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I am an Autistic person,not a person with autism. I am also not Aspergers. The diagnosis isn't even in the DSM anymore, and yes, I agree with the consolidation of all autistic spectrum stuff under one umbrella. I have other issues with the DSM.

I don't like Autism Speaks. I'm Disabled, not differently abled, and I am an Autistic activist. Self-advocate is true, but incomplete.

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MLA: Hillary, Alyssa. "Post Title." Yes, That Too. Day Month Year of post. Web. Day Month Year of retrieval.

APA: Hillary, A. (Year Month Day of post.) Post Title. [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://yesthattoo.blogspot.com/post-specific-URL.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Might it be autism in Alanna of Trebond's family?

I'm doing research (also known as re-reading all the Tamora Pierce novels and short stories) for a chapter/essay thing that I'm writing for FYT Writes A Book. (Heads up that FYT swears, FYT stands for F Yeah Tortall.) It's about neurodiversity and the portrayal of neurodiversity stuff in the Tamora Pierce novels. And... I'm kind of wondering if the whole Trebond line is autistic? I know that autism tends to run in families. At the start of my re-reads, my question was if Thom might be autistic. It didn't occur to me that Alanna might be too, since most of her self-esteem issues as a page can be chalked up pretty well to living a lie. But there are some bits that had me wonder. I know that autistic people who are generally kind of clumsy but spend a lot of time on the one thing can and do get really good at the one thing- Neurodivergent K is just about as clumsy as I am but was a competitive gymnast. And we have it in canon that Alanna was initially clumsy as well as being smaller/weaker, and that she spent lots of extra hours using a much-too-heavy sword learning to use it before she became decent with it. There is perseveration. Thom and Alanna both seem to do it. Neither of them seem to understand other people particularly well, though the way it comes out is different between the two. Thom openly dislies people (or seems to- we do not here from him that he dislikes others, but others have the distinct impression that he only cares about Alanna and himself.) Alanna admits to not understanding people and goes to Myles for instruction on understanding people as she becomes better friends with Myles. She also seems convinced that she will be disliked for the reasons that she is different, and her friends notice this about her. She can't believe that they like her because she is different. This could certainly be explained by guilt about lying to everyone about her gender, but it is also in line with how an autistic person who wants friends and finds people confusing could feel. (Her difficulty with the concept that she may do as she wishes and that friends will defend this is also in line with someone who has received the bullying common to many autistic people.) We also have that Alanna is intelligent and blunt, that she can't control her temper (but often wishes she could!) and has a tendency to overstretch herself, believing herself to be perfectly fine right up to the point of collapse. This lack of awareness of how close she is to her limits is also a common trait in autistic people, and it is a tendency that we see continue to lead to collapse through all the stories where she is the protagonist. So far, I have only re-read the first novel from her quartet, but I suspect the text will continue to support the conclusion that it is autism running in the Trebond line. (Autism was once referred to as childhood schizophrenia and thought to be a form of psychosis. Many lay people still think autism is a form of “insanity,” which isn't a formal diagnosis anyways. It's not exactly a stretch to assume that citizens of Tortall would not be aware of the differences between autism and various things which get lumped together as insanity, so I don't find the fact that the difference in her family is always referred to as insanity to be an issue with the argument that autism runs in the family. Rather, it supports the argument since autism is one of the mental and neurological differences that does run in families, and it must be one of the differences that runs in families.)

11 comments:

  1. That does actually make a lot of sense. And as I was reading this I started thinking about the Trickster books and remembered that Alanna's kids had some Autistic traits, too. We don't really get too much information on Alan, but we hear from Aly that her brother Thom is so absorbed in his studies that he wouldn't notice the latest trends among his fellow students (I don't know if that's a "normal" Autistic thing, but it's definitely how I was). Aly herself has a photographic memory and when I read the books I realized that when she reads people's body language and facial expressions, she comes off almost like a dictionary, like she memorized which expressions match up to which meaning (which was also something I did).

    Ahem...headcannon accepted.

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    1. That means I need to read the Trickster books in this idea too, don't I? Had to anyways for the general one, so I'll hit it at the same time for each.

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  2. I haven't read this series...but there are SO many unintentionally autistic characters in literature. I think there are at least 3 in "Song of Ice and Fire," and as many as 4 in the "Hunger Games" trilogy.

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  3. Oh Gods, yes! Headcanon accepted! It suddenly makes sense why I understand Alanna so much better than Kel!

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  4. I just listened to *all* the Alanna books this past week in lab (I have nearly all of Tammy's books on tape for working at the scope, and it's amazing), and I am not sure I agree completely. I think there are definitely autistic-like traits that Alanna (and much more so Thom and her father) display, and the fact that Alanna's friends are all older than her also mirrors somewhat my experience. But honestly, I don't see it. There's absolutely NO sensory issues, no obvious stims/tics, etc. So yeah, she's a hard worker, and is very determined, and she doesn't like people much. But honestly, I disagree with your assessment. I also just don't like diagnosing literary characters.

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    1. Tortally understandable. (Yes, that's a purposeful pun.) I'd disagree with 100% no sensory issues, since yeah, voice of a god might be a strange sensory issue, but she's the only one we see screaming from it- other people talk to gods in other people's series and the voices themselves don't hurt. Her hatred for getting wet is never explained, so I can't really say that it is OR isn't sensory. Cold is almost certainly a phobia, though, so I'm not going to claim it as a possible sensory thing. I've also got nothing better than "plot relevance" to say on stimming or ticcing, so there's that...
      I also don't think that 100% diagnosing a literary character is possible, I just find it interesting (and maybe relevant to representation stuff) to look at *is it a reading that can make sense?* Which is a wee bit of an opinion thing. I think it makes sense. You don't. That's OK.

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    2. If I recall correctly it's explained that she doesn't actually hate getting wet, the other pages just thinks she does because she won't swim with them. For obvious reasons, as swimming involves a lack of clothing.

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    3. Start of book 2 she tells her horse that she hates getting wet during a rainstorm, though- my guess is that she hates *certain kinds* of wet and swimming isn't actually one of them.

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  5. I've been secretly reading on here for a while without commenting on anything, but I just wanted to saw that I was so so so excited that you read all the Tamora Pierce books because I have never met anyone else who has read them and they are amazing and awesome. It was just so exciting because I was already reading through all your things thinking you were incredible, and this just confirms it.

    Anyway, thought you ought to know.

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    1. Agreed! I saw the headline for this post and I flipped my shit. It's always nice to see another person who's obviously more than a casual reader of Ms. Pierce's work.

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  6. I've heard of this Headcanon a bit but I've always been more inclined to Headcanon Daine from The Immortal Series as autistic (possibly because I identify with her more?). But now that I read the case you made for "Alanna the autistic" here it actually makes a lot of sense. I'm not sure if I'm at "Headcanon accepted" yet, but I definitely see it as a possible reading now.

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I reserve the right to delete for personal attacks, derailing, dangerous comparisons, bigotry, and generally not wanting my blog to be a platform for certain things. As long as we stay within those ranges, discussion is AWESOME.