S2 Episode 12 with Dr. Amy Kenny

February 04, 2023 01:17:32
S2 Episode 12 with Dr. Amy Kenny
Disability Empowerment Now
S2 Episode 12 with Dr. Amy Kenny

Feb 04 2023 | 01:17:32

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Show Notes

Dr. Amy Kenny is a disabled scholar and Shakespearan lecturer from the University of Sussex whose research focuses on medical and bodily themes in literature. Her work has been featured in publications such as Teen Vogue, The Mighty, The Audacity, and Sojourners. Kenny is a scribe for Freedom Road Institute for Leadership and Justice and […]
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Episode Transcript

Keith:  Welcome to Disability Empowerment Now, Season two. I'm host Keith-Murfee DeConcini. Today I will be talking to Dr. Amy Kenny, who is a disability scholar and Shakespeare lecturer who wrote, My Body Is Not a Prayer Request: Disability Justice in the Church. Dr. Amy Kenny, welcome to the show. Amy: Thanks for having me, Keith. Keith: So normally I ask the guests to introduce themselves right off the bat, but I thought I would start the show a bit differently and explain how I came across your book and read it. My pastor Ryan, in one of our conversations, heard an interview or another podcast that you were on about the book and immediately thought of me and that I should read it. And I had just started this podcast in April of this year, this year being 2022. So he recommended I read it and that I reach out to you and that I see if you were interested in being interviewed. I also had to say that a month ago, my church did a discussion group on your book. Unfortunately, I was unable to be there because I had Laryngitis and felt as sick as a dog. No offense to my dog or dogs anywhere. So that's how I came across your book and like we were talking before, I listened to the audiobook and I feel like I've known you for years because of the way you write, your unflinching humor, vulnerability, and authenticity. Please tell me what motivated you? This is your debut book and it's quite a tour de force. Please tell us what motivated you to write it? Amy: Well, thank you, Keith. That's a very kind and generous introduction. I didn't set out to write a book. I started writing about my own experiences as a disabled woman in church and shed those with my writing group led by Lisa Sharon Harper, Andre Henry, Shante Griffin, and Mollina Graves, and I was so encouraged in that group to share my story with a broader audience. And so I did that and that led to what is now the book in your hands. And I really appreciate what you said about it being a vulnerable book because it is very vulnerable to share these pieces of my story and my faith journey with the world and to invite the church to a better way. And that's what my hope is for the book, is that people would be invited to learn from and with our disabled neighbors. Keith: As I told you before the interview, I feel like I've known you for years, and that's because the book or the subject matter is clearly disability justice in the church. Your story is like an autobiography and a memoir combined. Your unflinching humor and vulnerability and authenticity really resonated, and I can visualize everything, every moment you talk about in the book, it felt like I was there with you on the operating table, in the inaccessible church. I mean, your writing is just incredible and your pop culture references are just zinger after zinger after zinger. I particularly love the Boulevard of Broken Ableist Dreams. There were certain times where I had to pause the audiobook because I was either laughing so much or crying so hard because it resonated with me so much as I'd said, this is your debut published work. Where you, fearful is the wrong word, but were you concerned about the gravity of the topic that you were talking about for your first published work and what was the process of working through those emotions? Amy: Well, I'm glad this is being recorded because now I have forever that you, you thought that there were zingers and you enjoyed it, so that's just so encouraging. But yeah, it was definitely a process of coming to terms with the gravity of what I was sharing and knowing that there were going to be responses that were not positive. And I have certainly had my fair share of not so nice responses and folks not really enjoying being told that the Americans with Disabilities Act excludes churches, or that so many churches have fought against including us or being invited into thinking about Jesus as experiencing disability and as a disabled God. And people have had thoughts about that, that they have not been shy to share with me, but I think the overwhelming response from folks has been from fellow disabled folks saying some version of me too. I've experienced that too. I've been excluded at church too. Thank you for writing this or from people saying they didn't know and now they, now that they know better, they want to do better. But I think regardless of any response, I did feel very clear that my role is not to write for whatever response there will be because I can't control that. But my role is to be faithful and to have joy while doing it. And that's what I hope I did. Keith: I wanted to get this right, did you and your husband meet at the church because there is one memory where he and a bunch of your fellow congregation are literally carrying you somewhere, either up the stairs or on a church hike, I don't know. And that struck me because I could absolutely believe that happened and visualize it with clarity. Amy: Yeah, you’re a close reader. That's true that that happened. And he has continued to carry me in a lot of different ways across our lives, and I hope I him in various ways as well and I shared that story in the book as a way of getting people to experience a small glimpse of what my experience has been in the church, which it has often been that folks are carrying me and attempt to intervene when the built environment is not accessible. And I think that comes from a really well-intentioned place, and it has made me feel a part of the community in many ways. But there's a broader systemic issue, which is that churches are not built to be accessible a lot of times. And so while it's wonderful when individuals want to create community with disabled neighbors, I think we also as a broader church body need to really reckon with the history and legacy of being inaccessible. And then really think about why it is that we have accepted that so many church spaces, both in the built environment, in language, in attitudes, are not accessible to our disabled neighbors and folks who are part of the body. Keith: Talk about the format of this book and like at the end of every chapter, there's a reflect and response and there's a top 10 disability list reflecting on that chapter. Did that format come early on in the writing process or was that later on as the book started to take shape? Amy: Those top 10 lists I included to add a little bit of levity, a little bit of a breather because it is very heavy. A lot of the material that I'm sharing is both my own individual experience and then the broader experience of disabled folks in the US church specifically. So I wanted to give the reader a chance to just kind of breathe and rest and have a pause. And also I wanted a way to note some of the really ridiculous things that people have said to me about being disabled, but without shaming them. Because I don't think that smells like Jesus. So I included them in a very light hearted way to note that it's actually inappropriate to say most of these things on this top 10 list. But that's a fun and hopefully endearing way to point that out. That structure and the reflections and kind of pauses off each chapter are also a way to hopefully ask folks to think about what I'm sharing and how they can apply it in their lives. Because this isn't just my story. This also connects to many other people's stories, and so hopefully that's a space for the reader to really think about having a meeting with themselves and thinking about what pieces of the story to take and apply in their own lives. Keith: So there are so many lines and sections in this book that I could quote but then it would just be me reading your own book and not much of a episode, but the two favorite chapters I had were, ironically, at the end of the book. Three favorite chapters, Disabled Foundations, Disabled God, and Disabled Church. Can you talk about those chapters specifically? Not only because they're near the end of the book, but you'd seem to really sum up everything that you talk about in the book beforehand. So what were those chapters specifically like writing and formatting in your mind? Amy: Well, I'm glad those were your favorite chapters because I wanted the book to end on a hope and a dream for what the church can be and not just be a critique of what the church has been. And I hope that what the book does is offer a type of future prophetic witness for the church in thinking about how we don't have to continue being inaccessible to folks. We can create a culture and a built environment and a church community that actually practices caring for our disabled neighbors and learning from and with them. Those chapters were encouraging to write and also sometimes daunting because I'm not sure that I have fully experienced that church yet. I think I've had glimpses of it, but I don't think that that has been my kind of typical experience of church. And so even putting pen to paper or hands to keys as it were, to create those chapters, was really an act of faith and of hoping against hope that that is a church that we could become. Keith: So for fairness, what was it like writing the beginning chapters and how did you choose these specific examples throughout your life? Because they're very personal, but they don't, they read very well. They come off as personal, but not at least to me, uber-personal, where I, as the reader, am a little shocked by that, but I mean, how did you choose those examples? And I'm assuming that there are things you cut out of the book and what was that process like, because every example seems very meticulously placed? There's a rhythm and a flow and so talk about that process. Amy: My guiding premise for choosing which stories to tell was that I only wrote from a scar and not an open wound. I think any stories that were still bleeding or that I was still processing or that were still really raw, I didn't want to include those because I didn't want later on to have a different experience with that story or think, ooh, I could have been more gracious or kinder to the person in that scenario. You know, when you are in the middle of an experience when you have been hurt, when you're in the thick of it, you often have a different emotional response than even a year or two years, or 10 years later. So that was a real guiding premise for me to make sure that I was honoring other people in my life and in the stories that I was sharing and that I wasn't being cruel or overly critical. And I think with that also comes that I never shared a story that was just to shame someone. I only shared stories that I thought people could learn from, and that people could hopefully really delve into some of my inner world and inner experience and hopefully come out of the process understanding why some of the stories are painful or harmful. And I think it's tricky writing stories where the attempt is to critique and to invite people to a different way and not be shaming, because I never want to shame people for what they didn't know or what they did. And I think I want to act with grace and with kindness, but not using the book as a way to kind of bash people. Keith: So the humor that you use throughout the book is unflinching and it extends well beyond the top 10 list that end each chapter. Talk about that and how that came about because that also draws the reader in, and it's supposed to. Particularly the topics you talk about in this book, it's not a novel. It's a book that covers very serious subjects and it's not easy to read, but the humor is a big thing that draws the reader in whether or not they're actually reading it or listening to the audio book. Talk about your unflinching humor. Amy: Well, that's kind that you think that the humor is unflinching. That's nice to hear. You're never really sure how it's gonna come off on the page, whether people are gonna get the jokes. And I definitely love a pun. Keith: There is one example in particular that I'm gonna bring up later on. Amy: Okay, great. I'm gonna hold you to that. But I love a pun, and I love word play and I used humor in the book for a few different reasons. One is that I wanted to be able to show that I contain multitudes. I'm disabled, and I'm not ashamed of that. And I love puns and wordplay and humor and I feel more at home in the water than I do on land and I love reading and I enjoy art and theater and music and I think giving people an imagination for disabled folks as full humans and subjects and not just as objects as we are often treated, is something really important to me. And of course we can all say that, but actually practicing that is one of the ways that I'm using humor there to hopefully give people a glimpse of my humanity outside of just these ideas. I think the second reason I used human, humor. I used humor for exactly the reason you picked up on, which is that it is really heavy material and this hopefully does draw the reader in and keep the reader engaged. And I think humor has a way of unifying us. We can laugh with one another and with a comedic scene that's happening, whether it be in a movie or a book or a comic. And I think that there is something unifying and that brings us together about humor and I hope to do that in the book through humor. Keith: So what are some feedback that you've gotten from your own home church and your own family? Because, I'm curious. Amy: I've been really surprised by the way that people in, you know, in the closest circles in my life have read the book and really tried to take it to heart and have been open to receiving it. That has been really encouraging to me, and it has been a real gift. I didn't anticipate that that would be the case. And so I have had many experiences that I have noted down in my own journals called Thin Places where I feel as though, you know, the, the place between us and between the now and the not yet is thin and wanting to recall those to mind when I have a hard day or when something happens that's rooted in ableism. And so I have just for myself, kept track of those moments and I have been really deeply encouraged by them. Keith: What, a very broad question, overall, what do you hope that people will take away from this book regardless of their faith? Amy: I hope that people will take away that disabled people are humans, that we have gifts to teach the world about what it means to be human. That we are worthy of dignity and respect and care and belonging, and that no amount of mobility devices or medical diagnoses or ableism put in our way can take away from the fact that we are divine. We are fearfully and wonderfully made, and we are divine. Keith: You mentioned the phrase, image bearers, a lot in the book. You also mention the phrase cripping the church a lot. Could you delve into those concepts or phrases a bit more. Cripping is this idea that the world is not built for us or with us, the us being disabled folks. And cripping is a practice, an ethos, a guide to make sure that we are building communities and spaces and environments that are centering disabled folks that are creating a culture of access where we are meeting one another's access needs without critique or condemnation. And it invites us to think about how when we are celebrating disability as a driver of innovation and as bearing witness to the divine, that it allows us to open up possibilities and to think about the church and our experiences and faith in a much more generative and expansive way. I think of disability as a creative force because we live in a world not built by us or for us, and that creative force has helped innovate in ways that non-disabled people have benefited from. Everything from the electric toothbrush to the Snuggie to texting to touch screens has been created by and for disabled folks and that practice of cripping something is an invitation for us to think about how disability should be and can be and is already a part of everywhere in our lives. And we should just recognize that and learn from and with disabled folks. One of the whys, of course, is the other term, which is being an image bearer, which is just the basic idea that we all bear the image of God and I had the audacity to actually believe that when I was taught that in Sunday school. And I haven't been treated like that often at church. I have been treated as though I am a defect, a disease, an embarrassment, a shame and that's not what scripture tells us. We are told that we are all made in the image of God. And that's something that I mention a lot in the book, as you say, because I want to remind people that that's what we say we believe and we should start acting like it. Keith: So just a personal anecdote for a minute, because it revolves around the electric toothbrush. I was born three months early. I have Cerebral Palsy and about a month and a half into my life, I could not breathe properly. There were air bubble pockets in my lungs and in my upper back and in order to save my life, the doctor used at that time, which was at standard size, an electric toothbrush so it was the size of a car phone. And he used another device that vibrated and it's very. So anything that vibrated needed to be employed to break up those air pockets in my upper back in order to make sure I continued to live. So, but you are right, the electric toothbrush accessibility angle benefits everyone, not just people with disabilities. Are you surprised when people tell you I had no idea that it was invented by a person with a disability? Or, oh I use so and so devices every day, I had no idea about accessibility. Amy: I don't think I'm surprised because I hear it so frequently. So I'm not surprised, but I am disappointed not to pull a parent card. But I do think that it's a bummer that people are surprised when disabled folks have innovated and created, because that says to me that they don't think that we are capable of innovation. And it's a bummer when people say that they've never thought about accessibility because that says to me that they don't have any disabled friends or colleagues or people in their lives who they're hanging with regularly, that they witness the lack of accessibility in a lot of built environments and what a bummer for them because what a gift it would be if we all were thinking about accessibility and witnessing the inherent creativity of the disability community every day. Keith: So one reference that you quote and this is from a book that was published in 1980 and the author's name, I won't even try to pronounce because I will definitely get it wrong. The Dream Mile in Our God. And you say “Jesus’s patience pace invites people to journey alongside him at the speed of love, it is slow and sporadic, but it's worth it. The three mile an hour God operates at the speed of love. God's time leaves space for wandering, withering and waiting. It reminds us that love is older than time. Love cannot be contained by clocks.” And then at the end of that page you say “Maybe then we could transform into something more Christ-like, we too could move at the speed of love.” Now the church it's called to do exactly that, but the ADA, the Americans with Disability Act is 32 years of age. Why do you think the church as a whole is so slow to adopt and recognize disabled parishioners as their own? Amy: I think in a lot of ways we disabled folks represent the ghost of Christmas, future to the broader community. And that makes people uncomfortable and I think a lot happens when people meet me when I roll up to church, even in a split second moment. I think subconsciously people are wrestling with their notions of what it means to worship a good God and how disability fits into that and the odyssey and questions of how disability is a part of the diversity of humanity. And I think people are also wrestling with their own fragility and humanity and thinking about the fact that many people who are non-disabled think of their identity in that way, that they aren't disabled and that they are capable and independent and can do things by themselves. And disability really punctures a lot of those myths. And I think the church has been particularly slow to embrace, celebrate, and learn from disabled folks because it has to really reckon with its history of all of those myths and baking those ideas into a lot of the other theology and practices. Keith: I very rarely reference my other work, but there's a reason why I have two copies of The Disabled God. It's that I was commissioned and offered the chance to preach at my church very early on and I used The Disabled God as one of the main references for my own sermon about my life and about disability and the Bible in general. And I titled that work The Disability of Love and I'll send it to you afterwards. But in terms of reading, writing about and reading The Disabled God, both personally and then encouraging other members of your church to see God as disabled, and to reframe disability and being disabled as not a bad thing at all, particularly if God himself was and continues to remain disabled. Talk about that process and how people reacted to that. Amy: That's the hardest part for people I think. Many people can get on board with the idea of including disabled neighbors, yay. But when you invite people to reconsider how God is connected to disability or is disabled, that's really tough for some people. And I have experienced a lot of people having an issue with that because they say, well, God has to be Divine or God has to be strong or God has to be beautiful. And when did we think that being disabled didn't mean you weren't divine, strong and beautiful? So I think there's still a lot of work to be done with that. I hold very closely the passages in Ezekiel and Daniel where God's throne is a chair with wheels. And that sounds a lot like a wheelchair to me. And I think when I am riding around in my own chariot that it emulates the throne of the living God. Keith: Talk about some of the scripture passages you use because you use a lot from both the old and the new testament. How much study and selection went into backing up your own writing about disability by anchoring it and imbuing it to holy scripture? Amy: I do use it a lot, and I hope that's not a critique, but that's true, I do. I do that deliberately because I didn't want people to come away from the book thinking, well that's nice, but that's just her thoughts. I did want it to be rooted in my experience, in my lived experience and my faith experience and in my experience of scripture. I think there are so many different stories in scripture that are about disability, but we erase it from those stories and I think that that is because so many non-disabled people who have talked about, preached about, translated, written about, study scripture, have been uncomfortable with disability, and one of my hopes was to share some of the ways that I have experienced those passages. So everything from healing or curing narratives with Jesus and John 9 to the great banquet in thinking about how disabled folks and poor folks are invited first and then accommodated. And there's no talk of critique in that narrative. It's just disabled and poor folks being welcomed at the table. And I think about Jacob becoming disabled and Jesus and really invite people into my inner world that I don't think I have heard very much of inside a church. I have read books and you know, sought out different scholars who are working on disability theology, but even that is very rarely from the perspective of disabled folks. And so I wanted to invite people into the way that I've experienced scripture for much of my life, but haven't really noticed non-disabled folks experiencing scripture in that same way, very broadly. Keith: Early on in the book you mentioned that there is a clear distinction or maybe not so clear distinction, between curing versus healing and talk more about that because I was very, very taken with how you elaborated on that those terms mean two very different things when they are very often used interchangeably and they really shouldn't be. What was the process of discovering that and putting that into words? Amy: Thanks. Yeah, that John 9’s story has been really important to me in thinking about the structure of the story. This is the story where a man who is born blind comes to Jesus and the disciples are asking, who sinned? This man, born blind, or his parents? And Jesus says, nope, neither he is blind so God's works can be revealed. And even after this man receives sight a few verses later, there's lots of social problems, he's still a social outcast. The folks in the community ostracize him and question him. And it's not until later in the story that I think the healing takes place and so this is a way for me to unpack the difference between curing and healing. Curing is a physical process. It's individual. It's usually fairly rapid, and it focuses on eliminating disease or disability. And healing is a sociocultural process. It focuses on restoring, restoring interpersonal, social and spiritual dimensions and it's also connected to or at least the word that's used in this passage, means to make whole or to save. And I give that as an example to invite people to rethink some of these curing and healing narratives. That they're not always just about a physiological process, but about the deeper messy work of healing that involves humans and personalities and restoration. And I also use that in the context of so many people who have approached me trying to cure me, either through potions or prayer, assumed that just by virtue of being disabled, that I'm sinning and need fixing, and ask people to think about the larger healing work that Jesus is doing and that we get to be a part of in our lives now. Keith: You end the book on a very powerful note, a very short sentence. “We are called to be disabled.” And earlier on throughout the whole book, and even in this conversation, and I completely agree with you, you refer to and call disability as a creative force. Talk more about that and how the reframing of disability happened in your own life and how that translated into the written word. Amy: How it transformed in my own life is through witnessing the radiance of creation. I had definitely inherited a lot of shame and stigma about being disabled and as a disabled kid, as you know from the book, I definitely tried to outpace and overcome and overwork being disabled, and I sigh because all of that was really futile and couldn't ever be done, and I shouldn't have had to grapple with that shame.That wasn't really about me anyway, that I think the church kind of gave me. But I started to notice out in creation that so many animals and trees are what we might term disabled, and yet we think they are delightful and beautiful. Kangaroos, I'm from Australia, and kangaroos can't walk backwards. They only hop forwards and they hop along in a way that, you know, looks kind of similar to my gate. You know, when ambulatory and getting out in and out of my wheels definitely hopped in a very particular gate and I thought, well, kangaroos seem cool. Why do I think it's sad when I do this? Kangaroos do this and they're cool. Lions sleep for over 20 hours per day, and yet when us spoonies don't have the energy to get stuff done or to get out of bed or to get dressed, that's somehow considered sad. But lions are majestic, and I started to think about how many trees had bumpy leaves and jagged edges and kind of crooked branches and how that connected to my own sense of physicality. Being crooked is a word that doctors would often use to describe my body. And I started to think, if the rest of creation has these qualities that my disabled body and mind has and it is radiant and vibrant, then why can't I be viewed in that same way? And I started to think about how my disabled body contains secrets that science is still discovering. My leg is as cold as ice from lack of circulation but ice is what synchronizes the ocean's tide. My leg is often blue and kind of a sapphire color because of lack of circulation, but so are sapphires and they're radiant. And I just started to have an imagination for how disability can also be radiant and in a world that would rather see us as dead than divine, really affirming my own, image bearing nature. And that's really, I mean that took a while, but that's the journey in a nutshell. Keith: So how was it meeting your husband through the church and I'm referring to that example where he was one of the persons carrying you, and you don't mention him much, but you wrote a beautiful, heartfelt dedication to him in the acknowledgements. And the reason I bring that up is I, before I figured out that those were the acknowledgements I thought you had ended the book there. And so even though he's not mentioned very often, I feel like I got a very clear picture of who he is through you. Talk about meeting him that way. Amy: Yeah. He's a kind human and I definitely recommend having an Andrew in your life. Or many Andrews who are kind and always can experience the best in people. In one story I tell about him in the book is when I've just come out of another doctor's appointment and I'm frustrated by how I've been treated and what some of the journey ahead is with perpetual torture, aka P T, physical therapy, and I sigh and scoff and have a moment where I say I wanna be normal. And Andrew says, but you're not normal. You're extraordinary. And I think I tell that story to show my own grappling with some of the frustrating moments, and that it's okay for all of us to have those moments and to give permission and invitation to other disabled folks to be honest with having those moments because the world is so heavy sometimes and dealing with it as a disabled person is really exhausting. And I wanted to share honestly and vulnerably about that and not only share the moments where I have it all together or I'm, you know, having a great day. But I also share that because it's important for us disabled folks to have people in our lives who will remind us when we forget that we are extraordinary and that no amount of access needs or perpetual torture appointments or doctor's appointments take away from that. And I think that is something I have been so grateful to have in my life and I hope to also be that for others as well. Keith: So the reason I bring your husband up, it's because it segways, and I wanted to hear you talk about him is because it segways into the joke or the unflinching humor. The one I enjoyed the most and I actually had to stop the audiobook and laugh out loud for about five minutes straight. So much that the laughter came up from my belly, which I haven't really been able to do since I was a wee child. So thank you for that. It's on the second to last page of the last chapter and you wrote this “My husband often helps me put my clothes on which is a fun reversal that purity culture didn't warn me about.” That is the ultimate zinger for a number of reasons but that also shows you at the most vulnerable and authentic with your humor, and that comes in at the very end of the book. And I really appreciated that because I had spent the last five plus hours going on this journey with you and when I heard and read that, I'm like, yep, that's Amy. And that's also something that quote unquote purity culture would never expect. How did that line, that incredibly sincere joke, on such an intimate topic come about and what did you feel? Did it feel too personal, but also you make a very good point about the church. Talk about that if you wouldn't mind. Amy: Well, I sort of forgot, I joked about that so there you go. But I included that and really all of the humor to make what I'm saying, hopefully memorable and to ask people to reconsider some of what I'm asking people to think about. I think something that happens a lot with disabled folks is that we are put into boxes. We are put into a box that is all about inspiring others, or we are put into a box that is about this idea that our lives are so tragic and hard and we are really just here to, by comparison, make people feel grateful for their lives. And I think humor is a great way to make sure people don't think that and to give us humanity and depth. And then also it's, this is part of a broader move, I think in the book, to ask people to have a glimpse into aspects of my life that maybe they don't consider. And to really wrestle with some of these logic theological issues on days that. On days that I need help getting dressed or getting to work or putting socks on. I am no less of an image bearer on those days and hopefully the book is asking for people to recognize that and then to actually live as though it were true. Keith: Indeed. For my own gratification, because I'm such a huge Shakespearean fan and anyone who knows me knows that's absolutely true. I even wrote a summon about finding God in Romeo and Juliet, which I never thought I would do. Talk about what brought you to lecture on Shakespeare and what are your favorite plays of Shakespeare? Amy: It's true that I teach Shakespeare, but I think what I really teach is compassion. Inviting students into thinking about how the plays represent humanity. And even if you don't have the same experience as these characters, because most of us do not, we can all relate to these stories and the way that they portray love and hate and vulnerability, pain, suffering, and particularly how that intersects with race, gender, sexuality, identity, disability. So I think Shakespeare is the tool that is used to talk about those larger topics. Keith: No, I was just agreeing with you that Shakespeare is perhaps the greatest writer to teach and explain to us about the infantly complexities of the human condition. Tying that back into the book you wrote, but for my own gratification, what parallels between Shakespeare and disability do you see the most? Amy: There are certainly disabled characters in Shakespeare's plays but I don't think that I read or watch Shakespeare to try to see my own life or understand my own life. I think he's an old dead white guy with a particular set of experiences. And the plays have a rich tapestry of humanity and of course lots of blood and guts and drama and that makes them enticing to a lot of people. But I don't think that Shakespeare is the be all, end all, to borrow a phrase from Macbeth. Or that Shakespeare is somehow uniquely genius or speaking to all of time. I think, you know, he's just one person and these are a collection of plays and just like all literature and art, we can find ourselves in them, but we don't need to look to them to give us some hope for the future. I think we are the hope. Keith: Is there any part of the book, your book, that you struggled with the most and is there a part that you wanted to delve deeper into, but for whatever reason couldn't find a way to use another weird phrase, flesh it out deeper? Amy: I definitely wrestled with which stories to share of my own, but also from scripture. There are many stories in my life and experiences with churches and experiences with scripture that I could have shared because I contain multitudes and I have many a story. But I think something I tried to remind myself of when writing the book is that this is a book, this is one that I tried to be vulnerable and authentic and faithful, and joyful through and in. But it doesn't have to be the only thing I ever say. So hopefully other stories and other readings can come in a different form. Keith: So as we wrap up, and thank you for again your unflinching vulnerability, authenticity, and most of all your humor, which is just incredible. What is next for you in terms of writing? Because I hope I'm not the only one who's ever told you this, you write really good and you smashed it outta the park with your debut book. So what topic do you want to tackle next? Amy: Well, thanks. That means a lot. I'm not sure what's next. I am trying to be present and see what happens. I wrote this book for little Amy and I hope that I honored her and we'll see what happens next. I'm just following the cloud. Keith: So if there are any aspiring disability advocates who want to know how to get into disability advocacy professionally, like you do with the Jubilee Homes OC, a permanent supportive housing initiative. What are five action steps that you would give them? The next generation of advocates looking to make a difference in the local communities? Amy: One of the most important things is to develop community. Community of support. Make sure that you are not trying to do it alone. We have a lot of networks of people around and we can create that beautiful interdependence and co-create some c- flourishing. So I think that's the most important thing, is don't try to do it alone. Whether you are developing a community in person or online or both, reach out to folks around you. And I think I would also say, don't feel as though you have to know it all upfront. There's a premium on knowledge and getting it right and using the right everything the first time and we all get to learn and grow together. So make sure to hold yourself accountable, but also give yourself some room to grow and to learn. Keith: So I like to think that this episode, like all the episodes of the podcasts, reaches both disability advocates and those who have yet to discover or embrace their disabilities, and I am under no assumption that those two groups will take the same things away from each episode. As the guest, what do you hope disability advocates will take away from everything we've talked about in this episode? One of many, I hope that we do together in the future, and what do you hope that people who have yet to discover and embrace their disabilities will take away from this episode? Keith: I hope that disability advocates will take away that I am cheering you on and even if we are not together physically or we never meet, that I'm cheering you on and we have a broad, diverse, vibrant community and to not lose hope. To folks who are still discovering that they are disabled, to folks who are questioning whether they are disabled enough to be part of the community, to folks who know that they are disabled but are too embarrassed to say it out loud. I hope that they take away that you are divine. Keith: If someone wants to get in touch with you or follow you on social media, what is the best way to do that? Amy: I'm not on socials at the moment, just giving myself a break. But if folks want to get it in touch, they can reach out to one another and develop their own communities, right where they are. Keith: Well, Amy Kenny, I certainly hope we meet one day because I could talk to you about your book, My Body Is Not a Prayer Request: Disability Justice in the Church for hours. It was such an enlightening, but more than that, empowering read. And you are an extraordinary writer. You've made me through your writing, both fall in love and discover the passion and purpose of being vulnerable and authentic in writing. And that is something I want to end the episode on. I do hope that you will come back again and talk more about your continued advocacy and the book, again is My Body Is Not a Prayer Requests: Disability Justice in the Church. I recommend that you pick it up and if you can, get the audio book as well because it is a delightful listening experience, even though it's not read by the author. Amy, I wish you and your family a very safe and happy holiday and New Year and I hope we get to see a lot more of each other. Thank you so much for coming on. Amy: Thanks Keith for having me. Keith: You have been listening to Disability Empowerment Now. I would like to thank my guest today and you, the listener. More information about the podcast can be found on visit on disabilityempowermentnow.com. The podcast is available wherever you listen to podcasts or on the official website. This episode of Disability Empowerment Now is copyrighted 2023.

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