Book Review: Three Nights with a Scoundrel

Tessa Dare, winner of Romance Writers of America’s RITA award, and bestselling romance novelist brings her Regency era romance trilogy, The Stud Club, to an end with the novel Three Nights with a Scoundrel (2010, Ballantine Books).  However, it can also function as a standalone title.  Based around the men involved in joint ownership of a prestigious racehorse, the novel opens after the murder of the Stud Club’s founding member, Leo.  Leo’s best friend, Julian Bellamy is convinced the murders meant to kill him, and is on a destructive path to find them.  Leo’s “on the shelf” sister, Lady Lily Chatwick, a woman who lost her hearing eight years prior, is determined to stop Julian from finding an early grave as he searches for her brother’s murders.

Three Nights with a Scoundrel happily fits in with the major tropes in Regency area romances.  Lily and Julian have known each other for years, and with Leo’s death, Julian is determined to protect Lily.  Both our hero and heroine harbor feelings for one another, yet are kept apart by Julian’s honor.  He is from a low born background, a bastard son of a nobleman living a double life of a rake and a businessman.  Julian is also on a path that can only lead to his death, as he puts himself in increasingly dangerous situations, searching for the men who murdered Leo, men he believes also want to murder him.  Ultimately, the two manage to come together in a clash of emotions and turmoil.  In a twist ending, the two end up together, and while it might not be a “happily ever after” ending, it is certainly a happy ending that will leave most romance novel readers pleased.

However, Three Nights with a Scoundrel provides refreshing twists on the typical romance novel.  First, Lily is a deaf woman.  Unlike other romance novels featuring a deaf protagonist, Tessa Dare manages to handle the situation with surprising skill.   First, she manages to grasp the concept of lip reading.  Typically, a person who lip reads to follow a conversation can only pick up between 30 to 40% of what is said.  Dare manages to avoid this rather neatly, but having Lily state that she cannot always follow a conversation clearly.  In fact, Dare goes beyond this, and often illustrates some of the difficulties that a deaf person can have in following a conversation accurately.

Dare is also exceptionally careful about putting Lily in situations where she cannot see a person, and yet can still understand what is going on.  However, at several points in the novel, the readers are, in amusing detail, told just how much light is present.  Beyond lip reading, Dare accomplishes bringing Deaf Culture and British Sign Language (BSL) into her novel.  While the methods for this is contrived, it is refreshing to see that Lily haltingly learning a language that will allow her greater freedom of expression.  Particularly with Julian, who is already aware of BSL, and can converse with Lily using the language.

Three Nights with a Scoundrel adroitly, without making a large production over the issue, addresses some of the concerns that Lily faced from outsiders.  Concerns that people outside of the Deaf community may project on Deaf/deaf people, even today.  Consider Lily’s thoughts on discrimination she faced, compared to the more hostile discrimination Julian faced over being low born:

“Still, she faced subtler forms of prejudice and disdain.  And always, that backhanded “concern: from the imbecilic, self-righteous [people] of the world…If you cannot be like the rest of us, their subtle shaming implied, at least do not call attention to your differences.”

If readers are looking for an exceptional insight on Deaf Culture in England during the early 1800s, they will not find it with Three Nights with a Scoundrel.  The novel does, however, provide a bit of accurate history of what life was like for a deaf person in that time period.  The novel is also careful not to perpetuate any romantic and false stereotypes of what it is like to be deaf, or to become deaf after growing up as a hearing person.   Nor is Lily’s deafness used as a major plot point.  She is simply a woman who is deaf, and her identity within the novel does not center on her deafness.  This was a very smart move on Dare’s point, which allowed her to stay clear of misappropriating the life of a deaf person, when she herself admits no previous knowledge of deaf life before this novel (2011, September 22).  In regards to its portrayal of deafness and Deaf Culture a librarian should feel comfortable recommending this book to a Deaf person.

Ultimately, this novel would be ideal for any reader who loves Regency era romances.  It contains the beloved predictability of romances, with just enough twists and humor to keep the reader entertained.  This novel could be suggested to readers who are fans of Julia Quinn or Eloisa James, while not as witty as Quinn and James tend to be, it is a solid example of the genre.

 

References:

Dare, T. (2011, September 22).  Romances and Deaf Characters.  Dear Author. Retrieved October 10,

2012, http://dearauthor.com/features/essays/romances-and-deaf-characters/#comment-313532

Reaching out to disability culture

Prompt:  Why is knowledge of Disability culture important to library and information professionals/practitioners? What barriers exist in library and information agencies for individuals with disabilities? How can LIS practitioners leverage this knowledge to reduce barriers to information access?

There is one, very large reason that disability culture is important for information professionals to be aware of; to educate ourselves on populations we service.  As I have stated previously, we need to educate ourselves on our library population, including the aged and disabled.  We cannot expect them to be our sole educators, it is not their responsibility.   A culture, be it an ethnic or social culture, should not be held responsible for the ignorance of outsiders.  They should not suffer due to the ignorance of outsiders.

I cannot presume to know what a person with disabilities faces on a daily basis that prevents them from accessing a library or information agency.   However, I can speak with those who are disabled, and have.  Reoccurring themes in my conversations with people are physical barriers.  These range from broken or badly maintained ramps, shelves that are inaccessible, or buildings that are old enough to use ADA loopholes, so they do not have to provide full access to all facilities.

The second set of barriers comes from apathy.   Sydney (a pseudonym) is an older woman who uses an electric wheelchair and a cane to get around, due to chronic pain and other health issues.   In conversations between her and I, she has often lamented that people simply do not want to think about, or care, about disabled people.  They do not find a one inch step into a building an issue, where to her, it means she is not able to access that facility.   She tells me that complaints often go unheard and often with no response.

Making ourselves aware of disability culture should make us aware of the problems and issues that are faced by the members of that culture.   It will provide librarians and information professionals insights into their needs  In addition, if we approach that culture in honest and open communication, a tie can be formed that will help us strengthen our services and facilities.

Reaching out to those active in disability culture will help us find ways to actively change our programing, buildings, and other services so we can meet the needs of a much wider population.   The library, or information agency, can be known as a place people can trust to deliver unbiased and accessible assistance.  If there is a dialog open between the agency and the community, people will know that their comments and concerns are being heard, and give them a forum to address further issues.

Reaching out to a culture can also help remove stereotypes, biases, and other problematic behaviors that people may have (unknowingly or not).    Issues such as micro-aggression can be lessoned, and the library can become a more welcoming environment.

 

Micro-Aggression and Oppression

Morton Deutsch, a sociologist specializing in conflict resolution, defines oppression as such, “Oppression is the experience of repeated, widespread, systemic injustice. It need not be extreme and involve the legal system…[and it need not be] violent” (2006).  Of the definitions of oppression explored, this one is the most applicable to older adults and people with disabilities.  Particularly because the oppression that faces those who are older or disabled in the United States is not carried out with excessive force, but in small acts of micro-aggression.

American Association of People with Disabilities Youth Transitions Fellows Leah Katz-Hernandez and Megan Erasmus define micro-aggressions as such, “Subtle, often automatic, stereotypical, and insensitive behavior or comments or assumptions about a person’s identity, background, ethnicity, or disability. It might be presented politely or negatively” (2012).

Micro-aggression is telling a person who uses a wheelchair “just take the stairs up to the adult services wing.”  A micro-aggression is assuming an elderly patron wants a large print book.  It is people who ask prying personal questions, because an individual does not look “normal”, and they assume they have a right to know about their condition.  We see it every day, but it does not always register as oppression, however, micro-aggression is oppression.  They are small injustice of everyday life.

As information professionals we have an obligation to our patrons to be aware of the cycles of oppression and to counteract them to the best of our abilities.  We must be mindful of our language when speaking with others, and be as inclusive as possible.  When designing programs, our stacks, and other library facilities, librarians must look beyond our own situations and strive or openness.

This goes beyond issues of age and disabilities.  We need to educate ourselves on our library population, including the aged and disabled.  We cannot expect them to be our sole educators, it is not their responsibility.  We must also look beyond our stereotypes, assumptions, and generalizations, so we can provide them with the best library experience.

References:

Deutsch, M. (2006). A framework for thinking about oppression and its change. Social Justice Research, 19(1), 7-41

Katz-Hernandez, L., & Erasmus, M. (2012, January). Micro-Aggression: It’s Bullying. In American Association of People with Disabilities . Retrieved October 19, 2012

Side note:  This post was written in response to a prompt discussion what oppression is, in regards to older people and people who are disabled and libraries.