The Discovery of Flight
a novel by Susan Glickman

150 Pages
May 01, 2018
All Titles Novel Inanna Young Feminist Series



The Discovery of Flight a novel by Susan Glickman

The Discovery of Flight is a novel in two voices about the relationship between two sisters, the older of whom is disabled by cerebral palsy and only able to communicate with assistive technology (she can control her computer by moving her eyes). It interweaves the fantasy novel sixteen-year-old Libby is writing for Sophie’s thirteenth birthday, and Sophie’s diary, in which she discusses the deteriorating condition of her older sister. The book’s title is also the title of Libby’s novel, in which Libby takes the form of a hawk telepathically linked to a girl who, like her sister, is a good artist. Sophie’s diary is in fact illustrated with the occasional black-and-white drawings. The sicker Libby gets, the more she retreats into her novel and the less she interacts with the outside world. Though the situation is tragic, Sophie’s voice is extremely funny and wry. In addition, through her storytelling, Libby becomes a heroic figure rather than a helpless victim. After Libby’s death, the girls’ mother presents Sophie with the novel and Sophie writes its final chapter, bringing the voices of the two girls together.

"A deeply human portrait of a teenaged cerebral palsy sufferer whose triumph over "victimhood" is skillfully revealed through her ongoing composition of a fantasy novel. The resulting two-track narrative gives us a discovery of flight that is moving, imaginative, ultimately heroic and highly readable."

—Robert Priest, author of the Spell Crossed trilogy and The Wolf is Back

Susan Glickman is the author of six volumes of poetry, most recently The Smooth Yarrow (2012), three novels for adults, most recently Safe as Houses ( 2015), the “Lunch Bunch” trilogy of children’s books, and The Picturesque & the Sublime: A Poetics of the Canadian Landscape (1998). She works as a freelance editor, primarily of academic books, and teaches creative writing in the continuing education programs of the University of Toronto and Ryerson University.

     Conversations with Libby in the old days were really S  L  O  W but things improved when her school got what they call “assistive technology”: these amazing devices that help you control a computer just by staring at the screen. We finally got one at home last year. I use it myself sometimes; it’s actually a lot of fun in a trippy, space-age kind of way. I wouldn’t be surprised if in the future we control a lot of machines that way, or at least the lights and the tv and stuff like that. On and off at a glance. Pretty cool. So now Libby can write stories and poems on her own — currently she’s obsessed with some writing project she’s working on and refuses to show to us — and she can also go on Facebook and watch videos on YouTube like any other teenager.
     Of course, my sister isn’t really like other teenagers because she’s got cerebral palsy. According to Wikipedia, “Cerebral refers to the cerebrum, which is the affected area of the brain (although the disorder may involve connections between the cortex and other parts of the brain such as the cerebellum), and palsy refers to disorder of movement.” In other words, she has problems in her brain which affect her ability to move. Nobody knows what caused those problems or, more importantly, how to fix them, only that they began either before or during or shortly after birth.
     Which means that the major cause of cerebral palsy is being born. That’s the major cause of all of mankind’s problems, as far as I can tell.
     A less polite term for Libby’s condition is that she’s spastic. Everyone knows what a “spaz” is, right? The girl with glasses who can’t shoot hoops gets called a spaz. The boy with asthma who can’t play hockey gets called a spaz. But genuinely spastic people would never find themselves on the basketball court or at the hockey rink in the first place. Genuinely spastic people can’t control their movements at all; they flail all over the place and waste a lot of energy trying to do simple things like putting
on socks or lifting spoons to their mouths. Libby can’t even do those things — just swallowing Jell-O is an Olympic event for her.

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