Disclaimer Trigger Warning: Mentions of eugenics, privacy invasion, emotional abuse, and other potentially triggering elements.
So, I’m not on Twitter very often. I follow a fair number of people for various reasons (writing and autism being the two main ones, but not the only ones), but that’s still a lot of reading that has to be done every day, so I tend to only go on occasionally, and mostly read my notifications.
As a result, I wasn’t on when the #BoycottToSiri movement first started. (I’d never even heard of the book – “To Siri, With Love” by Judith Newman – before.) The first I heard of it was a post by a friend of mine referencing the honestly disgraceful characterization of YouTube autistic advocate Amythest Schaber in the book.
(Hint: “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” is a very negative term, used to refer to female characters who are only in things to appeal to the straight male audience. But even “gamine” would not have been an acceptable term to use. Amythest’s work has absolutely nothing to do with their appearance, and like I said above, it is disgraceful that not only did the author describe them that way, but also that the publisher (Harper Collins, BTW – I encourage everyone to express just how insulting and disgraceful this book is to them) allowed it.)
Anyway. Long story (very long story) short, I was poking around to get some information to send to people about this today, and ran into the Storify of a chapter-by-chapter review of To Siri by autistic adult and parent (and writer) @KaelanRhy. I checked with her, and she gave me permission to post that Storify here.
Warning: Ableism, eugenics references, emotional abuse, lack of privacy of a child, abuse of autistic. (Also for language, but honestly, I have a huge amount of respect for the reviewer for not swearing during the reviews of the first several chapters. I would have been.)
#BoycottToSiri Response from an #ActuallyAutistic reader to the book To Siri with Love by Judith Newman
What is important (and horrifying) about this chapter-by-chapter review that hasn’t made it into a number of posts on the subject is the smaller things (rather than the mention of wanting to sterilize her son, the claim that autistics have no theory of mind and thus no empathy for others, talking about her son’s potty training, the fact that the author didn’t even tell Amythest they were being mentioned in the book – let alone that they were being described in such an insulting fashion!, the fact that the author has since said that the book was “not written for autistics” – tough, lady, you write a book about us, it affects us, we’re going to voice what we think of it!). Things like grabbing her son’s phone while he was texting a friend and inserting her own comments into the text. Like calling her son a mutant. Like not realizing that her son’s twin might very well also be autistic. I could go on, but I’ll let the Storify review do that for me.
I have more to write about this, and a ton of links to add… but for now, I’ll just leave you with one.
#BoycottToSiri: Amythest Schaber – YouTube
I got through about chapter 6 in the response before the trope I Need a Freaking Drink kicked in. (And I don’t drink!)
Goodness gracious. What was Newman on? Besides the now all too common toxic brew of “everything in the world revolves around MY PAIN which makes me SPECIAL.”
I hope the kids have enough sense to look up autistic websites on their own for help. Obviously the parental side of the equation isn’t going to do it.
I read all the way through Kaelan Rhywiol’s storify response/review. It took me three sessions (two yesterday afternoon and evening, one this morning).
Her criticisms seem logical and obviously heart-felt, but I haven’t read the book (and now will definitely not read it!).
What might help more to squash the book (it really sounds like it should be taken off the shelves), would be a straightforward review that points out the inconsistencies and references the literature that debunks the author’s assertions and speculations. The name-calling, however well-deserved, should be omitted — in my opinion.
A synopsis of the review (possibly with a link to the full review) could be posted on Amazon and anywhere else that sells the book online.
I checked Amazon. The amazon.ca site had customers rating it 1 star out of 5 (1 assessment — it didn’t show any reviews). The amazon.com site had customers rating it 3.7 out of 5, but I checked customer reviews. The top reviews were by autistics and parents of autistics and were, as far as I could see damning.
Unfortunately, but probably correctly, one has to login to give a thumbs up to reviews (I have an amazon.ca account, but not an amazon.com account).
Ah. I just saw your next post. I see Kaelan had/has already done what I suggested. I’m not surprised — she seems highly intelligent.