Reading Questions

Told you I'd be back! With school starting next week, now is probably the time to post the official convocation reading guide for MSU and One Book, One Bozeman. Now, I don't know how many freshman or Bozeman readers there are reading this blog, but I wanted to invite anyone interested to post their thoughts or answers to any of these questions in the comments section below. I'm going to be monitoring the conversation, and will be answering questions and contributing some of my own thoughts to the discussion if we manage to get some people involved. So if you're a Bozemanite looking to attend one of the upcoming events; a freshman trying to get a jump on discussion; or just an interested web-wanderer wanting to contribute - I'd love to hear your thoughts on some of these questions. Finally, to keep the discussion manageable, I've only posted about have of the total list of questions. The rest I will post sometime next week as a sequel to this post. If you are anxious to see the full list, however, it's available over at the One Book - One Bozeman website. Hit the jump for the list of questions as well as the comment box.
1) In chapter 2, Kevin's dad fashions a number of different inventions to help him get around. The inventions are based purely on function, which contrasts heavily with the legs Kevin receives in chapter 3.What do you think is the relationship between aesthetics and function and the importance of each to those with a disability? 2) In chapter 11, Kevin gets particularly angry when he catches a group of teenagers taking a photograph of him. This comes after experiencing many stares, which by comparison he barely notices. What do you think is the difference between a stare and a photograph? Do you think that Kevin's decision to "return fire" with his camera is morally or artistically justifiable? 3) In chapter 1, Kevin states his doubts of being able to raise a legless child. What do you think such an experience would be like? How would you handle raising such a child? 4) On pages 170-171, Kevin tries to create a different definition for the word "disability”. He makes the argument that the concept is much more common and more fluid than most people believe. Do you agree with his statements? If not, why? If so, what is your disability? 5) In chapter 17, Kevin almost quits working on “The Rolling Exhibition” as a result of the pain that his appearance is bringing out in others walking the streets of Sarajevo. Kevin feels as if he is manipulating people and their pain for his own artistic gain. Do you agree? If so, is it right for him to continue photographing? 6) On page 163, Kevin talks about his skateboard and how it has come to be a part of his self-concept. The skateboard embodies who he is, despite it being less socially acceptable than a wheelchair would be. In your own life, how do you deal with the relationship between being “socially acceptable” and being true to yourself? 7) Discuss the symbolism of Kevin’s skateboard and what it represents. What people, items or events have served as your “skateboard”? 8 ) How do you think "the Dirtbags" in chapter 6 helped to shape Kevin's view of disability?

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  • cynthiAZ

    The relationship between aesthetics and function and the importance of each to those with a disability…hmmm. Functional but ugly is likely to be used- at least for a while. And aesthetically pleasing but less functional is likely to appeal to the ego/pride but, bottom line, if it doesn't function, it doesn't work and won't be used long term.

  • KevinConnolly

    Yeah, to add an extra element into the mix, you need to keep in mind that for the most part – aesthetics cost money. Whether it's better materials or custom molded parts, you'll usually end up paying for the looks. Also – and this is a more general question – how DOES the aesthetics of a prostheses affect the way in which someone is viewed. Is Aimee Mullins (… ) less disabled or more able to get through life than say… the group Staff Benda Billili? (… ) Does it really make a difference beyond in the wearer's own head?

  • Jo-kmc

    Well, I'm all about functionality. Aesthetics comes a distant second for me. Kinda funny, I suppose, as I make jewelry for a living. But if it's not wearable, and comfortable, I'm not making it! I'm a form follows function kind of a girl – which is the reason I refuse to wear high heels… I think a photograph, unlike a stare, is a real intentional invasion of privacy, requiring forethought. A stare may be something the person can't really control – that moment it takes for the brain to catch up with the body… I have my doubts that I could raise *any* child, but I'd like to think if I had a child with a disability, I'd just get on with it. That's my theme for life – just get on with it. 🙂

    I don't think you can control, or feel responsible for, other people's reactions to you. People react based on their own lives. You have no control over that… I pretty much always go for the “being true to myself” option. Makes me a bit radical, I suppose, but it's a much more comfortable way to live than trying to shoehorn myself into a socially acceptable slot… And I love the skateboard – it represents practicality, flexibility, creative thinking, and freedom for me.

  • Emenger3

    hope you got message, know you will do great.

  • Joybanach

    Permission also requested for these questions also. Sincerely, Joy Banach, Esq., M.Ed

  • Melissa

    3) I think it would be a challenge to raise a legless child but at the same time I think it would be a great experience. It would be stressful but it would give me a happy feeling at the end of each day. I would be patient and try my best to make such a child feel loved and cared for. I would walk around with confidence and hope that less people would judge. I would brag about that child to other people and be proud to call them my child. I would let that child make their own choices (such as using prosthetics or not) and support them with those choses. If they chose not to use prosthetics I would support them and help them figure alternative ways to get around. I would help them as much as possible and be supportive. And at the end of everyday I would let them know that I was there for them and loved them no matter what other people thought, said or did to them.

  • marine_brat

    8) “the Dirtbags” didn't treat Kevin any different from a person who has legs. They didn't feel bad for Kevin or sorry for him. They were tough on him. Both didn't make excuses, whined, or think about the word disability. “the Dirtbags” didn't “care” that he didn't have legs. They wanted Kevin to learn that having a disability doesn't change anything and that you can still do things that people with legs can. Kevin soon realized that disabled is just a word and it doesn't stop you from doing what you love (or what you want to learn).

  • Kristina

    i think it is completely justifiable for Kevin to turn the camera lens back at the people. This what made his artwork different and more unique…It wasn'a a simple curiosity or pity stare it was a quick snapshot of the human expression, it was not constant, but yet it provided a large impact on the way that people view others. Personally, for me, looking at other human's facial expression was a very fascinating thing, just seeing how startled the faces look, some judgemental, some plain curious. kevin's photos entertain and carry a very powerful message across and I support his decision to take up this creative way to photograph.

  • PK

    At a book discussion last week, one person remarked that no one is smiling in Kevin's photographs. It was an interesting observation and something that hadn't even occurred to me. However, it makes perfect sense — people tend to only smile at others if eye contact is made or if they know a camera is aimed at them. So, Kevin, with his self-imposed rules of looking away and shooting from the hip while moving (thereby not revealing his intentions) was almost never going to get a “traditional” smiling image, but perhaps a true portrait of human nature. The photographs remind me of the amazing work by the great Dorothea Lange as she chronicled workers (and those desperately wanting work) during the Depression. Images that showed how people really were, but perhaps not how we want to think of ourselves. Masterful work.

  • Lilbenson7

    2) I think difference between a photograph and a stare is that a photograph is captured and can be kept as a memory for a long time. A photograph can also be taken on a phone and sent around to other people. When those teenagers took pictures of kevin I think he had every right to be upset and yell at them. Who knows where those pictures could have been sent to. When kevin took pictures of random people staring at him it wasnt exactly an inappropriate thing to do. It was more of way of capturing a stare from a random person in an artistic way, but it was a kind of an eye for an eye revenge. If they stared he should have every right to stare back. He is just a regular human just like everyone else and he shouldnt be treated of looked upon any different.

  • KevinConnolly

    I don't think that should be a problem, Joy.

  • Cait

    1) I think that there has to be balance between function and aesthetics. In my own experience, I can say that I often went for the latter while growing up. I don't really use my arm prosthesis all that much; I just wear it for cosmetic purposes. I usually hide it with long sleeves and gloves (not because I'm ashamed of it or anything, but because I want people to see and get to know me instead of focusing on the bionic arm.) The problem with prosthetics is that they're extremely heavy and high-maintenance (I have to charge mine every night), but that's another story.

    3) On the contrary, I think it would be easier to raise a disabled child if you yourself have grown up disabled. A disabled parent already knows what to expect and can help the child figure out how to manage day-to-day life with the disability. The hard part would be seeing the child meet the same stares and face the same issues (I mean the emotional/psychological ones here) that the parent has.

    6) I think anyone would rather be true to themselves than follow social norms in this case. Things that are socially acceptable have certain connotations. A person who uses a wheelchair is way more “disabled” than someone who rides a skateboard. Kevin challenges people's expectations when he rides his skateboard (because most people would expect to see someone without legs using a wheelchair.) It's much easier for someone to feel sympathy for a wheelchair-user because wheelchairs are associated with limitations, whereas skateboards are considered cool and fun. In Kevin's case, being true to himself makes him able-bodied as well as unique.

    Your book is awesome, Kevin; best of luck with future writings!