Kindness for Grandchildren

I received a lukewarm review of Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus a while back on Goodreads. I know, I know—Goodreads is the devil, and I should be tarred and feathered for looking at it. But I do look at it. Anyway, this review troubled me so deeply that I’ve never forgotten it. I wanted so badly to respond to it, but I adhere to the rules of engagement for authors. As in never, ever engage. Ever. Instead, write a blog post about it. (okay, maybe that part’s not in the rules.)

I’ve definitely gotten bad reviews before. One stars. Two stars. So why did this three-star lukewarm review bother me so much to the point I felt the need to write an entire post about it? Here’s why: This person deemed the story too graphic for her nine-year-old granddaughter.

Too graphic.

Let’s make sure we’re all clear. There is no bad language in the story. There is no sexual content in the story. There is no violence in the story. There is no drugs or alcohol or smoking or scariness or excessive candy-eating.

The content this reviewer was referring to as being too graphic? The disabilities of the children.

I have not been able to stop thinking about this review—that there are people out there who think that disabilities are too graphic or somehow inappropriate for children to be exposed to.

It made me wonder what this person would do if she were out in public with her granddaughter and they happened upon a person with missing arms. Would she shield the child’s eyes? Would she run away? Because I have to say, these people are out there. They are at the store, at the school, in the library, in the restaurant, and at the park. They are my cashier at the grocery store, my second-grade music teacher, and my friends. What will you do when you see them? How will your grandchild react to them, having been shielded from people with differences?

Two of my children have tic disorders, one of the disabilities the reviewer deemed too graphic for her grandchild. What if your grandchild were placed in a classroom with one of my daughters? Would she have to change classrooms? Would it scare her because no one has ever allowed her to understand that these sorts of disorders exist? Would she bully my children out of fear of what is different? Because I have news for you, Grandma: Children with tic disorders are in nearly every classroom in this country. They are not graphic. They are not inappropriate. They are not scary. They are CHILDREN. And they need our understanding, our acceptance, and our friendship. Children who have been shielded from the differences of others can never provide those things. What they will provide is the opposite.

People with disabilities are not graphic. They aren’t just “that boy with one hand" or "that girl who grunts all the time.” They are PEOPLE. They have a heart and soul. They have hopes and dreams. And they have feelings.  

And this is why stories featuring characters with disabilities, characters of color, characters of different cultures, and characters with different goals and dreams and challenges and interests are so desperately needed—to stomp out this ignorance and fear. So that people, even grandmas, will be able to not only embrace the beauty of our differences, but to seek to surround themselves with them so that their grandchildren may grow up to be people of character, kindness, acceptance, and love. That is the greatest gift you could give your grandchild.


  1. Well said, Dusti. What a sad world it would be if we shielded children from differently-abled people. How else can we learn tolerance, acceptance and kindness? Shame on that grandma.


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