Growing Up: Disability and Cultural Dynamics in an Egyptian/American Family

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Christine-Marie Youssef


Visual Disability, Egyptian Families, Personal Narrative


This paper explores my personal narrative as a young adult woman in my mid-twenties with a visual disability.  I describe my experiences and how disability generally is perceived in the Egyptian culture, in particular within the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Christian community in the United States.  The aim of this paper is to illuminate the impact of comments, gestures and overall treatment from this community’s people on its members with disabilities.  The actions of close family members throughout various rites of passage at different stages of life is another central theme of this paper, for it highlights the impact of acceptance, overprotection, exposure, and independence on the daily life experiences of a person with a disability.  I discuss how my values and assumptions as a person with a disability can sometimes conflict and other times coincide with those of my immediate, extended and religious families.  While this paper explores the narrative of one individual, it has the potential to challenge people’s stereotypes and behaviors which may subsequently impact the lives of people with disabilities.  As human beings, people with disabilities are all a part of various “families” whether religious, biological, or the (dis)ability-related communities.  Overall, this paper explores my personal narrative, given the interaction of multiple components of identity—gender, race, age, religion and disability. 

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