The Gangsters and Retards are eight teenagers from the butt crack part of town, the inner-city’s inner-city. They’ve been through a lot of crap together, and they put up with even more crap from each other. They stick together, though, because they’ve got no one else to turn to, and no where else to go.
In their first book in this new series, you’ll read about their battle with MC Cripple Crip. It’s aptly titled:
TRUTH & PAIN
GANGSTERS & RETARDS
in… The Mystique-cal Person-a of MC Cripple Crip
About the authors:
DC Curtis and Bones Kendall met studying literature at UCLA. Both worked in the entertainment business for many years before becoming English teachers. DC teaches high school and Bones teaches at a community college.
Q: Isn’t using the word retard offensive?
Q: So why do you use the word?
A: Our primary mission is to promote awareness through literacy; therefore, we believe people should learn for themselves why it is no longer appropriate to use the noun retard when referring to intellectually challenged individuals and why people shouldn’t refer to themselves or others as retarded when they are forgetful or inept.
Q: Why, then, use the word in the book title?
A: Reason one: We are storytellers and educators and hope to make people less ignorant. There is evidence that stories do a lot for us when it comes to becoming aware and knowledgeable.
Reason two: The kids in the book say it, a few times, but they are not afraid of any politically correct thought and language police, either. It’s their world, their word, and they are the Gangsters and Retards.
Besides, one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover (or title). The four characters who are the so-called gangsters aren’t real gangsters (though Pho was), and the four characters who are the so-called retards aren’t really retarded (though Bryan does have an intellectual disability).
The point is that if people don’t know, they might use these stereotypical words rather than gain a deeper understanding. That’s the meaning of ignorance. We hope to help people overcome ignorance.
Reason three: Considering the high level of attention given this word for the past decade, nothing has been successful in eliminating its derogatory use in everyday speech. We present a different strategy.
Q: What do DC and Bones think about Rosa’s Law and campaigns like Spread the Word to End the Word?
There are many good intentions to try to protect people from harm. Protection from harm caused by words, though, always runs the risk of limiting the greatest of American freedoms, that of free speech. Our hope is that we all learn what words to use and not use based on culture.
Spread the Word to End the Word is a great example of an attempt to encourage us to control ourselves without any threat to free speech and we support their campaign. Find more information here: http://www.r-word.org/
Rosa’s Law is specifically designed to eliminate and provide substitutes for the terms “mentally retarded” and “mental retardation” in US law books. Given the generalness of the r-word, it is probably a good idea for legal books to be more specific.
Q: Is Truth & Pain supposed to be reality?
A: This book is a work of art. We believe it falls into the burgeoning genre of “cartoon realism” which is the next great literary procession from magical realism. The book is a cartoon in prose form where you supply the pictures in your imagination.
A: This book can be described as absurd. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
– Bones Kendall
Suckers like Condoleezza Rice and Sarah Palin stump for the rich and powerful. DC Curtis and I stump for…amputees. That doesn’t come across just right. Neither does the word retard, which appears in the title of our book. It’s okay, Rahm, Rush, Lebron, and Coulter; it’s fiction this time.
The novel DC and I co-authored is Truth & Pain starring the Gangsters & Retards in… The Mystique-cal Person-a of MC Cripple Crip. Anyone who reads it knows that the characters leaning to the gangster side of things aren’t really gangsters, and, it follows, that the characters leaning to the disabled side of things aren’t really retards.
But while it can be cool to play gangster, no one thinks it’s cool to be a retard. The R-word is nothing like nigger or gay. The Americans with Disabilities Act created a class of people but there is not a common identity. Amputees have little connection to those who have so-called intellectual disabilities. Terminal diseases can be disabling, but some with disabilities live long, happy lives.
And so there is a lack of unity that might have to do with instinctual approach or avoid strategies. We tend to avoid the unknown unless it is perceived to be beautiful, which leads one to ask: How many of us see beauty when looking at someone who is missing a limb, speaks with a stutter, or suffers from a degenerative disorder?
DC Curtis and I met studying literature at UCLA. We argue for our discipline, for it teaches people to see the beauty of the soul, the beauty on the inside. Literature, especially novels, allows for us to enter into the internal space, the subjective reality of a character. Readers must see past the quick judgments we so easily make when we see with our eyes.
We need to learn to see with our imaginations. And so DC and I are soul rebels. And if people read not just our book, but many novels, they can learn to see the beauty on the inside and so people can learn to be tolerant of diversity. Sensitivity only sounds like a weak concept.
Across time and space, there is a greater lesson to be learned from studying literature than even history. By reading stories we experience these subjective realities of other people and train our imaginations. We come to understand that our minds can sympathize quite easily with the minds of people who existed in prior centuries…or who have just one of four limbs, like Carlos, or are blind and deaf, like Moon.
One of the great lessons of literature is that very often there is something heroic in people who are not famously known. History does not often like stories about the underclasses and the outcasts. And, yet, society can be judged by how it treats its own…especially those who are forced to live on the periphery due to some physical, mental, or intellectual disability.
Not only can we judge society based on how it treats these individuals, we can judge society by how these individuals are portrayed, for the public presentation matters.
On the one hand, there are organizations and events that seek to promote stories about inspirational people, like the Special Olympics, Paralympics, different fundraising telethons. On the other hand, there is the token character on a TV sitcom. Audiences are often presented with extreme figures: the idealized Supercrip character who pulls our heartstrings versus the mockery of Joe Swanson on Family Guy, or South Park‘s Timmy.
DC Curtis and I recognize the amazing power of story and what it can do in the face of so much entertainment currently tailored for the masses. There is little commercial programming that has anything to do with people with a so-called disability. In light of that, we chose to write a book rather than create a TV show. In writing prose instead of scripts, DC and I decided to take the road less traveled, and discovered inner space as well as an ability to comment in ways that visual media cannot.
All that being said, readers need to imagine the story, to see the characters in the mind’s eye, for the magic to work. In the case of our book, it’s probably a good idea to imagine and see it as if it’s a cartoon.
While we work to present a good story, there are some deep comments in our book, including the history lesson about autism, the differentiation about particular variations of muscular dystrophy, and a similar presentation about Down syndrome. The comment about the working class struggle against outside corporate influence is also there—DC and I are both union workers and the book is independently published.
The trouble we face as authors is that already there are too few readers. We throw ourselves to the future hope that people will eventually wake up and start digesting literature again. We’re sure that the difficulty of reading a book is conquerable when the fear of reading a book is overcome.
Our hope is to shed light. We did it in a heroic-story format because you’re nobody if someone like you is not the hero in a story. And those with so-called special needs are heroic in their communities, the ones that accept them, so DC Curtis and I would like you to meet some special kids that we think you’ll like getting to know.
We were interviewed on Insight on Disability, hosted by Michael Gerlach, on WCBM radio in Baltimore on 11/25/2012. We’ll post the show when available.
Here is an interview we did on KPFK in 2011: Truth_and_Pain_on_Access-Unlimited-KPFK_July_5_2011
Check out what Billy Jam had to say about Krip Hop Nation’s February 2011 event in San Francisco called “Black, Disabled Artists, Authors, Activists, and Friends.”
Truth & Pain was invited to participate. We had a great time and met some fascinating people.
Bones Kendall, Professor Evan Kendall, won an award for his work, the Faculty Community Learning Award in 2011 for “MC Cripple Crip meets Krip-Hop Nation in San Francisco and at LACC”. Link on Facebook: (click).