“Six Weeks,” the new novel I’m working on currently, is exhausting me of all energies. It is the most difficult of any writing I have ever done. At its center, the fragile relationship between a woman and her disabled mother. Both daughter and mother have to deal with their own challenges in life, while trying to hold that precious something called love and kindness between them. It is difficult for me to write because the mother’s disability is based on my own mother’s disability. It is in no way an autobiographical novel, but I have chosen this specific disability for my character as it’s a disability I know inside and out – at least as a caretaker. I’m also drawing on experiences – some positive, while others not – and interactions in public spaces; the way a woman with disabilities is treated by strangers when she steps out of the private sphere and out into the public.
As my mind is constantly engaged in this issue, the process of writing the novel and following the fictional characters is complemented by short sketches of creative, short pieces of non-fiction writing, based on the weekly outings with my mom. But as I progress with writing, I am discovering that the fiction is increasingly merging with the non-fiction. This piece is the first in a series of sketches. In the past, I posted some negative experiences of how people treat women with disabilities in the public space – with irritation, impatience, and inconsideration. However, my mom and I recently had some positive experiences, and I believe that they can raise awareness of the importance of taking into consideration the unique needs of women with disabilities even more so than the negative experiences.
Sketch 1 – 21 July 2016
Today, I would like to thank Nadia, an employee at the local Shufersal in Romema, Haifa. Shopping with a mother with disability is not simple. It is a challenging and complex act. The fact that the law requires a designated checkout cashier for persons with disabilities, the fact that my mom has a disability card, and her very visible disability do not really change reality. But today, thanks to Nadia, this experience was a positive one for us. Nadia was sitting behind the customer service counter, and I asked her if they had a checkout cashier for persons with disabilities. Immediately, and without even asking us to present her with a disability card, Nadia showed us to the express checkout, asked the woman at the cashier to receive us without delay, and asked the other people waiting in line to let us pass. This time, none of the customers got angry, as often happens. This very basic gesture, and this treatment that is supposed to be the norm, are not obvious at all and not to be taken for granted. Every simple daily action becomes challenging for women with disabilities. And today, thanks to Nadia, we returned home with a pleasant feeling. So thank you, Nadia.
Sketch 2 – 27 July 2016
Today, my mom and I had another positive and pleasant experience in the public sphere. We took a taxi with the taxi-driver Azzam Samuel. When we reached our destination, he stopped the car, but immediately said: “Wait, let me drive up a little so that the exit from the taxi is accessible.” Thank you Azzam for your sensitivity and consideration of the unique needs of women with disabilities.
To read the first excerpt from the novel-in-progress, “Six Week,” please go to: https://haifafieldnotes.wordpress.com/2016/05/28/six-weeks-work-in-progress/
(c) khulud khamis, 2016
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