Yukoners write to disable disability

Rachel Dawson can't speak. Her disability traps the words inside her. And no matter how hard she tries, all that comes out is a mumbling groan.

Rachel Dawson can’t speak.

Her disability traps the words inside her.

And no matter how hard she tries, all that comes out is a mumbling groan.

But this hasn’t stopped Dawson from singing.

On Thursday, during Ynklude’s book release, Like a Diamond, Like Me, she belted out a passionate, wailing sound, walking slowly across the stage in a sparkling black top.

Afterwards, Dawson pointed at her poems in the illustrated collection of women’s writing.

In one, she writes about dance:

“I love to communicate through dance.

“It makes me feel like words aren’t getting in the way, and I am good at it.”

Britt Cowper wrote a poem about snow angels.

Another is about “snowballs,” she said.

And that was all she wanted to say.

“OK, we’re done,” said Cowper, walking away.

In her snow angel’s poem, Cowper writes about sliding down the hill on a crazy carpet with her puppy Joey.

“He sits on my lap and I hold him,” she writes.

“Then he squirms.

“Then he falls off.”

Michael Vi Adar also writes about snow.

When she was 11, Vi Adar made snow sculptures of buxom women and one day her mom caught her “feeling them up.”

Vi Adar’s mom was shocked.

“Even then she was repressing my sexuality,” said Vi Adar, with a laugh.

In her work, Vi Adar is open about the abuse she suffered growing up.

“Two of the pieces are about overcoming illness, disabilities and abuse,” she said.

“They’re more sober.”

But Vi Adar tempers her dark subject matter with hope.

One piece focuses on finding joy in her life, “no matter what.”

The secret, she says, “is finding something to be grateful for.

“I do not feel joyful because I am carrying a load of grief that exceeds my ability to articulate it, but my identity is joy,” writes Vi Adar in one poem.

“I have faced the biggest monsters that have ever stalked the mind, abuse, neglect, mental illness and I have learned something; joy is bigger than despair.”

In another poem, that’s actually a song, Vi Adar was inspired by old black-and-white photos of Hollywood movie stars.

“I came home and the song just fell out of me,” she said.

It’s about wanting to be a super hero.

“I want to sing like Maria Calais,

“And fight like Jackie Chan.

“I want to be a superhero,

Just because I can.”

As Vi Adar is talking about her work, a man walks through the door and the room bursts into a cheer.

It’s Carrie Rudolph’s dad Wes.

“He’s a celebrity around here,” said Vi Adar.

Wes made a manual ramp for his van, to help transport his daughter in her wheelchair.

And he helped another friend who was stranded when it got too cold and all the automatic ramps failed, said Vi Adar.

But Wes denies his superhero status.

He’s just there to support his daughter and all her friends.

Rudolph writes about being in a wheelchair, living with Spina Bifida, a club foot and scoliosis:

It’s tough to get into some stores, she writes.

Lots of places in Whitehorse are not wheelchair accessible.

But, “The hardest thing about my disability is the snow, because it’s hard to get around when there are piles of snow.

“I think the city should go out at night and clean the snow off the sidewalks and roads but they should also gravel the roads so they are not so slippery.

“That is my issue with my disability.”

Rudolph knows the poem is political.

“Hopefully some high-and-mighty people might come out and hear it,” she said.

Then, things might change.

It’s the first time many of the women have been published.

“And it’s much more meaningful being published in an anthology of works,” said Vi Adar.

“I really enjoy sharing it.”

Flipping through Like a Diamond, Like Me, Vi Adar remembers when poems were written, or read out to the group by her co-writers.

“Every step along the way we’ve been involved,” she said.

Joyce Majiski helped create the art that fills the book, with blurred colours, shadows and crayon-style drawings.

“Joyce has a creative openness to her,” said Yukon Association for Community Living’s Julie Robinson.

Like a Diamond, Like Me is a feminist expression of women’s creative spirit, said Robinson.

“It’s about women being able to stand on their own two feet, if they have a disability, or if they don’t have a disability.”

Like a Diamond, Like Me is available at the Yukon Association for Community Living in the Yukon Inn Plaza.

Contact Genesee Keevil at

gkeevil@yukon-news.com

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