Ok, another audiobook-related post. I rather enjoy these relatively shallow murder mystery books called “The Hannah Swensen Mysteries” by Joanne Fluke. (In case you’re wondering, the books are centered around Hannah Swensen, who owns a cookie shop/bakery and somehow gets mixed up in murders that occur in her small town of Lake Eden, Minnesota.) I’ve read a few of them (not in order) and have recently been listening to the audiobooks to fill in the gaps of the ones I’ve missed.
Just this morning I was listening to the second installment in the series, The Strawberry Shortcake Murder, while in the shower. In this particular scene of interest, Hannah and a friend of hers are developing some film (that is a crucial piece of evidence in a murder investigation!) in a darkroom. Her friend, Norman, needs to turn off the lights to submerge the film rolls and warns Hannah that it’ll be dark. The lights go off and the narrator reflects: “Sounds seemed to be magnified in the darkness… She felt a bit disoriented now that she could no longer judge the dimensions of the room by sight. She reminded herself that this must be how blind people felt and gave thanks that she wasn’t sightless” (112). Really Hannah? Or should I ask, “really Joanne?” It’s exhausting how disability (and sensory impairment in particular) are portrayed in such a one-dimensional manner. Obviously Hannah can’t comprehend the experiences of the blind/vision-impaired by just turning out the lights, but she thinks she can. What does this say about our social and political environment? It’s strange to think that blindness is thought of as the inability to see anything—like walking around in a darkroom. And it’s equally strange to think of someone using it in such a cursory manner. She mentions it, gives thanks she’s not “one of those people” and goes about living her able-bodied life. The ways that the complexities of human experience are simply glossed over in many books and films is disheartening. This one-liner left me feeling frustrated and let down. It’s such a small line but is symptomatic of such a larger issue.
Citation: Fluke, Joanne. The Strawberry Shortcake Murder. New York: Kensington Publishing Corp, 2002.