An Autistic Parent’s Reaction to To Siri: Impact > Intent

If you aren’t part of the autistic community online, you probably missed the many discussions over the past week about the autistic mommy memoir “To Siri with Love.” Discussions which spawned the hashtag #BoycottToSiri

Other people have done a great job breaking down the many, many problems with this book. Kaelan Rhywiol’s Storify of her live tweeting while reading the book is the most detailed break down I’ve found, but prepare to be highly disturbed and possibly triggered. Here’s a review of how this book came to explode on autistic twitter. You can check out #BoycottToSiri for more discussion and info.

But that’s not what I want to talk about. Not really. I want to talk not about why the book itself is bad, but about why it’s not “just” a book.

Defenders of the Indefensible

It’s not the book itself that really disturbed me. It’s the number of people defending it. The number of people who read it and gave it 5 stars as a loving account of being an autistic mommy and how they “don’t feel alone anymore.” It’s the realization that this isn’t just one woman being a horrible person, but thousands, perhaps millions, of allistic (ie, not autistic) people who think of autistic people this way.

Now I’m lucky. I can, most of the time, pass as neurotypical. Lately, I have been increasingly unwilling to pass, because it comes at a high cost to me. I am no longer willing to pay that cost for the comfort and convenience of other people. Still, most of the time, if I need to, I can.

But not everyone can. In fact, I have reason to believe that not all my kids will be able to. And this is the world I am sending them out into. A world full of people who question their ability to think. Their ability to have empathy. Their ability to have relationships and jobs. That people will treat them not as people but as inconveniences and robots. At best as pets who maybe likable and sweet but you can’t trust them to take care of themselves and not pee on the carpet.

There are several funny stories of being autistic in public that my family tells. But those stories… they aren’t very funny right now. See, the funny thing about them has always been neurotypical’s reactions to us. And now I’m wondering… who do I know, who do I interact with regularly, thinks this way? Who thinks being autistic makes me and people in my family unfit parents? Who questions if we can think. Who might see me one day, non-verbal and pounding a table in frustration, and instead of giving me space and offering help, calls 911 because I’m obviously “low functioning” and shouldn’t be allowed out on my own? (90% of the time “low functioning” means “can’t pass as neurotypical. The other 10% it means “we don’t want to bother giving the accommodation you’d need to function in society”.)

That’s one of the “funniest” things about the defenders of this book. They insist that those of us critiquing it and criticizing it have no idea what it is like to be “low functioning” based on the words we share online. It never occurs to them that if they met us in person, they’d think we are “low functioning” too.

But it occurs to me. And it scares me.

Impact > Intent

This book isn’t just a memoir sharing one (abusive, narcissistic, disgusting) person’s experience and views. It is actively harmful to autistic people. It tells that we are are not safe among allistics, that we have no place in your world unless we can pretend to be like you. it increases anxiety contributes to depression, and triggers PTSD from past run-ins with autism mommies. And makes the world we live in–not really your world, but OUR world less accessible to us, with every person who reads it and thinks it tells the truth of our existence.

This book, and others like it, are why we say #NothingAboutUsWithoutUs.


(And if you parent to an autistic kid, here’s something much better for you to read.)

This is a personal piece by Jess Mahler. The rest of Cuil Press firmly supports and endorses the opinions and position shared here.

On Running a Business While Spoony

Folks who’ve been following us for a while will have noticed that we have periods where we go silent for a while. Our Twitter account is unattended, Facebook is silent, and the blog just stalls out. We haven’t gone quiet on Mastodon yet, but sooner or later it’ll happen.

This is part of the hazard of running a business while spoony. Sometimes we don’t have the spoons for everything that needs doing. And that doesn’t just apply to social media.

We plan for this. We add a buffer zone when we are setting schedules and deadlines. We plan for tasks to take longer than we really expect them to. We prioritize tasks so that stuff we absolutely need to get done, gets done first.

To anyone who is used to “regular” businesses, our way of doing things is confusing and “unprofessional.” But–and it’s a big “but”–at least so far, it’s worked.

We’ve met our deadlines or found ways to work around them as needed. We ran a reasonably successful crowdfunding campaign, we made our deadline on the thunderclap for the crowdfunding campaign, we made deadline on editing and designing The Bargain in time to get it out to reviewers.

And we did it without sacrificing anything in quality of the work we were doing.

Running a business while spoony is hard. But by working with our spooniness, instead of against it, we’ve managed.

So sometimes you won’t see us around for a while. Sometimes we’ve had to prioritize something behind the scenes so the blog and social media will dry up for a while.

But we’re always here. Always doing what we can. Always making sure the books get made and sent out to reviewers and the authors are in the loop and everything that needs to happen so that you get more awesome books.

If you are a spoony author whose worried about working under deadline–we understand, and we’re happy to work with you.

If you are spoony and thinking of starting a business–you can do it! It’s hard, but it’s worth it. Start with learning everything you can about running a business, hit up the SBA, talk to your local chamber of commerce. And find partners you can trust.

Speculative Fiction with Intersex Characters

For Intersex Awareness Day, we’re sharing a list of speculative fiction with intersex characters.

Intersex: Fiction and Reality

Interior artwork from The Sandman vol. 2, 21 (Nov 1990). Art by Mike Dringenberg.

These characters all provide much-needed representation of people whose bodies don’t fit the male/female binary expected in modern society. Unfortunately, few of them reflect the reality of being intersex. Many of these characters reflect the authors imagination of what it would be like if science or magic could create true hermaphrodites (able to become pregnant and carry to term AND able to engender a child in someone else).  Others switch back and forth between binary physiologies. Some of them, like the herms of the Vorkosigan Saga, prefer to be called terms that are highly offensive to real intersex people.

So please read, enjoy, but be cautious. If you are intersex, assume many of these stories come with trigger warnings and content notes. If you are not intersex, please learn from real intersex people, such as Mx. Anunnaki Ray, and don’t confuse fiction with reality.

Speculative Fiction with Intersex Characters

  1. Desire, one of the Endless, from Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman
  2. Therem Harth rem ir Estraven and other characters from Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness
  3. Swan Er Hong and other characters from Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312
  4. Bel Thorne from Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga (First appearing in Warrior’s Apprentice)
  5. Fullin and other characters from James Alan Gardener’s Commitment Hour
  6. Mikassa Ahmed Shekran and other characters from Michon Neal’s Cuilverse (Suggested starting book: The Changing of Allison Dutch)
  7. Wraeththu, post-apocalyptic species from Storm Constantine’s Wraeththu series (First book:  The Enchantments of Flesh and Stone)

Know something we missed? Please share it in the comments!

Tomorrow is Spirit Day: Speaking Out Against LGBTQ Bullying

What is Spirit Day?

Spirit Day was started by Canadian teenager Brittany McMillan in 2010 as a response to a large number of bullying-related LGBTQ suicides. Since then it has been picked up and promoted by GLAAD as a day to speak out against LGBTQ bullying and offer visible support to LGBTQ teens.

What Do We Do?

GLAAD has a page where you can pledge to support LGBTQ youth against bullying.

Wearing purple has become the traditional observance for Spirit Day. The color is meant to signal LGBTQ teens that they have our support. If you can’t wear purple or if, like Cuil Press, purple is your “every day” color, you can look for other ways, from making art work to speaking out on social media, to let LGBTQ teens know you are there for them.

“Ultimately, I want Spirit Day to make just one person feel a little bit better about his or herself, to feel safe enough in their own skin to be proud of who they are.”

-Brittany McMillan