As a part of Disability History Month, we have put together a list of books – both fiction and non-fiction - that feature characters and stories with disability representation. We hope this encourages you to explore further how disabled characters are represented because this allows us to understand the experiences they face every day. Through the accurate and respectful representation of disabled people in literature, with narratives that advocate the complexities, triumphs, and often limitations of this existence, these books spark a much-needed dialogue on inclusivity and empowerment within the realms of storytelling.
Don't miss What's On Wednesday x DHM: Blind Date with a Book on Wed 22 Nov at The Studio.
Frida Kahlo And My Left Leg - Emily Rapp Black
Before her amputation, Frida Kahlo had faced the impact of polio on her right leg during childhood. Emily Rapp, an amputee since age four, discovered a deep connection with Kahlo long before their paths crossed. Drawn to Kahlo's painting depicting a life-altering bus crash, Rapp felt an immediate kinship. Both endured surgeries grappled with revealing their transformed bodies and navigated life's pains to create and thrive.
In her compelling narrative, Rapp delves into Kahlo's essence through her art, letters, and diaries. Through her own story of loss, love, and motherhood, Rapp finds solace and guidance in Kahlo's life and work when faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges, offering a distinctive perspective on Kahlo and the adversities she confronted.
How to Lose Everything: A Memoir - Christa Couture
From the pivotal amputation in her youth due to bone cancer to the fleeting moments of her first child's life, the tumultuous journey of a heart transplant for her second child ending in tragedy, a grief-fueled divorce, and a career-threatening thyroidectomy—'How to Lose Everything' unearths the core of loss. Couture's narrative bears witness to the profound transformation that loss triggers, illuminating how it can amplify empathy, broaden perspectives, and encourage letting go of trivialities while nurturing a profound appreciation for what truly matters. Amidst the sorrow, Couture's prose captures the essence of joy and lightness that both precede and follow grief, intertwining themes of hope, resilience, and the enduring strength found in human connections.
Disability Visibility - Alice Wong
In the United States, one in five individuals lives with a disability, yet they remain largely unseen in media and popular culture. As the thirtieth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act approaches, activist Alice Wong curates a compelling anthology of personal essays by contemporary disabled writers, offering a timely and compelling insight.
Within this collection, Harriet McBryde Johnson's powerful account of her debate with philosopher Peter Singer on her own personhood, alongside columnist S. E. Smith's uplifting review of disabled performers' theatre, stand out. Featuring original works from emerging authors like Keah Brown and Haben Girma, the anthology encompasses blog posts, manifestos, eulogies, and Congressional testimonies, offering a diverse mosaic of the multifaceted disabled experience.
This anthology challenges readers to reassess their preconceptions, celebrating and documenting disability culture in its present form while fostering hope and love for the future and honouring the past.
The Secret of Haven Point - Lisette Auton
Alpha Lux was abandoned as an infant near a secluded lighthouse and raised by a mermaid, marking the genesis of Haven Point's foundlings. Now, this lighthouse stands as a makeshift refuge for the disabled seeking a sense of belonging. The Wrecklings, sustaining themselves by plundering passing ships, navigate their days with adventures along the untamed shoreline, often finding themselves at odds with the grown-ups.
However, when Alpha glimpses an unfamiliar light on the headland, the safety of her cherished family faces peril from Outsiders. As their sanctuary teeters on the brink of exposure, the Wrecklings confront a critical choice about their collective destiny... and the lengths they're willing to go to protect it.
So Lucky - Nicola Griffith
Mara Tagarelli, at the helm of a thriving AIDS foundation and a dedicated martial artist, finds her life upended. Her support system falters, her body fails her, and those she counted on begin to see her solely as a victim. Determined to rewrite her narrative, she forges a new community, discovers untapped strengths, and prepares for battle. Yet, what happens when the story you've lived by is untrue? How do you fight when your body feels untrustworthy? Who can you turn to when those around you don't have your best interests at heart, and the systems meant to assist you prove harmful? Mara takes a stand, triggering a chain of events that threaten her newfound community.
This is a tale from the frontline of fiction—intense and pressing—a story that dismantles sentimentality to reveal America's harsh treatment of the disabled and chronically ill. 'So Lucky' ignites with hope and an unyielding self-love, showcasing the possibilities of a life liberated from falsehoods.