Diverse literature is growing in popularity, but not many books authentically represent the disability experience. Either the characters are bathed in stereotypes or the disability is erased by way of a cure or a miracle. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but here is a selection of books written by disabled people, for disabled people. What makes these volumes unique is that the main characters have a disability and each of the books features a wide character arc. The disabled finally get to tell our stories.
If you’ve never read the disability section of The New York Times, this is a great, packaged introduction to the column. It could also be a complementary bound publication for offline reading. Sixty-one essays are organized into topics of justice, belonging, working, navigating, coping, love, family and joy. Essayists have physical, motor, sensory and cognitive disabilities.
“About Us: Essays from the Disability Series of The New York Times”
By Peter Catapano and Rosemarie Garland-Thomson
“Firsts” is a 2019 Readers’ Favorite gold medal winner in the nonfiction-anthology genre. Doing anything for the first time has a profound impact. Eleven authors write about their first time experiencing “firsts,” which could be anything from raising a hearing child as a deaf parent to navigating the complexities of a caregiver who isn’t a family member. What makes this anthology stand out is the different voices presented. Each writer has a distinctive writing voice that makes it easy to like another story, even if you didn’t care for the previous one.
“Firsts: Coming of Age Stories by People with Disabilities”
By Belo Miguel Cipriani
I’m a sucker for fiction, especially speculative and realistic fiction featuring stories where disabled people are the heroes of their own story. “Nothing Without Us” is a multi-genre, own-voices anthology where the lead characters identify as disabled, deaf, neurodiverse, spoonie or managing mental illness. There’s something for everyone in these twenty-two stories, which range the gamut from satirical to thrilling and suspenseful. The anthology has a deep contributor pool, which spreads out the writing styles. The stories are placed so you won’t get shocked because you’re suddenly jumping jarringly to a very different genre.
“Nothing Without Us”
By Cait Gordon and Kohenet Talia C. Johnson
This anthology is pure fun. Not only does it break up all the white characters with a few survivors of color, it was great fun watching the end of the world through so many disabilities. “Defying Doomsday” is an anthology of apocalypse fiction featuring disabled and chronically ill protagonists, proving it’s not always the “fittest” who survive—it’s the most tenacious, stubborn, enduring and innovative characters who have the best chance of adapting when everything is lost. There were a lot of good stories in here that had me hooked from the first sentence. A deaf scavenger. A fellow blind person who’s just trying to survive but does everything wrong without giving up. There’s a lot here, mixed in with a lot of different genres and writing styles. Even if you don’t like science fiction, there’s a story in here for everyone.
By Tsana Dolichva and Holly Kench