In her memoir Love & Justice, Diana Morgan-Hill tells her incredible tragedy-to-triumph story around those two universal themes. As a young woman, the author’s hunt for love was complicated by an accident that caused her to have both legs amputated. Hill takes her readers inside Britain’s courtrooms on another, simultaneous hunt for justice.
Love & Justice naturally begins with the catalyst for everything—the accident. Upon entering the train station on her way to a business meeting, Hill noticed her train had already pulled in. She hurried on her way over to the platform and boarded the train, and throughout her account, she insists it remained stationary—a crucial insistence, since the company, British Rails, claimed that Hill attempted to board a moving train.
While each party contested the other’s version of the events leading up to the accident, what happened next is clearly recalled by all and wholly undisputed: The train started to depart while Hill was caught between the rail and the train. Her life changed forever.
Attempting to Empathize
As Hill described the immediate aftermath of her life-changing accident, I found myself attempting to empathize by recalling a shocking, painful moment from my own experience. Apparently, my reaction is a common one, as Hill wrote about it in the next paragraph: “Some people, desperately trying to understand how I felt, would come and talk of some injury or pain they’d endured in their life to try and put it on scale to my agony. They wanted and needed to empathise on a very deep level.”
What well-placed words! They made me aware of an internal voice that was shouting, “Shut up!” Rather than trying to relate to Hill’s experiences, which was placing the focus on me instead of the true victim, I cleared my mind and really listened to her. Doing so prepared me and allowed me to learn.
An Educational Read
It strikes me as funny that I am a writer who covers a disability beat, but I quickly forget the vastness of experience surrounding disability. Reflecting on Love & Justice , I thought of remarks from my “Inclusion Spotlight” interview with Will Halby, co-founder of Zeno Mountain Farm, a non-profit organization that cultivates lifelong friendships Halby said “We categorize people as having Down syndrome or autism or spinal cord injury or whatever. Then the biggest crime is we put them all, all in one huge category for our own convenience. I don’t even know how to describe how detrimental that is to people.” (Read the complete interview).
To place amputees in the same category as autism or cerebral palsy and call it all “disability” overlooks the issues unique to amputees. Hill taught me about these specific issues. For instance in chapter 12 “Hello and Goodbye”, she wrote about losing her connection to the earth:
I also felt an intense mourning of loss for my connection with the earth. This came as a shock. Something that’s taken wholly for granted is the job of connecting to the ground that feet carry out. I’d lost it and felt, still feel, a literal sense of being adrift, of airborne loss.
Still… There are Similarities
Love & Justice goes beyond the issues unique to amputees as it showcases the similarities between their challenges and those common to people with other disabilities. Hill’s stories about dating with a disability enable the similarities to emerge. This encounter from Chapter 27 is one example:
“There was one horribly awkward moment when an attractive man came to sit opposite me as I waited for Sarah in the Majestic bar. By the eye contact he was clearly interested in the way I looked. And then I got up to welcome Sarah and his face dropped to the floor as he saw me pick up the two walking sticks. I was deeply hurt and have never forgotten that sudden change in facial expression.”
Now, I’m certain that will be a universal point of connection for the disability community! Perhaps Hill’s take on the word “disabled” shared in the memoir can explain away the apparent paradox. “I couldn’t relate to the word at all. I always felt that one disabled a computer, you can’t disable a person, there is still something of them there, a spirit, a movement of sorts, a life that, in most cases, should be lived.”
Love & Justice by Diana Morgan-Hill is well-written and interesting, and it is a book that will find success in many target audiences. Anyone who wants to learn more about adjusting to life after amputation gets an inside view from the author’s experience. Demystifying disability also makes this book a good choice for anyone looking for material about dating someone with a disability. Most importantly, though, new amputees and their loved ones should read Love & Justice… because reading about Hill’s experiences will comfort you by letting you know you are not alone, thus also empowering you to keep going during a very difficult period in your life.
*Disclaimer- Think Inclusive received Love & Justice from the author at no cost from the author in exchange for an honest review.