restricted access Disability on Trial: Complex Realities Staged for Courtroom Drama—The Case of Jodi Picoult
Abstract

Bestselling author Jodi Picoult draws upon extreme, emotional human drama to craft sentimental, even melodramatic plotlines that almost always revolve around a courtroom trial. Often inspired by true stories, her topics explore complex ethical questions around dying, abandonment, abuse, high school shootings, and not surprisingly, illness and disability. The article considers three of Picoult's novels, My Sister's Keeper (2004), Handle with Care (2009), and House Rules (2010), to contrast the author's realistic depictions of familial and individual experiences of disability with the melodramatic frames girding these stories. Drawing upon recent work in disability studies scholarship, the suggestion is that Picoult at times pushes the boundaries of disability representation beyond the traditional binaries of medical versus social, toward a "rhizomatic model" of disability. Simultaneously, however, these popular novels resolidify the "problem" of disability as personal and familial, and reflect a deep cultural ambivalence—between a growing awareness and understanding of disability rights, from one perspective, and a haunting fear which illness and disability continue to evoke in an ableist culture.


pdf