Around New Year's Day of every year, my wife and I reflect on the highlights from the previous 12 months. For 2012, while she and I had many individual accomplishments, and cherished moments as a couple, two items on my list of highlights had no direct connection to me. The first was Peter Dinklage winning a Golden Globe for his work on "Game of Thrones." About 30 years ago, Linda Hunt, also a dwarf, won an Academy Award for her role in The Year of Living Dangerously, but Dinklage's award resonated deeper with me, probably because I am an adult now, and because awareness of dwarfism is rising to a crescendo. Dinklage's award seemed to add even more legitimacy to the dwarfism community's efforts to demand that we be treated as equal partners, not excess baggage to be pulled out for some comedic relief. Dinklage's award also took the community another tremendous step away from the historical bias of dwarfs being relegated in popular culture to the role of punch line.
The second highlight was the publication of Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon. In the book, Solomon immerses himself into a number of what he calls "horizontal communities." Dwarfism is one of these communities. I had heard about the book before it was published. But I hadn't been aware of the author's previous work, and as a result didn't know of all the anticipation around the publication of Far From the Tree in the literary community and the general community. The magnitude of the book, and the impact that the book would have on the general population, struck me when a review appeared in The New Yorker. Similar to Dinklage's award, the popularity of Far From the Tree, and the critical attention given to the book, has helped give legitimacy to the dwarfism community's efforts to be recognized as a community and to be valued for our contributions to society as a community and as individuals. The contributions we want to be recognized for have little to do with our dwarfism and much more to do with our individual talents. Peter Dinklage was recognized not for his dwarfism, but for his acting ability. The people Solomon highlights in the chapter on dwarfism are memorable not for their stature, but for their character.
I've read two and half chapters from Far From the Tree. Obviously, I didn't save the dwarfism chapter for last. I read it second. The book is long, seven hundred pages. I hope to finish it before the Little People of America National Conference, at which Solomon will be a guest speaker. Even if I don't finish the book, I have several take aways from the dwarfism chapter that I won't forget. My favorite is a quote from Linda Hunt, the Academy Award Winning Actress from The Year of Living Dangerously. On page 126, Solomon quotes Hunt as saying, "It (dwarfism) is you. But you aren't it, and that's an important distinction."
A line such as the one by Hunt is a line that can be interpreted many ways. Perhaps that is the beauty of the line. For me, the line means, "Yes indeed, I am a person of short stature. I am proud to be a person of short stature, and I cherish the dwarfism community that I've come to be a part of. But dwarfism doesn't define me. I do not cry because I am dwarf. I do not laugh because I am a dwarf. I do fail and I do not excel because of my dwarfism. Dwarfism is just one thread of the fabric that makes up who I am today." Some people still fail to see the tapestry of the lives of dwarfs. But with people like Hunt, Dinklage and Solomon, full exposure is only a matter of time.