A teachable moment regarding the word retarded + “The Mysterious Disappearance of the Reluctant Book Fairy” by Elizabeth George


Words and choices. Words can be magic, or they can be hurtful. Unthinkingly, someone can make a wrong word choice and a day can come crashing down.

That happened to me today. A Starbucks Barista unthinkingly and without malice used the word retarded.

Yes, she was talking about herself. And it still brought tears to my eyes.

This girl should know better. I just don’t think she knows why she should know better. I know what she was thinking: she was talking about herself, not my daughter, so who did it hurt?

Let me take a moment to explain it. Actually, I will just use my words from the e-mail I wrote to Starbucks to explain it.

I was just at Starbucks, going through the drive-thru for my Friday treat. The Barista taking my order made a mistake and said, “I’m so retarded   . . . ”

And I cried. Literally.

I have a daughter with Down syndrome, so I’m ultra sensitive to that word. That words does not mean stupid, it means slow. It is a medical term used to describe my daughter’s disability. If you met my daughter, and most people this word MEDICALLY describes, you would never call them stupid. She is very smart; she can make anyone smile, and can manipulate you to do her bidding without you even realizing it. She is slow to read and to write and to learn, but she is not stupid.

I’m sure you have taught your Baristas not to use the word gay as a pejorative, and not to use racial disparities or tell off color jokes. Please, please, please ask your Baristas to take retarded out of the their vocabulary.

Starbucks, to their immense credit, answered my e-mail quickly. The person who replied understood, told me they would talk to the store, and put money on my Starbucks card. I’m pleased as punch with the reply; I hope my message is passed on word-for-word and understood.

Because no one else is going to fight this fight. It’s up to us, the loved ones and advocates of the developmentally disabled, to fight the words and gestures that belittle and hurt, that take away a little of their (and our) humanity.

As for the money they put on my card? I’m going to use that to take Katy to our local Starbucks, so they can see who that word is hurting.

Okay, onto Elizabeth George’s beautifully imaginative novella:  The Mysterious Disappearance of the Reluctant Book Fairy.

What a perfect short book, imaginative and mysterious, all at the same time. And by Elizabeth George!

The Premise

Janet Shore is quiet girl born into a large family, but she has one lucky bit of fate that befalls her: she’s also kind of sickly. That kid who catches every sickness that’s going around. Why is that lucky? Because, while she’s stuck in bed, Janet finds books.

Janet not only discovers books, but she discovers she can transport herself and others literally INTO the stories. After a broken heart in college causes her to wander unfulfilled, Janet (now Annapurna) returns home. Her childhood best friend, Monie, gets her a job as the town librarian, and Janet is content. Monie, not quite unhappy in her life but bored, convinces Janet to transport her into Rebecca during a quiet moment at the library.

However, a busybody overhears them, and convinces Janet to use her talents to make money for her many charities, and Janet is stuck. After word gets around, Janet rarely has a moment to herself. EVERYONE wants to be transported into their favorite book.

How will Janet get away from it all? How will she ever get her own life?

You’ll have to spend the hour reading this book and find out.

My Thoughts

The Mysterious Disappearance of the Reluctant Book Fairy is a very imaginative, fun story. I’ve always loved Elizabeth George. Thomas Lynley is one of my favorite characters, as well as the awesome Barbara Havers. But, I digress. They’re not in this story at all.

This book is a little fantasy, a lot character, and a little mystery. Just long enough to have tons of detail, but short enough for a quick read. It took me a little less than an hour, and I think I’m an average-to-fast reader.

Fun and full of whimsy, I highly recommend this quick read. Janet Shore aka Annapurna will stick with you.

4 stars.


2 thoughts on “A teachable moment regarding the word retarded + “The Mysterious Disappearance of the Reluctant Book Fairy” by Elizabeth George

  1. I think that it is important to educate people on using different forms of words when describing a situation. They might not try to be mean or insensitive but the ignorance part of using the words is a big factor in the situation. Saying the words such as depressed or feeling OCD is not appropriate when they do not fully understand the word itself. I think that it is better for us to educate each other on this matter. I love your view on this and how you handle it well. 🙂


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