The Nonconsensual Aspect of Childhood

In class, earlier in the semester, we discussed Corundum’s death in The Fifth Season (447). Essun, Innon, and Alabaster were parents to Corundum and swore to protect him from the hands of the Fulcrum. The Fulcrum was the foundation of the systematic slavery the orogenes had to face, which Essun and Alabaster experienced firsthand. But with the arrival of the Guardians on the island, Essun was forced to make the difficult decision of killing Corundum in order to spare him from the future pain he would have had to face in the Fulcrum. Corundum had no voice in his death as he was a young child, but nevertheless, it was nonconsensual. Personally, I think Essun made the correct decision, but that’s neither here nor there. But with the idea that childhood is mostly a nonconsensual experience in mind, I couldn’t help be reminded of the fascinating murder case of Dee Dee and her daughter Gypsy.

In 1991, a small town woman Dee Dee gave birth to a baby girl named Gypsy Rose Blanchard. According to Dee Dee, Gypsy was riddled with several mental and physical ailments, mostly stemming from Gypsy’s premature birth. So, naturally, Gypsy was given several surgeries and medication to relieve her from the pain she was in. But, in reality, Dee Dee was putting up a front. She would shave her daughter’s head, remove her saliva glands, implant tubes for frequent ear infections, and more, all in order to further the image of the “sick child” and receive pity from others. To the general public, they were a charming, heartwarming duo, but Dee Dee was actually just suffering from proxy disease, a mental disorder where a caretaker feigns illness in their patient for sympathy. As time passed, Gypsy grew more rebellious, and began to explore past the limitations set by her mother using the internet. Through the internet, Gypsy met her boyfriend with who she planned the murder of her mother. Thankfully, police were able to solve the murder quickly by tracing the IP address of a Facebook post saying “that Bitch is Dead.”

 

Why does this strange and haunting murder relate to Jemisin’s trilogy? Well – connecting back – this discussion took me off guard, because calling the experience of childhood “nonconsensual” seemed counterintuitive, in my perspective. Of course childhood is consensual, because children haven’t matured  enough to fully grasp their surroundings and what actions to follow through with. But, there are extreme cases like that of Dee Dee and Gypsy. The connection here may not be direct, but I do think it does poses the question of how can we, collectively, make childhood more consensual? A free flowing conversation between a guardian and a child is important, because it builds the foundation for a healthy mindset for the child. I took AP Psychology in high school (disclaimer: this does not qualify my thoughts whatsoever, but I’d like to provide some background to my reasoning), and one of the aspects the course examined was the relationship between a child and their caretaker. This primary relationship can serve as a detriment to a child’s future if not properly nurtured. I think this is nicely exemplified in The Stone Sky with Nassun and Jija’s twisted father and daughter relationship. Because of Jija’s constant rejection and ignoring of Nassun being an orogene, Nassun intensely struggles with identity issues and is torn between choosing her father’s acceptance and embracing her orogene biology. All in all, childhood is truly a weird time period in a person’s life, it’s so sensitive and amazing, but also scary and frightening at times (by which I mean all the time as someone who just turned 18 and is an adult, technically).

 

Anywho, if you are interested in finding more about the page turning gory details of Dee Dee’s murder. Here’s a link to a more in depth article:

https://nypost.com/2017/05/09/woman-tricked-her-daughter-into-being-mentally-ill-and-paid-the-price-with-her-life/

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