Monthly Archives: July 2015

‘My Own Species Won’t Accept Me’: Girls with Autism

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Gosh – feeling emotional after watching the ITV documentary Girls with Autism on ITV Player just now.

‘How could I possibly be human?’ asks one of the girls, ‘when my own species won’t accept me.’

It’s devastating to hear a child talking like this; as a mother of a child with autism, the main thing I want is for my son to be accepted, to have friends and meaningful relationships. It’s acceptable now for him as a five year old to talk in a robot’s voice and to chew his sleeves, but what about when he gets into year seven? I worry about what the future may hold.

Girls with Autism follows life for pupils at Limpsfield Grange in Surrey, the only state school of its kind in the UK. We met Katie, who has Asperger’s Syndrome and is obsessed with boys, and Beth who had been educated in mainstream school until her anxiety had made her suicidal.

One girl really struck a chord with me though – Abi, who did not speak at all at school, but communicated verbally at home. Abi’s mum, Sarah, had just been diagnosed with breast cancer; Abi laughed and said, ‘You may die.’

I have Crohn’s disease and when I get sick my son laughs and hits me and says, ‘Do more sick, Mum.’ However, I can’t imagine what Abi’s mum was feeling at that point; her eyes filled with tears, ‘They don’t understand it. You have to just accept them the way they are,’ she said. ‘You have to accept an autistic child. I think a lot of people who didn’t understand autism would be angry with what she sometimes says, you know. I accept it and I love her no matter what.’ Such a courageous woman and a fantastic mum!

Whatever views you may have on the whole mainstream vs. special education debate – and I still don’t know quite what mine are – it is shocking that all the girls were weekly boarders; in some cases they were hundreds of miles away from home. What a difficult decision for a parent to have to make. For many children with autism, coping with a new smell or a new noise can be traumatic, so to go to a new school, with strangers, away from your home and family would be monumental. There simply aren’t the special school places locally for most people and the choice is taken away. So many children I meet are struggling in mainstream schools and some have been excluded or are being home-schooled by their parents. A lot of it comes down to funding; I don’t know what the answer is.

It was also interesting hear more about Pathological Demand Avoidance, (PDA) in the programme as it is still a condition that lots of people still know very little about. After doing extensive research of my own, when I asked some of the professionals working with my son about PDA, I was shocked to find that some of them did not even know what it was.

I have heard mixed reactions to the programme but it is good to see ITV raising awareness of autism and giving some insight into the challenges faced by children and families every day. I haven’t watched television for three almost four years, (apart from CBBs), but I shall definitely be tuning in next week. If it leads to better understanding of our children I think it can only be a good thing.

Girls with Autism – Episode 1

I Would Not Have the Penalty Set at Anything Less Than Death

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Mary Read was born in England c1690. Her mother was very young when she married a sailor who went off to sea, abandoning her and her swelling belly, the fruit of which was a bonny little boy, Mark. The husband out of guilt had left her some money for the child’s upkeep but never returned. When Mark was only three months old she found herself to be with child again and to avoid her secret being discovered she took leave of her mother in law and went into hiding some way off in Bristol.  Soon afterwards Mark died, leaving her with only the consolation of her new daughter, Mary.

By the time Mary was three, the money had all had been all but spent and her mother hatched a most devious plan in order to secure her future comfort.  Knowing that her mother-in-law was a woman of means she travelled back to London with Mary, now disguised as a boy and presented her as Mark to the old lady who immediately communicated her wish to take on the boy’s care. But the mother would on no account be parted from her and eventually secured a promise from the grandmother of a crown per week for her upbringing.  She was educated adequately for a girl of her station, schooled in the arts of shooting and fencing and bought a pony then later a horse, in good time becoming accomplished in both jumping and dressage.

Then disaster struck, the old lady died and her riches being disturbed among her own sons the allowance came to an abrupt end and Mark, or rather Mary, was hired out to a French lady as a footman.’

As Mary grew older, her strength and manly disposition increased and she left her life of servitude to join a horse regiment in Flanders as a cadet where she conducted herself so valiantly that she earned the esteem of all her officers.  It was at this time when she fell passionately in love with one of her comrades.  The strength of her feelings rendered her negligent of her duties and she was deemed mad by the rest of her regiment. As they slept in the same tent she revealed her sex to him, and he was happy, supposing that he could have his mistress all to himself.  Mary however insisted that she was a woman of virtue and that he could not have her unless they were married.  The singularity of two soldiers marrying excited much attention and the pair were showered with gifts.  After their marriage the pair were successful in gaining their discharge and set up an inn called ‘The Three Shoes.’   But Mary’s happiness was short-lived; her husband soon died, leaving her heart-broken.

Mary donned male attire once more and boarded a ship bound for the West Indies.  During the voyage, the ship was captured by English pirates and being the only ‘Englishman’ on board, they detained her.  Mary had found her vocation!

The crew received the King’s pardon in 1718 and Mary turned privateer for a short while.  But the ship was soon commandeered by the pirate John Rackham and bored of the legitimate life, Mary joined his crew.  There was already another woman on board, Rackham’s wife, Anne Bonny.  Anne and Mary were always together and so intimate was their friendship that Rackham, still believing Mary to be a man, threatened to slit her throat.  It was not until Rackham burst into Anne’s room one day and discovered the pair in a state of undress that he finally realised she was a woman.

Many sources suggest that Anne and Mary were lovers, but this remains a point of conjecture.  What is more certain is that Mary developed an attachment to a man whilst on board Rackham’s ship, Revenge. So vehement were her feelings for this man that when he was challenged to duel, Mary picked a fight with his opponent the day before they were due to lock swords, killing him outright and therefore saving her beloved’s life.  They were married soon afterwards on board Revenge.

Both Anne and Mary were known for their violent tempers, and in times of battle, no other crew member was as bloodthirsty or as ruthless as these two ‘hell cats’.  As to the threat of capture and being hanged Mary famously said, ‘I would not have the penalty set at anything less than death.  Were it not for that deterrent, the seas would be infested with a thousand cowards who would terrorise the honest merchants until all trade collapsed.  Cowardice is far more profitable on land, where scoundrels can cheat on the most vulnerable members of society who have not the means to buy for themselves the protection of the law.’

Mary’s legacy has perhaps been overshadowed by Anne’s, but she remains one of the most mesmerising and romanticised women ever to take to the seas.

For more on the life of pirates visit my author page: Emma Rose Millar, Author

Leaving Normal: Adventures in Gender by Rae Theodore

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Love this post, thought I’d share:

Women and Words

Leaving Normal Cover

We have our winners! Congratulations emmarosemillar and Maia!

Happy Sunday! We have a fabulous guest blogger for y’all today! Rae Theodore recently released her debut novel Leaving Normal: Adventures in Gender.

She’s here to tell us all about her inspiration for the book. And, because she’s super fabulous, she’s giving away a couple of paperback copies. Drop a comment in the space below and I’ll draw the winners next Friday, 7/17.

Good Luck!

Leaving Normal: Adventures in Gender
by Rae Theodore

As I sit here wondering what to write for my guest post, I’m hyper-focused on the word “Women” from the Women and Words logo that sprawls in dark red script across the top of the website as if standing guard.

For a moment, I feel like an interloper, but I remind myself that I’m a different kind of woman.

Rae Theodore - photo

I’m a butch. A masculine-presenting woman. A cherry red Tootsie…

View original post 623 more words

Talking with Author Tim Taylor: Revolution Day

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Talking with Author Tim Taylor: Revolution Day

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I’ve just come back from a couple of fabulous days in the beautiful city of York, where I got to meet author Tim Taylor in person.  I managed to persuade him to pay a visit to my blog; here’s what he had to say about his new novel Revolution Day, amongst other things:

Hello, Emma! Thank you for inviting me onto your blog to talk about my novel, Revolution Day, published on 30 June by Crooked Cat.

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Revolution Day, my second novel, follows a year in the life of Latin American dictator, Carlos Almanzor. Now in his seventies, Carlos is feeling his age and seeing enemies around every corner. And with good reason: his Vice-President, Manuel Jimenez, though outwardly loyal, is burning with frustration at his subordinate position.

Meanwhile, Carlos’ estranged wife Juanita is writing a memoir in which she recalls the revolution that brought him to power and how, once a liberal socialist, he changed over time into an autocrat and embraced repression as the means of sustaining his position.

When Manuel’s attempts to increase his profile are met with humiliating rejection, he resolves to take action. Lacking a military power base, he must find a way to drive a wedge between Carlos and Angel, the head of the Army.  As he moves to do so, Juanita and others will find themselves unwittingly drawn into his plans.

In this excerpt we get some insight into Carlos’ character and the dynamic of the relationship between him and Angel.

The President drank a little more coffee, then retired into his dressing room. Even on a day like today, when there were no public appearances to be made, he would put on an admiral’s uniform for the working day. He was, strictly speaking, the head of the Navy, such as it was, though he had seldom stood upon the deck of a warship, and had tended to become very seasick on these occasions. His choice of dress was partly due to aesthetic considerations – blue seemed so much smarter than the olive green in which the Army clothed itself – and partly to political ones. Even after nearly four decades, Carlos was not so taken in by his own propaganda as to be unaware that Angel, as a military man by trade, had a greater hold on the loyalty of soldiers than he, a lawyer, could ever have. That loyalty made Angel the only man with the power potentially to take the presidency for himself, and it also made him a very dangerous man to remove from his post in the absence of a clear justification for doing so. And although Carlos had never fully trusted him, and saw hints of plotting in every ambiguous remark or sideways glance, Angel had never provided the President with any clear pretext to get rid of him. So Angel remained in charge of the Army. But as a lieutenant-general, he was still outranked by a full admiral, even if the navy was no more than half a dozen old World War Two destroyers that spent most of their time in port, slowly turning to rust.

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Finally, a very brief word about my first novel, Zeus of Ithome. Like your novel, Five Guns Blazing, it deals with slavery and is a finalist in the Chaucer Awards for historical fiction. It recounts the struggle of the ancient Messenian people to free themselves from three hundred years of subjugation to the Spartans. The events are real, though the story is told through the fictional lives of Diocles, a runaway ‘helot’ slave and Aristomenes, an ageing Messenian rebel

If your readers are intrigued, they can find out more about both novels on my website and Facebook author page.  Thanks again for hosting me, Emma! I’m looking forward to the launch of Five Guns Blazing!

Links:

Facebook launch event for Revolution Day:  https://www.facebook.com/events/770280243092134/

Facebook Author Page

Tim Taylor Website

Twitter

Crooked Cat Author Page

Revolution Day at amazon.co.uk

At amazon.com

Bio

Tim Taylor was born in 1960 in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, UK. He grew up just outside the city in Brown Edge, then at the age of 11 moved to Longsdon, near Leek.  Tim went to Newcastle-under-Lyme High School, then studied Classics at Pembroke College, Oxford. After graduating he moved to London and spent a couple of years playing guitar in a rock band. When it became clear that he was never going to be a rock star, he sadly knuckled down and joined the Civil Service, where he did a wide range of jobs before leaving in 2011 to spend more time writing.  While still in the Civil Service Tim studied part time for a PhD in Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London, achieving it in 2007.

Tim married Rosa Vella in 1994 and their daughter Helen was born in 1997. In 2001 they moved to Meltham, near Huddersfield, and have lived there ever since. Tim now divides his time between creative writing, academic research and part-time teaching and other work for Leeds and Huddersfield Universities.

Tim’s first novel, Zeus of Ithome (a finalist in the Chaucer Awards for historical fiction), was published by Crooked Cat in November 2013; his second, Revolution Day in June 2015.  He has also published a non-fiction book, Knowing What is Good For You (Palgrave Macmillan 2012), on the philosophy of well-being. As well as novels, Tim writes poetry and the occasional short story.  He also plays electric and acoustic guitar and a little piano, and likes to walk up hills.