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Lighthearted graphic novel highlights accessibility and celebrates nerd culture

Emphasizing inclusivity in books and TV shows, this whimsy, GenAlpha puppy love tale will have you shipping its characters

Stars in Their Eyes page spread
Stars in Their Eyes Book Cover

Title

Stars in their Eyes

Author(s)

Jessica Walton and Aśka

Genre

Graphic Novel | LGBTQIA+ | Young Adult

Decked out in a “The Future is Accessible” T-shirt, Maisie, a fourteen-year-old bi-sexual above-the-knee amputee, and her quirky mom, Jo, travel more than six hours to attend Fanxcon, Maisie’s first fancon (like Comic-Con). Maisie hopes to meet her idol, Kara Bufano, an above-the-knee amputee who plays one (Luna) on the fictitious TV show Midnight Girls. From the get-go, Walton (the writer) and Aśka (the illustrator) demonstrate exactly how disablist the world is by weaving in tiny nuances in the story and illustrations that non-disabled folks take for granted.

Jo and Maisie stop for the night at a motel near the convention center and Maisie, who seems adept at swimming in pools with accessibility issues, decides to swim off the car-ride knots from her limbs. A strange woman approaches Maisie while she’s swimming and tells her how inspiring she is… for swimming. She’s just swimming. This scene is eye-opening for nondisabled people. It shows us that we should stop being creepy and that disabled people like their privacy, too. Someone came up to me (probably because I was wearing cargo shorts, a T-shirt, and a backward baseball cap) at the grocery store and said I reminded her of her granddaughter and that she loved her granddaughter. I had nothing to say except, “That’s so nice.” I hope she loved her granddaughter, but no one wants to be interrupted by something so asinine while doing mundane chores.

The next day at Fanxcon, Maisie meets Ollie, a fifteen-year-old nonbinary volunteer, at the event. They instantly connect and find space in their already-planned day to spend time with each other. Their budding romance is adorable. And throughout the story, I learned of the hardships of amputees. For instance, wearing a prosthetic is painful, something as simple as sitting in plastic chairs can be excruciating, and cancer survivors must take a shit ton of medication.

Not only is it a cute queer teen romance, but this is also a story of positive visibility. Maisie and Ollie bond over their favorite TV shows and protagonists because they each feel represented in them. And there’s nothing better than seeing yourself in your favorite actor/character’s body.

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About the author(s).

Jessica Walton is a queer, disabled writer and speaker. They co-wrote an episode of the Australian comedy series Get Krak!in that focused on disability, and they are also the author of Introducing Teddy, a picture book illustrated by Dougal MacPherson. Jess’s short stories have been published in Australian anthologies Funny Bones and Meet Me at the Intersection, and their poetry can be found in Growing Up Disabled in Australia and The (Other) F Word: a Celebration of the Fat and Fierce.

Aśka is creative dynomite. She’s an award-winning artist and graphic novelist, an ex-quantum physicist, and a big fan of the little doohickey above the s in her name (which is pronounced “Ash-ka”). A hugely engaging and popular presenter, Aśka is passionate about visual literacy and has published more than ten books and graphic novels. When she’s not creating children’s books, Aśka travels across Western Australia as a roving science communicator. Sometimes, she sleeps.

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