Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies

You’re Queer? That’s So Lame!

Queering Disability in Brian Francis’s Fruit: A Novel about a Boy and His Nipples and Mariko Tamaki’s (You) Set Me on Fire

Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies (2018), 12, (3), 337–352.

Abstract

The article examines two Canadian young adult novels that grapple with teen-related boundaries, including those demarcating childhood and mature sexual desire, defensiveness and exposure, disability and social remedy. Peter Paddington is an overweight prepubescent, and Allison Lee is a lesbian with burn scars. In both novels, the protagonists must navigate their sexuality, even as they in some measure exhibit physical traits that verge upon or merge with disability issues. In both novels, the protagonists seek to avoid their proliferating sexual desires, desires which they feel cause them angst and social isolation. The authors depend on the abnormal, deficient, or divergent body as a character-defining trait, while simultaneously declining to characterize fully their protagonists as disabled. The books offer a narrative arc of teen outsiders who not only are the leads, but are narrators who struggle with their body differences. In doing so, both protagonists display how identity intersects at the category-destabilizing shift between queerness and disability. These characters negotiate the transitional complexities of their bodies—as repositories of difference, as icons of exclusion, and as cultural markers of “inescapable” diversity.

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Author details

Markotić, Nicole