The guest artist for this cartoon is Nidhi Naroth. Nidhi’s work has a vibrancy I love – even their desaturated colors somehow glow.
I asked Nidhi for a two-sentence bio: “Nidhi is a queer artist with roots in South Asia. They adore conversation and will definitely keep you for an hour or so to talk about various mythologies and folklores (only if you have the time to spare!).”
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I wrote this strip years ago, based on some eye-rolling complaints I’d heard and read from disabled people, about how some ablebodied people treat them. I showed a rough version of the strip to some disabled readers, and the reaction was mixed. Everyone liked the message, but several people felt that my disabled character, by getting angry, was feeding into a stereotype about disabled people as filled with rage about their disabilities.
Their critique made sense to me, and I put the strip aside. But I still liked something in the strip, so it sat in my unfinished folder for years. Once every couple of years I’d glance at it, say “oh yeah, the test readers didn’t like her being angry,” and move on. Until earlier this year I glanced at it and thought “well, then, is there any reason she has to be angry?” Very often the simplest solutions are the best.
When Nidhi and I were talking about collaborating, I showed them several strips, and they chose this one. I couldn’t be more pleased with how the strip came out, and I’m glad the strip waited years to be drawn, because otherwise Nidhi wouldn’t have ended up drawing it.
TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON
This cartoon has four panels. All four panels show a few people in what appears to be a park, with a path going past some enormous looking trees.
The characters might be teen girls, or might be young women. One of them is wearing a sky-blue tee shirt and has long red-brown hair down almost to her waist. One of them is wearing a brown hoodie, with the hood down, and has a nice-looking short haircut.
The third is wearing a bright yellow button-up shirt open over a brown undershirt, with her brown hair in high pigtails, as well as a necklace and some bracelets. She’s walking with a dog on a leash. She’s wearing shorts, and we can see she has two prosthetic legs.
Blueshirt, walking next to Shorthair, is talking to Pigtails. Pigtails has turned back to talk to Blueshirt. All three are smiling, but Pigtails is holding up a hand in a “please stop” gesture.
BLUESHIRT: Excuse me, I just wanted to say, it’s so inspiring seeing you walk your dog despite your disability!
PIGTAILS: Please don’t.
A closer shot of just Pigtails as she cheerfully explains.
PIGTAILS: When strangers say I’m “inspiring,” they mean they’re amazed I can do normal human things.
PIGTAILS: Like I’m a video of a cat walking on its hind legs!
A long shot shows Pigtails waving goodbye as she and her dog walk away. Blueshirt and Shorthair are silent, and look a little bit remorseful.
PIGTAILS: I don’t want to be your inspiration, okay? I just want to walk my dog.
PIGTAILS: Have a good day.
A closer shot of Blueshirt and Shorthair; Pigtails is no longer here. Blueshirt is grinning, her eyes wide, clasping her hands together on her chest. Shorthair is smiling as she holds up her smartphone, taking a photo.
BLUESHIRT: The way she chewed us out? So inspiring!
SHORTHAIR: I can’t wait to post this on Facebook!
Wow, I love this cartoon. Even though my disability (autism) is invisible, I still relate to being told similar things. But rather than strangers stopping me on the street, it happens when I tell someone I know. “You must be very high-functioning”, they say. I’m not a piece of machinery, people. “But you’re so talkative and smart!”, they say. Many autistic people are. Thanks for the “compliment”, but don’t insult autistic people. And worst of all, “You’re not autistic, you’re a person with autism.” Well, you’re not ableist, you’re a person with ableism. Whether disabilities are physical or mental, the discrimination we face can often be worse than the disability itself. Side note: I love the artwork! Nidhi seems really cool, and it’s nice to see you collaborating with a genderqueer artist. I hope you do more collabs with them in the future. Side-side note- I picked up the first Hereville book from the library and I really enjoyed it.
Thanks so much, Em! I’m really glad you enjoyed it. If I do an autism-themed cartoon someday, do you mind if I swipe ideas from your comment?
I would love it!