I knew very well when I wrote my review of Bloom a few days ago that it wasn’t going to go over very well with a lot of people. I actually had a bit of a knot in my stomach as my cursor hovered over “Publish” because I knew very well the shitstorm that would ensue. And I was right – it’s still going on, though I think it’s died down some. You can go check it out yourself on my book blog if things like this yank your chain. Or maybe you’ve already been over there and have seen the hoopla, in which case a lot of what I’m about to say here will be redundant.
Still, I feel compelled to say a few things, so bear with me (or don’t).
First and foremost, it was a book review, people. As someone else pointed out, basically a product review. Are there personal observations in my review? Yes, because it’s a memoir, personal by its very nature. I could be way off on my observations, but that’s what they are: my observations based on what the author put forth in her book.
I’m a little tired of this whole notion that poor Kelle was just sitting there, minding her own business, and BAM! this burden of being a representative of the Down syndrome community was foisted upon her. I don’t buy it. She started thinking in terms of writing a book the day after Nella was born (she says so in her book). How her birth story went viral, I’ll never know for sure, but I have no doubt that her dad played a very instrumental part in making that happen (he was monitoring the comments on the birth story from the get-go; that is also clear from her book). Kelle didn’t want anything to do with a Down syndrome support group (which I totally get – I’m not a support group person myself, and the last thing I wanted to do when I was still grappling with Finn’s diagnosis in the early days was surround myself with a bunch of other people who lived and breathed Down syndrome – that was my perception, anyway), but when she was asked to be a guest speaker at a local Ds support group meeting, she accepted. Nella was two months old. Within a couple of months of Nella’s birth, she was contacted by a literary agent. My point? I think her popularity fed on itself, and people wanted to be a part of it, and she wasn’t sitting idly by with no idea that all the pressures of fame and fortune were about to fall into her lap against her will – she wanted it and she welcomed it. And really? More power to her! She took some opportunities that presented themselves to her, and look where she’s at now – good for her.
Just let’s stop this whole poor Kelle thing, okay?
This leads me to another issue I’d like to address: I do not begrudge Kelle her success. This seems to be a very popular accusation to hurl at anyone who is not a fan of Kelle’s. What I do begrudge her is the materialism and vanity and sense of entitlement and self-congratulations she, at the very least, portrays (though I’m positive these aren’t the qualities she intends to portray). It’s a turnoff to me. It’s not what I think life is about, and I guess I’d like to see something deeper gained from having a child with Down syndrome.
Having Finn has changed me. It’s changed my whole word view and how I see my fellow human beings – not just those with Down syndrome, but people from all walks of life who are victims of marginalization and dehumanization. It’s changed the way I approach teaching my kids about diversity, and it’s making them more compassionate and open-minded than they probably would have been had Finn not come along sporting his extra chromosome. It’s taught me to hold strong to my convictions and speak out, even when it’s uncomfortable to do so – and my 15-year old son has already internalized that lesson, all thanks to Finn. It’s changed how we – our whole family – see the world. It’s not about how the world sees us.
I don’t know how having a child with Down syndrome has changed Kelle, because she doesn’t really ever say. Has she done a HUGE benefit to the Down syndrome community by showing that Down syndrome can be beautiful and that life can be good with Down syndrome? A resounding YES! And I thank her for that. But there’s more to this whole journey than just image – or at least I’d like to think so. People like to say in defense of Kelle that she was all sunshine and rainbows before Nella was born, and she’s still sunshine and rainbows – it’s not like she’s changed, for goodness sake! Yeah, that’s kind of a problem for me. Why isn’t she changed? Maybe she is. But she doesn’t tell us that.
And this whole “optimism” thing. I’ll just say it: what the hell does she have to not be positive or optimistic about? What has she overcome? This might be the one thing about her that I am a little bitter about. There are those of us who have lived some pretty hardscrabble lives, who have faced things like abuse and being a runaway and drug addiction and more abuse and abandonment and alcoholism and the untimely deaths of loved ones and imploding marriages and cancer – and who have somehow still managed to hang onto gratitude and humor and, yes, positivity. And those of us who have faced down real adversity like that? Well, it’s just really hard to see someone like Kelle Hampton as a hero.
I’m tired, tired, tired of the terms “angry,” “bitter,” “jealous,” “sour grapes,” and “bully” that are so frequently thrown around with regard to anyone who expresses distaste for the Kelle Hampton brand. I saw a comment on someone’s Facebook thread today where someone said something to the effect of “There are people on this journey who are still so bitter and angry over their own circumstances that they can’t be happy for someone else.” I have no doubt at all that that thread pertained directly to my review of Bloom, though nobody had the balls to say so.
Honestly, I don’t even want to dignify that with a response. I’ll just say that anyone who has spent any time at all reading my blog knows that I am far from bitter or angry about Finn’s diagnosis.
And that’s another thing: people who come and get all up in arms and leave comments, not because they’re even remotely interested in my blog, but because they happened to Google “Kelle Hampton” and have deemed themselves Keepers of Kelle Hampton’s Reputation. Which is just weird. Get a life, okay? Despite being accused of “riding on Kelle’s coattails,” I really want people to read my blog because they’re interested in the things I write about – not because I mention a name that they’ve become preoccupied with seeing untarnished.
What is it about Kelle Hampton that elicits such passionate, emotional responses? She’s like a new religion for some people, it seems. It’s fascinating, and disturbing. Let’s just be rational, people. Okay?
Phew. Glad I got that off my chest.