Diversity and representation in fiction is critical to ensuring that young people's voices are heard and their experiences reflected in the stories we tell.
ZunTold will be joining a panel of writers, publishers, children, young people and parents in this exciting day, organised in partnership with The Autism Centre, Sheffield Hallam University, as a part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science.
Children's as well as adult fiction books that incorporate autistic characters are very much divided into two broad categories.
The first are novels which position themselves as books about autistic individuals and specifically target those who are interested in it for reasons such as being autistic themselves or knowing someone close to them who is autistic. These tend to focus more on specific medical traits and their explanation as opposed to a storyline.
The second are books which are story driven and one of the (main) characters is autistic. These books are not necessarily targeted specifically at people who have an interest in autism or are autistic themselves but often do disclose autism as one of the key features of their characters in the blurb.
The event aims to be a starting point for discussion and future research on the (mis) use of autism as a unique selling proposition (USP) in children books. Is this approach inclusive and good because it creates awareness and gets the conversation going, and also makes it easy for people interested in the area to be able to find a book on the topic? Or is it excluding as it categorically separates and boxes autistic individuals by the label and encourages diagnostic labelling. Does this encourage the thinking that the autism becomes the identity of the person?
The event aims to be an interactive event starting with a panel discussion and short presentation from the participating authors, publishers and academics, followed by audience comments, questions and participation.
Come and join us.