Jamie Sumner is an author who has written for publications like the New York Times and the Washington Post. She is a mother to her son Charlie who has cerebral palsy. In her newest middle grade novel, Roll With It, Jamie tells the story of Ellie, a young girl who has cerebral palsy.
Jamie recently sat down with us at AbleThrive to talk about her new book. Check out the interview below.
What is the inspiration behind your book, Roll With It?
I wrote ROLL WITH IT for my son, Charlie, who also has cerebral palsy. He is seven and in a wheelchair. My hope is that one day he can roll into school and see more people like him represented in the books he reads. He deserves to feel accepted and that the way he lives is as normal as everyone else.
What do you hope is one take away a reader can have after reading your book?
I hope that whoever reads this story, no matter their abilities, will walk away with a sense that people are so much more than what they seem. What we look like and how we walk or talk is only a teeny tiny part of who we are. Ellie, the main character, is twelve and she dreams of being a famous baker. She practices recipes all the time and writes letters to her favorite chefs. She’s also witty, a bit sarcastic, and fiercely loyal to her friends and family. She’s multidimensional, like we all are.
What advice do you have for other parents who have children with disabilities?
Whew. That’s a big question. I think my best advice would be to find support – whether that be with other parents who get it, your significant other, or the care team for your child. We can’t walk this road alone. I’m more inclined to being a loner, and it took me a long time to learn to lean in to the people in my life who could help me and love me and my child. I think society tends towards isolationism. You can live like that but you can’t thrive like that. You need people.
What’s one misconception about having a child with a disability?
People think it’s hard all the time and somehow less fulfilling than if my child were typically-abled. But our life is wonderful! My spouse often says, and I agree, that Charlie is just Charlie. He is who he is and we can’t imagine him any other way. He’s loving and creative and energetic and outgoing and he loves his life. He’s a happy kid and we’re a happy family.
How important is representation of disability in the media?
We need more disability in the media. I would yell it from the rooftops if I could. We need to see more strong females in wheelchairs and with speech disorders and autism and everything else. It’s starting to crop up in fashion and somewhat on television, but the girl power in particular needs a boost. It’s not enough to run a few shows like “Speechless” or “Atypical”. If 1 in 7 children have a disability, then we need more actors on screen playing those characters.
What can the media do to ensure that disability is portrayed in an authentic way?
They need to hire people with disabilities! And I’m not just talking actors and models. I want screenwriters and production managers and set designers in on it. What better way to ensure authenticity than by hiring the people who live with a disability to portray this kind of life?
Check out the book review of Roll With It here!
Thanks to Jamie for sharing her story with AbleThrive.com!