Archer’s Voice Review. 4 out of 5 stars.
This book was pushed on me through every social media outlet and bookstore window. After reading a brief summary of the story, I quickly added it to my TBR (To Be Read) list. The very basic summary is that a man, Archer, lost his voice in an accident and this is a love story. Sold.
When there is a story with a character, especially a main character, having a disability, I have to read it and give my two cents as a disability ally.
Hi. If we haven’t met yet, I am Kayla. An inclusion specialist and founder of Inclusion Starts Now. I work with schools helping to include students with disabilities. I also read a lot. Reading is the best way for me to open my mind to new perspectives, encourages me to have discussions about tricky situations with others, and educates me on situations I never would have thought twice about.
This post will have spoilers towards the end, but I will warn you once that part gets here. This first reflection will be mostly grabbing random sentences out of the book and discussing this author’s story about including people from the disabled community.
To begin, I am going to start with my one big negative I have about this book.
When the two main characters sign to each other the font is italicized, but the sentence structure doesn’t change. There is one blurb through Bree, the women’s perspective (she knows American Sign Language because her dad is Deaf), when she mentions how much better she and Archer are signing with each other. That they don’t have to fingerspell the entire word anymore and that they know how to communicate so well that they have a shorthand way of signing.
As someone who knows American Sign Language pretty well and has worked with the Deaf and deafblind community for years, it is not great representation of the Deaf community. As that is not how their language is interpreted. Some sentences that were italicized would have words in them that the Deaf community does not have a sign for. Of course, there conversations could have been signed in pigeon sign language, which is not ASL and uses more small English word, but if Bree grew up with a Deaf dad, they were most likely signing American Sign Language (ASL).
I understand that was probably done so readers could easily understand the dialogue but as for disability representation, that was a big thumbs down for me.
BUT there was SO MUCH RIGHT!!
1. Feeling apart of the community.
Archer’s perspective of his first-time meeting Bree when she embarrassed herself and Archer had never experienced someone feeling embarrassed in front of him, only people feeling embarrassed for him and how much of a difference it made.
“It made me feel like something about me mattered.”
Archer shares a story of how hard it was to leave his house for the first time after his guardian died and then the unwelcomed greetings he had once he was trying to reenter the world. One bad experience was enough and he chose from that moment that he would only go into town to get what he needs and leave. The lesson to me here is that we don’t know where people are coming from and what is going on in their lives. Treating people with kindness can go a long way.
Without giving any part of the story away, trauma and dysregulated behaviors can stem from very internalized feelings that can’t usually be worked out on their own. This was another example of perspective. People seem to be afraid of big emotions but they are coming from a place of hurt. How can we support that?
2. Give people the chance to show what they are capable of.
Bree was quickly befriending the small town’s community. She met her neighbors, got a job, and made friends with the first women around her age who came in to a place she was eating. Once she started hanging out with Archer, she kept telling everyone how smart and creative he is.
With the proper accommodation, using sign language to communicate, Archer was able to be a part of his community so much more. Setting up accommodations like this is giving a voice to people who can change the world!!
3. It can all start with you!
Most people responded saying that they had no idea Archer was capable. Everyone just wrote him off and kept living their lives. Bree took the steps to befriend him, educate others, and got involved in her community. Why am I bringing this up?
ONE PERSON changed their minds.
ONE PERSON showed them what they were missing.
ONE PERSON made a HUGE difference to their community and to Archer.
And isn’t that why we do it?
To make that difference? It only takes ONE!!
4. A lot of steamy scenes! Disabled people are sexual beings. That is all I will say on that topic for now. I just want you to know that you will be reading very explicit sex scenes.
Now before I get to the spoilers.. overall, I absolutely loved this book (well not so much the ending, but that’s an over-reader problem)! I would say 4 out of 5 stars. Maybe even a 4.5. I want people to read it so they can feel inspired to be the change our world needs. Inclusion starts with you. Now on to the
SPOILERS and my favorite part of the book
(jump ahead to the next highlighted part for a blurb about self-advocacy).
Archer had multiple moments of distress when he didn’t know where Bree was. He blacked out, destroyed his living room, and curled up into a ball onto his bed. He was scared and sad and all of his PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) would come back hard. After another episode, Archer left town and left Bree with only a note. He was gone for months.
She was heartbroken but I completely agreed with Archer that this was something he had to do to learn how to be independent. Archer learned how to communicate with strangers, ask for accommodations, and be an independent adult. He said to Bree that,
Here I want to talk about interpersonal ableism.
Interpersonal ableism happens when all your life you get told that you aren’t capable of things. Your family, your community, the law, nothing is working for you or with you. Maybe you become more isolated and every time you try to make your way back out into the world to make connections or get groceries, you are receiving everyone’s pity. That’s going to hurt your thoughts towards yourself. This is why it is not uncommon that people in the disability community start to believe that they won’t amount to anything. WHICH IS NOT TRUE!!
How do we fix interpersonal ableism if a friend, family member, or have it ourselves?
Find a community that believes in you.
Set boundaries with people who don’t make you feel happy.
Say kind thoughts to your friends or family members or to yourself.
Also, teach people how to advocate for themselves!!!
The first strategy I go about teaching this is setting up moments for the person to advocate. It can be as simple as the person dropping something off the table and waiting for them to ask for it back. If you are a parent or working with someone who does not know how to advocate for themselves, you might need to teach them first how to advocate for themselves. Walk them through asking for help by
This book was very entertaining to read and overall did well with disability representation. I also want to mention, this is coming from a non-disabled person. I definitely advise you to get people’s opinions on the disability representation in this book from people who identify with similar disabilities.
Have you read Archer’s Voice? What do you think?
Inclusion starts with you and I just want to help.