CW: Disability slur
I read Nightingale Point by Luan Goldie this week, and I can’t stop thinking of it.
Nightingale Point is an incredible book, based on the true story of a plane that hit two public housing towers in Amsterdam, and a tribute to the Grenfell Tower residents in London.
The story began in 1996, and spanned five years. It focused on a number of residents in a public housing tower in England – known as Nightingale Point. It was a story of how their lives changed when a plane hit the tower block, including their recovery. The characters were diverse.
The character development, and interactions were beautiful. I loved the friendship that developed between Tristan and Elvis – the empathy and humanity between them was beautiful.
Nightingale Point had a recurrence of the R word – a harmful disability slur. It was aggressive, and I would ordinarily give up with such ableist language. But my friend told me to stick with it. And wow – I’m glad I did. This is one of the only books I’ve read that addresses the issues of the R word. It’s done in such a great way. Not condescending. Contemplative. Apologetic. A statement was made on the harm the language did – in a 1996 context. Thank you Luan.
Every writer who chooses to use ableist language needs to read this book. You can make a choice to use it, and make a choice to change your characters’ behaviour by writing about the way the R word is harmful. I call out ableism in literature so often that I want to take the time to celebrate when it’s corrected positively. I believe disability slurs cannot be justified in modern writing, and if they’re used, they need to be used as a lesson about why they’re so damaging.
This is such an important book about race, class, disability, trauma, survival, healing and community – a book for our time. Beautiful, empathetic, eye opening, compassionate, well researched.
I listened to the audiobook and loved hearing the different characters come to life by the actors who played them.
Luan is a Scottish-Nigerian writer and I cannot wait for her next book – Homecoming – out in October.
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