The other day Taryn (from novelparadise on Twitter) was asking if anyone had any reading prompts for the diversity bingo and I recommended a main character with hypersomnia. From there I started thinking about if I’d actually ever heard of any books that discuss sleeping disorders. Then I saw a tweet by Jes from Jesonthepage on Twitter) and we ended up having a long conversation about diversity (honestly it was mostly me talking because when I get passionate about something I just can’t stop talking/typing)
I ended up thinking about more things I would like to see you in not only young adult literature but also children’s literature and I realised that I’ve never read a book or heard about a book that has a main character with a learning disability or sleep disorder. I know a lot of people that have a learning disability and I find it sad that it’ll be hard and/or almost impossible to find a character in any form of media that they can relate to. I think so many people don’t understand the impacts that these learning disabilities have on people’s lives.
Considering the fact that when any of us in the book community discuss diversity in young adult literature we usually talk about; mental health awareness, LGBTQ+ main characters, characters that aren’t white, non-western cultures, and disabled main characters. We rarely discuss the importance characters that have; a learning disability, a chronic illness or sleep disorder to name a few.
I did some research, for those of you may not know anyone who has a learning disability, a sleep disorder or a chronic illness, just so you can get some idea as to how common these disabilities are.
information on cataplexy, narcolepsy, sleep paralysis, EDS and hallucinations for those of you who don’t know what these disorders are
American Sleep Association has some really good information on hypersomnia and some statistics if any of you would like to check it out, the ASA website also has some really good information on many different sleep disorders if you’d like to find out more about sleeping disorders
The only time I’ve ever seen a novel with the main character that has a sleep disorder is one, that I can’t rememeber the name of, where the disorder, narcolepsy, is used as a plot point. However this is done in a negative way and dismissed the impact that these sleep attacks have on a person emotionally. I never actually actually ended up reading the book and I never went on Goodreads to look at reviews, but I read the blurb and it was quite upsetting. Finding representation is important, but finding representation that has accurate representation and that doesn’t dismiss the feelings of those who have the disorder is just as important.
I’m constantly looking for books with main characters that have sleeping disorders, as I don’t know anyone other than myself who has a sleeping disorder and it would be nice to find someone, even if they are fictional, that not only myself but loads of other people can relate to so that we feel more accepted.
The stereotypes that society has about people who sleep a lot is that they’re lazy, and it’s really sad. Yes, some people sleep like just because they can, but there are people who sleep alot because they have a medical condition and it’s not because they want to ‘sleep in’.
I have a good friend of mine who has dyslexia, and I know they enjoy reading, but I don’t know if they’ll ever be able to find a main character that they relate to when it comes to their learning disability. I’ve never really talked to them about this but I feel that even if I read a book that had accurate representation of people with dyslexia, I would be able to help them understand her better and maybe even help her feel like I understood them.
I know that once people understand you and understand your condition you feel less alone. For someone to understand your disorder, even if they don’t have the disorder, they’re going to be more understanding when it comes to things you can’t do.
I think talking about sleeping disorders, learning disabilities and chronic illness is something we need to discuss (more) as a community. Educating people through the media of these disabilities will encourage and increase research into causes of these disabilites how to prevent, cure and help people with these disabilities. Discussions about cancer have caused researchers to look into cures and treatment, because people realise how important it is to find a cure for cancer thousands of people donate to charities. Thousands of people lives are also effected by learning disabilities, chronic illness and sleeping disorders and until we start talking about them and educating others on the impact that they have on so many people’s lives we won’t find a way to make these people lives better sooner rather than later.