Lara Calleja, freelance writer and founder of speech-writing service Mill-Qalb has made waves in the local and international literary spheres this year after becoming the first Maltese woman to win the European Union Prize for Literature (EUPL).
Despite her successes however, Ms Calleja has been subjected to her fair share of prejudices, she reveals, mainly playing upon her physical condition. These became somewhat more frequent after the writer-founder appeared on the front-page of The Sunday Circle – a local, monthly publication – to discuss her work.
In light of this, Ms Calleja took to social media to explain how, no matter how ‘well-intended’ certain comments may be, they are better left unsaid.
“That Sunday Circle article wasn’t meant to earn me admiration for being successful despite having a physical condition,” Ms Calleja started.
“Rather, it was meant to show that I don’t want to be defined by my physical condition. Actually, no person with any sort of physical condition should be pre-defined about what they should be capable of doing,” she explained.
Ms Calleja was shortlisted for the EUPL together with Maltese Author Joe Pace. In her award-winning short story anthology Kissirtu Kullimkien, Ms Calleja brings a series of characters to life to discuss Malta’s construction-related issues directly and indirectly.
“A condition is part of a person, but it does not define that person. That person should take credit for all that they do – not because they did something extraordinary considering their physical condition, but simply because they deserve credit,” the writer continued.
Ms Calleja pointed out that patronising “phrases like ‘god bless her’ – although coming from a good place” only go to show “society’s low expectations of people with physical conditions.”
“I’m no saint and I’m no superwoman. I’m Lara Calleja, and I never let people’s prejudices break me down. So for this, I’d like to thank my mother, who never made me feel like I wasn’t normal,” she concluded.
Lara Calleja / LinkedIn
At the time of writing, his journey has led to £24,849 (€28,665) being raised for mental health charities.
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