Finding my Family | Guest blog by Emily Tisshaw

Updated: Oct 26, 2021

Finding my Family is a guest blog series exploring how families are represented in children's books, whether that's due to set-up, ethnicity, neurodivergence, disability, LGBTQIA*, socio-economic status or any other facet of diversity.

Emily is sat at a table wearing a black and white dress. She has an upper limb difference with her left arm ending just below the elbow.
Emily Tisshaw

Emily Tisshaw is a disabled writer living in Cornwall.

Find her on Instagram and Twitter: @emalemonpie

Who makes up your family?

I come from a white British family. Mum and Dad. An older sister with diabetes studying Chinese medicine and a younger sister who is a musician and studying law.

Why is inclusion in children’s books important to you on a personal level?

I have grown up with a limb difference so seeing this reflected in literature is important.

Can you recall any occasions when you’ve found representations of yourself/your family in children’s books?

I once met Jacqueline Wilson at a book signing and asked her if she would put a one handed character in one of her novels and she did! Mrs Wilberforce in My Sister Jodie. I feel that she often touches on taboo subjects in her books so asking her felt more appropriate than any other author. I feel had I not asked this probably wouldn’t have happened as disability representation is rare. This is the only example I can think of.

How did it feel to find these representations, not find any representation or to find inauthentic or negative representation?

Before approaching Jacqueline Wilson, I almost accepted it as standard not to see myself represented. I didn’t expect to be, although deep down I truly wanted to feel included.

Upon seeing the representation in My Sister Jodie by Jacqueline Wilson I felt like I had been heard and valued. Usually, disabled people are portrayed in a bad light. We are often the butt of a joke or someone’s inspiration story.

Most recently, the portrayal of a limb difference in The Witches movie reinforces the negative stereotype of my disability as scary. So although there has been little representation in a positive way, seeing this film is like taking a step back to square one again.

How could someone authentically represent you/your family in a children’s book? What nuance would make it authentic?

Have a disabled character but not make it a huge deal that they are disabled.

If you or your family could be in any children’s book (as yourselves) what book would it be?

I’d love to be Matilda.

What is your favourite children’s book? Why?

Alice in Wonderland. The fantasy world is beautifully whimsical.

If you want to take part in this blog series, fill out this form to submit your responses.

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