Book Review: Say Hello by Carly Findlay

A powerful fusion of manifesto and memoir from one of Australia’s prominent disability activists.
Book Review: Say Hello by Carly Findlay

Carly Findlay's Say Hello.

Named as one of Australia’s most influential women in 2014 by Australian Financial Review, Carly Findlay is a writer, speaker and appearance activist who has been blogging about her lived experiences since 2009.

An electric voice on social media and in the disability community, ten years on from her first blog post Findlay writes a fierce memoir on her life and how it’s shaped her as the activist she is today.

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Affecting one in 200,000 newborns, Findlay was born with a rare genetic skin disorder Ichthyosis. She describes it as ‘red and scaly’, her skin often feels itchy and sore. With frequent trips to see doctors and specialists she knew early that she was ‘different’.

Often excluded in the playground as a child Findlay is honest with the reader, and herself. ‘I didn’t like how I looked. But looking at the photos decades later, I wish I could have seen myself through Big Carly’s eyes. So cute. So worthy of smiling for a photo.’

However, she doesn’t want her memoir to be treated as ‘inspiration porn’, a term coined by late comedian and disability activist Stella Young, herself a massive influence on Findlay.

‘I don’t want to inspire you, or anyone, just by existing. If I must inspire you, I want you to use that inspiration to create positive change,’ Findlay writes.

Winding through Findlay’s life we read about her discomfort at her body being constantly medicalised by others. And if you were wondering, no she doesn’t want you to pray for her, thank you. There is also the horror episode with online forum Reddit, where a user posted an image of her on the site. Her brave decision to confront the trolls and in turn change their viewpoint is stellar.

Late last year Findlay was a guest on an ABC Melbourne radio show hosted by a prominent radio host. She was speaking on micro-aggressions; the exclusion and discrimination faced by some in our community. This car-crash interview highlighted the dismissive, privileged and wilfully ignorant point of view held by some people in power.

Statements such as, ‘You look like a burns victim,’ and mentions of Halloween were casually thrown at Findlay. And that wasn’t even the most abhorrent part of the interview with her sex life being held up for interrogation.

With such an established platform in Australian media, the host was giving the greatest examples of micro-aggression. Findlay, however, held herself with dignity throughout the interview. And when addressing this incident in Say Hello Findlay doesn’t name the radio host in question. She is just way too classy for that.

Fundamentally Say Hello is an open dialogue with the wider community. Yes Findlay reveals her life, her struggles and her wins. But it’s more than that, it’s an illuminating antidote for the toxic social environment some in our community face.

Findlay makes several astute observations throughout the book and explores topics with candour about her own lived experience. For example she discusses her vexation when disability is left off the feminist agenda, and how she feels when trying to access mainstream fashion. We learn of her intimate journey with love and her incredible family dynamic is revealed.

‘They didn’t blame themselves, or anyone for my Ichthyosis, nor did they sit around moping … Mum and Dad never invited the media into our home – even though we’d see stories about disabled kids on 60 Minutes. “You were Carly, you were not an object or a spectacle,” Mum says.’

Empowering, moving and thoughtful, Say Hello is an honest account of Findlay’s life. Findlay is and will continue to be an important voice in Australian culture.

4 stars ★★★★
Say Hello
By Carly Findlay

ISBN: 9781460755037
ISBN 10: 1460755030
Imprint: HarperCollins - AU
On Sale: 29/01/2019
Pages: 336
List Price: $32.99 AUD
BISAC1: BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Personal Memoirs

About the author

Andrea Simpson is ArtsHub's Feature Writer and Reviews Editor. Andrea is a Filipino-Australian writer with a love for diverse Australian stories. She is curious about all forms of art, though she has an especially keen interest in the publishing sector.

Andrea has had short stories published in various anthologies, and is currently working on her first novel.  

You can follow Andrea on Instagram @andi_jayyy