A provocation to reclaim our disability lineage in order to profoundly reimagine the possibilities for our relationship to disability, kinship, and carework
Disability is often described as a tragedy, a crisis, or an aberration, though 1 in 5 people worldwide have a disability. Why is this common human experience rendered exceptional? In All Our Families, disability studies scholar Jennifer Natalya Fink argues that this originates in our families. When we cut a disabled member out of the family story, disability remains a trauma as opposed to a shared and ordinary experience. This makes disability and its diagnosis traumatic and exceptional.
Weaving together stories of members of her own family with sociohistorical research, Fink illustrates how the eradication of disabled people from family narratives is rooted in racist, misogynistic, and antisemitic sorting systems inherited from Nazis. By examining the rhetoric of genetic testing, she shows that a fear of disability begins before a child is even born and that a fear of disability is, fundamentally, a fear of care. Fink analyzes our racist and sexist care systems, exposing their inequities as a source of stigmatizing ableism.
Inspired by queer and critical race theory, Fink calls for a lineage of disability: a reclamation of disability as a history, a culture, and an identity. Such a lineage offers a means of seeing disability in the context of a collective sense of belonging, as cause for celebration, and is a call for a radical reimagining of carework and kinship. All Our Families challenges us to re-lineate disability within the family as a means of repair toward a more inclusive and flexible structure of care and community.
About the Author
Jennifer Natalya Fink is director of the Program in Disability Studies and a professor of English at Georgetown University. She is the author of 6 books and founder of the Gorilla Press, a nonprofit promoting youth literacy through bookmaking. Fink is the winner of the Dana Award for the Novel and the Catherine Doctorow Prize for Innovative Fiction, as well as a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. First and foremost, she is a mother; the transformative experience of parenting her autistic daughter is the center of her work.
“Fink melds an accessible extended family narrative with a complex and wide-ranging survey of how ableism—intersecting with notions of race, class, gender, the family, the state, and purity—functions to otherize, dehumanize, and hide or erase disabled people. All Our Families offers a deep, reflective, and urgent call to enact a care ethic and also to reframe our identities, lineages, and relationships around notions of disabled kinship.” —Sonya Huber, author of Pain Woman Takes Your Keys
“In All Our Families, Fink uses her formidable intellect to examine a topic close to her justice-oriented heart: disability. Prioritizing the work of disabled activists, she shows how everyone suffers when we erase disabled people from our families and our society. With exacting humanity, Fink demonstrates how our family lines can reflect and perpetuate ableist systems and offers ways to create a truer and more just lineage. An important and powerful read.” —Jessica Slice, essayist, memoirist, and author of This Is How We Play
“Jennifer Natalya Fink synthesizes decades of Disability scholarship while weaving in her multifaceted family story to present a powerful and moving message: Disability is part of every family history, and if we start reclaiming this lineage, we have the opportunity to transform our families and communities. Accessible, incisive, and compelling, All Our Families is an important and timely contribution.” —Riva Lehrer, artist and author of Golem Girl: A Memoir
“Jennifer Natalya Fink’s All Our Families is a magisterial crip-queer reimagining of our disabled pasts and futures. It is the most thorough and engaging consideration of disability lineage and disability kinship available. Grounded in cutting-edge crip thought on disability justice and care work, All Our Families provides a definitive mapping of transformative modes of disability relationality and solidarity.” —Robert McRuer, author of Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability