilities suddenly lose their disabilities. This is supposed to be a good thing – as if being abled is better than being disabled. The Magic Cure is often metered out as a reward for a kind and brave young child. Little Timmy doesn’t need his walker any more, the Blind kid earns his sight, you know the drill.
Imagine, for a moment, if a kickass little girl of color was magically gifted with whiteness. As if her natural identity is some sort of cosmic punishment. Yeah. To those of us with disabilities – it feels a lot like that.
In the case of this book – we have an older woman (‘Auntie’) who uses a walker – and resents the heck out of it. She’s pretty miserable and grouchy and falls into the sad lump waiting to die trope. When Auntie meets a baby dragon, just meeting it suddently gives her a burst of energy “I feel like a girl again.”
It’s not clear whether it’s the dragon’s magic or she just suddenly overcomes her disability and age when presented with a will to live. Either way is problematic.
This is a setup so Auntie can sneak past the non-cool adults and get into some cahoots with kids and dragons. Shedding her identity as older and disabled – presenting as young, and abled, makes Auntie a more powerful character, with increased capabilities to assist our young protagonist. The bias in our cuture tells us that to be effective, you must be young, and you must have strong legs. Which is silly.
Her magic cure just wasn’t necessary. I’m confident in Elliott’s writing ability that the story would have been more interesting if Auntie had come up with an escape plan that involved slowly inching her way out the door with a walker. That’s the thing about fiction – you can do what you want.
This was a missed opportunity to depict a truly kickass older woman with a disability as powerful, smart, and effective not despite her abilities, but because of them.
But seriously though you should still read the book, the rest of it is flawless.