My Year in Books 03: The Disability Connection

The cover of Barbara Hinske’s book Over Every Hurdle, with two Labrador retrievers, one yellow and one black. The background is dark, the yellow Lab is wearing a white bridal veil with beaded embellishments, and the black Lab is looking directly at the camera. The title and author's name are written in white and red.

As an author I’ve become fascinated by the world of publishing. In the past few years I’ve noticed a shift towards greater inclusion of marginalised groups, both in terms of characters and writers, which is great. Where the publishing industry used to be dominated by white male authors and, to a lesser degree, white women authors, I have observed an increase in authors of colour and those in the LGBTQIA communities. The same is true of the levels of diversity in characters who are represented in stories. Sadly, not so much in terms of authors and characters with disabilities. Disabled characters still tend to be written by non-disabled authors and are most often represented as either strongly inspirational, often with pseudo-magical sensory abilities, or are seen as utterly tragic figures. As is so often the case, our lives as people with disabilities are more nuanced than that.

It’s one of the reasons that friend and fellow blind reader Jeremy Opperman and I are working on a series of podcasts exploring the way disability is represented in books – watch out for that in the near future – and why I find myself actively searching to find books with disabled characters, and those written by authors with lived experience of disability.

Today, in my third post about my reading year, I’m looking at the books I’ve read this year that focus on this subject, breaking them into non-fiction and fiction. Most of the non-fiction are memoirs, with one being a training manual. And, when looking at the fiction titles, I acknowledge they mostly feature characters with blindness or mobility impairments. In the future I’d like to extend my reading to include other disabilities not just for the purposes of the podcast, but to increase my own awareness of the lived experiences of people with these realities.

The purpose of this blog is not to judge how well the authors have represented disability, merely noting the books I’ve read that contain characters with, or are written by an author with, a disability. For discussion of the effectiveness of the representation, you’ll need to listen to the podcast.

As a final note, I was startled to discover that there is one single book that has been featured in all three of my reading blogs so far – the book I Rise, which is a non-fiction compilation about disability that is produced by an editor from a country in Africa.

Here are the disability-focused books I’ve read– first the non-fiction, followed by the fiction titles:

  • Ersapah, Rama (ed) – I Rise 2022
  • Kleege, Georgina – Blind Rage: Letters to Helen Keller
  • Kleege, Georgina – More Than Meets the Eye – What Blindness Brings to Art
  • Kleege, Georgina – Sight Unseen
  • Kuusisto, Stephen – Planet of the Blind
  • Snyder, Joel – The Visual Made Verbal: A Comprehensive Training Manual and Guide to the History and Applications of Audio Description
  • Aboulela, Leila – Lyrics Alley
  • Hinske, Barbara – Guiding Emily03: Over Every Hurdle
  • Jemisin, NK – Inheritance02: The Broken Kingdoms
  • King, Stephen – the Dark Tower04: Wizard and Glass
  • Lowry, Lois – The Giver02: Gathering Blue
  • Mohlele, Nthikeng- The Scent of Bliss
  • Moyes, Jojo – Foreign Fruit, or Windfallen
  • Moyes, Jojo – Me Before You01: Me Before You

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