Tor.com content by

Elsa Sjunneson-Henry

I Belong Where the People Are: Disability and The Shape of Water

The Shape of Water made me feel less human.

On the surface, there are many things to like about The Shape of Water. The main characters, the ones in the right, they are all outsiders. They are people like me. With the exception of Children of a Lesser God, it is the first time I have ever seen a disabled woman as an object of desire. It is the first time I have seen someone swear in sign in a mainstream film. It is one of the only films out there to address some of my feelings about my body or depict them on screen. Let’s be honest, Children of a Lesser God was made in 1986. That’s 31 years of film history. That’s my entire life.

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I Built My Own Godd*mn Castle

I am going to tell you the story of how I destroyed my first novel. It’s a story that I wrote when I was young, a story that was about a girl like me, a disabled girl, confronting horrors and adapting to a world she didn’t quite fit into. I found my way to telling a different story—one I revel in now.

I am going to tell you the story of how I destroyed my first novel, but it will take a minute because these moments don’t happen in an instant. They happen over periods of time. They are a reaction to a lifetime’s worth of lessons.

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