I was not going to post today, but I wanted to share this. Again I have been having an email back and forth with a cousin in New Jersey about her recently graduated daughter. The daughter – whom I have not met I suspect ever – is obsessed with fan fiction, writes incessantly, and is also a “Type 1” diabetic. As I’d noted previously (in late 2016), her original writing I’ve seen is of a heavy sci-fi sort.
My cousin wants her daughter to go to graduate school in creative writing… partly to get her direction. I can’t show what my cousin sent me of her daughter’s recounting of a debate she had had with an undergrad English professor about fan fiction. I can say she accepts her professor’s point that fan fiction is copyright-offending (a position I happen also to hold).
However, she adamantly and unapologetically defends the practice (hobby?) at least in part because (she maintains) it provides marginalized groups – such as LGBT, ethnic minorities, and people with disabilities (the latter of which she evidently considers herself) – with the chance to bring characters closer to themselves in identity-terms. If they are “super” like “Hermione Granger” or “Harry Potter,” taking those characters and making them, say, black or diabetic (or both), and then publishing that “fan fiction” online for others, helps both the writer and any readers cope better with “outsider” feelings. It raises their spirits and nurtures in them the belief that they too can achieve.
I responded to my cousin last night partly this way:
I awoke to find my cousin’s emailed response. She pretty much agrees with me. I wrote that above as part of a much longer email about the challenges she would likely face in grad school. (“It’s not writing camp where you get patted on the head and everyone gets an award.”)
Privately as I typed I had also recalled one of my ORIGINAL characters. She was a friend from a couple of decades ago whom I have fictionalized. (You have to be careful as one of my friends. 😉 ) I personally witnessed this behavior from her at a dining room table in the mid-1990s:
She was – for quick description purposes here – “very French.” Then around age 30, she had had “Type 1” diabetes since age 2-3 (much like my cousin’s daughter). Her sheer fortitude and at times downright casual attitude in the face of the terrible condition has resonated with me down to this day. She had a boyfriend and wanted to have a family and saw the condition as an irritating medical issue she faced, not as any part of her “social make-up.”
I entitled this post “Flowers On The Edge” at the last minute because I had felt she was much like a lovely flower and always living on the cutting edge of life – determined to live well no matter what. (Much like another friend I would meet some years later, who would die in 2014.) That was, I suppose, her way of dealing with it. We all try to cope with any personal struggles our own ways, and her way to confront her diabetes was not to aim to draw strength from some fictional “wizards” or “superheroines” but quite the opposite: to work relentlessly to be ordinary.
I would not DARE suggest that is the best way to face it. I don’t know what the answer is and I wish I did. Actually, the answer is a cure.