It’s not hard to find stories about people with disabilities (PWD), but the problem with many of them is that they’re often written by and for people without disabilities.
It’s important to seek out literature created by and for PWD for a number of reasons. Personally, as someone with a disability, I think it’s much easier to see myself in a story that isn’t rooted in the idea that it must inspire someone or make them question whether they could do what we do every day.
Knowing this, I put together a short list of stories, poems, and other works written by people with disabilities. These are writers who have portrayed their experience in a way that is more relatable to those of us in the disabled community than a story written by someone who hasn’t shared these experiences.
1. Beauty Is a Verb
Jennifer Bartlett, Sheila Black, and Michael Northern
This is a brilliant and eclectic collection of essays, memoirs, and poetry that expresses a range of emotions from different writers with disabilities. The stories are vulnerable and emotional, making for a very powerful read.
2. Good Kings and Bad Kings
Susan R. Nussbaum
Nussbaum’s book tells the story of seven diverse teenagers living in an institution for juveniles with disabilities. As the story progresses, the characters develop deep friendships with one another, resulting in a range of emotions for both the characters and the reader. Throughout the book the characters dispel many misconceptions about what living with disabilities really means.
3. Stairs and Whispers
Sandra Alland, Khairani Barokka, Daniel Sluman
Stairs and Whispers is an anthology of poems created by members of various disabled communities. The poetry ranges in style, length, content, and perspective, but all have one essential thing in common: representation of disabled people in literature in both content and creation. The book contains some of the most raw and honest depictions of disability—a refreshing read that doesn’t shy away from reality.
4. Girl at War
In her debut novel, deaf author Sara Novic tells a stunning story about the 1991 Yugoslavian war and what it meant to have lived through such a traumatic event. The book is separated into two different time periods in the protagonist’s life: when she was young and living amid a war, and when she is older and safe in America. The novel has been nominated for several literary awards, proving that literature written from different perspectives result in amazing stories that people need to know.
5. El Deafo
El Deafo is a graphic novel memoir about growing up with hearing loss. Having grown up deaf herself, Bell decided to write a story so that those without hearing disabilities can learn to communicate respectfully with people who are hard of hearing or D/deaf. The novel was awarded the John Newbery Medal in 2015.