It isn't often that I can sit down and read a book, from start to finish, in one entire sitting -- that just isn't the type of person I am. However, when I picked up a copy of I, Win: My Journey as a Disabled Woman Living in a Non-disabled World, I quickly threw that old thinking out the window! I couldn't put this memoir down for many reasons.
Maybe it was the "you can't stop me" attitude embraced by the author Win Charles, born with cerebral palsy, but absolutely hell-bent on doing every single thing that a non-disabled person has the privilege of doing. Snowboarding? Not an issue when you build your own snowboard with a bar for a handle, and tackle the slopes of Aspen, Colorado, on a weekly basis. Getting a college degree? Not a problem either, despite the extra adaptive technology, extra assistance via tutor, and Win's "yes I can" attitude.
Or, maybe, I was fascinated with this memoir, because just as Win was learning to conquer all areas of her life, it was time for a back surgery to help straighten out her spine, which was curling up due to scoliosis. The doctors told her, at the age of 18, that this surgery would bring her much more freedom in movement. As she takes the reader through this experience in her book, you can't help but cheer her on, as she undergoes anesthesia, knowing that Win will be able to continue doing all the things she loves, with much more ease. However, the reader learns very quickly that the surgery actually didn't go well at all, and leaves Win unable to even walk on her own.
Despite this setback, she continues to win in life. Her attitude of positivity and determination shine brightly throughout her memoir. She is an advocate for people with disabilities, and a cheerleader for able-bodied people who think they "can't" do something. Win has built an art career, as well as a speaking career, and continues to motivate those around her, and those who read her book.
As a memoir author myself, I always want to know more about an author's life, after I read a captivating book. I was so inspired by Win's story that I reached out to her to see if I could grab a few minutes of her time for a quick interview. It was wonderful to be able to talk with her and gain some additional insight into her story.
I know you are teaching pre-school performing arts at a small school in Aspen. What are the struggles of being a disabled teacher in an able-bodied classroom?
Win: I find myself struggling with getting the kids and the adults to listen to me, especially the kids, because they see me using a walker, and they think I'm a pushover -- especially if the main teacher isn't watching.
What do you think your students are learning from you, day in and day out, about people with disabilities?
Win: I feel that they are learning to respect and have compassion because they seem to understand what I'm going through on a daily basis. They see my struggle and determination. At a young age, the students will ask the most honest and off the wall questions, and I'm able to give them honest answers.
Why did you want to become a teacher in the first place?
Win: I am lucky to say that my parents gave me the gift of a high-quality education and that inspired me to become a teacher and give back to those who gave to me in my youth.
We all know that much of the world needs to be educated about persons with disabilities. What would you like to share the most with the readers about this point?
Win: Every person, even those with disabilities, deserves to be treated with compassion.
What is your big, audacious goal for 2015?
Win: I am going back to college to get my education degree, and I am also going to become a professional motivational speaker. And...I will walk again on my own this year.