Books by folks with disabilites?
May 4, 2018 8:57 PM   Subscribe

It’s been my mission lately to read books by non-cishetwhitedudes, but I realize I should change that to non-cishetwhitedudeswhoareablebodied. My tastes screw towards literary fiction and academic historical non-fiction. Also always down for a good memoir. But honestly, I’ll read most things happily and have no problem returning your recommendation to the library unfinished, or being pleasently surprised by something I never would have picked up. RAIN YOUR RECOMMENDSTIONS UPON ME!

Also acceptable are books about folks with disabilities, but I’d rather support a non-cishetwhitedudewhoisablebodied by picking up their book than not.
posted by Grandysaur to Media & Arts (25 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
The late Dr. Jane Poulson, the first blind practicing doctor in Canada, wrote an autobiography entitled The Doctor Will Not See You Now, which might be up your alley.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 9:06 PM on May 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

Good Kings Bad Kings by Susan Nussbaum
posted by aetg at 9:36 PM on May 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'll throw out a YA duology because a ton of not-usually-YA people seem to enjoy it: Six of Crows and it's sequel Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo. Fun Ocean's Eleven-ish complicated heist plot with multiple disabled characters whose disabilities are just fact, not plot, and a disabled author.
posted by colorblock sock at 10:54 PM on May 4, 2018 [5 favorites]

You might like Hild by Nicola Griffith. A few earlier examples of literary fiction and memoirs by people who had disabilities at the time of writing include Clock Without Hands by Carson McCullers, The Book of Sand by Jorge Luis Borges, There Was A Country by Chinua Achebe, and everything by James Thurber.
posted by Wobbuffet at 11:50 PM on May 4, 2018

I liked Take Up Thy Bed and Walk: Death, Disability and Cure in Classic Fiction for Girls, by Lois Keith, who uses a wheelchair, and Unseen Childhoods: Disabled Characters in 20th-Century Books for Girls (essay collection, authors all "have personal experience of disability"). I haven't read Ju Gosling's ABNORMAL: How Britain became body dysphoric and the key to a cure, though I know her other work. She uses a wheelchair.

A number of writers are or were stammerers: Updike, Mitchell, Margaret Drabble, Larkin etc.
posted by paduasoy at 2:33 AM on May 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

(and stammerering is a theme of Updike's memoir Self-Consciousness)
posted by paduasoy at 2:35 AM on May 5, 2018

You might also like Hilary Mantel's memoir, Giving Up the Ghost, which talks about her severe endometriosis.
posted by paduasoy at 2:52 AM on May 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Perhaps What Her Body Thought by Susan Griffin? It is very well written and thought-provoking.
posted by vers at 4:07 AM on May 5, 2018

They are mostly aimed at children/middle-grade readers, but Jean Little's novels deal with various issues of disability (among others, the heroine of From Anna and Listen for the Singing has low vision, as the author herself did). I remember them as being sensitive, well-written, and thoughtful. (Google tells me she also wrote a memoir called Little by Little.)
posted by huimangm at 5:47 AM on May 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

I love Eli Clare's books: Exile and Pride is about growing up as a poor, white, queer, disabled kid in the Pacific Northwest, and about his relationships with the forest as a white settler in a conservative mill town. It's beautifully written and I found it very insightful. His newer book Brilliant Imperfection: Grappling with Cure is about his relationship as a disabled person to the concept of cure. It also draws a lot on his conversations and community with other disabled folks, so it brings a lot of different perspectives.

Kaleigh Trace's Hot, Wet, and Shaking: How I Learned To Talk About Sex, by a disabled queer sex educator is also great!
posted by ITheCosmos at 6:07 AM on May 5, 2018

I backed a Kickstarter for an anthology called Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction. It's not out yet, but their Kickstarter page has a ton of authors listed that might give you some guidance for where to look.
posted by gideonfrog at 6:51 AM on May 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

ProblematicFilter: I read Moving Violations by public radio personality John Hockenberry about ten years ago. I found it interesting and it made me think about things that I had never considered. Now, of course, Hockenberry is deeply problematic. Maybe read it if you can buy it used or get it from a library, so he doesn't benefit from it?
posted by workerant at 8:07 AM on May 5, 2018

Harriet McBryde mostly wrote essays, which are all wonderful and worth reading. She also wrote a memoir and a young adult book.
posted by Mavri at 8:12 AM on May 5, 2018

Jillian Weise is great. I'm a fan of The Colony, which is a novel, but she also writes wonderful poetry about disability and sex and a million other things.
posted by attentionplease at 10:03 AM on May 5, 2018

Pick something by Temple Grandin!
posted by the twistinside at 12:36 PM on May 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

Nicola Griffith’s newest book specifically deals with disability. It’s titled So Lucky.
posted by bq at 4:23 PM on May 5, 2018

Eclipse, by Hughes de Montalembert - a memoir by an artist who was blinded in an acid attack

Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot, by John Callahan
- a memoir by a cartoonist & recovering alcoholic who became a quadriplegic in a car accident

Not a physical disability, but Autism spectrum memoirs are cool:

Look Me In The Eye: My Life With Asperger's, by John Elder Robeson - The man who designed the flaming guitars for the band KISS, on how Asperger's has affected his life

Thinking in Pictures: My Life With Autism, by Temple Grandin - Her TED Talk is great too

This blog - Of Battered Aspect, by Dave Hingsburger - is a great daily exploration of the intersection of disability, fatphobia, and gay life

And you could follow Crutches&Spice on Twitter - She tweets about disability, race, and body pride.

On the subject of body pride, Hunger: A Memoir of (my) Body by Roxane Gay is well worth a read; I believe she's one of the best thinkers of our time.

And What's That Pig Outdoors: A Memoir of Deafness by Henry Kisor is fun.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 10:52 PM on May 5, 2018

Oh! And the account @Sitting_Pretty on Instagram functions like a blog, where Rebekah Taussig writes mini-essays, often about being a wheelchair user. Her long essays are fantastic.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 10:59 PM on May 5, 2018

Wildbow (John McCrae), the author of Worm, Pact, Twig, and (ongoing) Ward, developed a hearing disability when he was three days old.

(some of his characters have disabilities)
posted by Cozybee at 7:18 AM on May 6, 2018

Georgina Kleege's Blind Rage: Letters to Helen Keller is stunning.

Ellen Forney's graphic memoir Marbles beautifully explores her bipolar life.

Ian Williams The Bad Doctor uses powerful art to explore a doctor's life in a small town, healing others while living with severe OCD.

YouTuber John Green has severe OCD, and his most recent novel Turtles All the Way Down provides a vivid insight to the stuckness in a brain.

Audre Lorde's work is filled with disability.

Truevine by Beth Macy introduced me to Willy and George Muse--albino African-Americans who were exhibited in circuses post-Civil War to the 1920s. Willy died age 108, and Macy managed to speak with the people who cared for him at the end of his life. She details the racism and disablism that kept the Muse brothers in the sideshow, as well as the determination of their mother, who successfully sued for their back wages.

Simi Linton's Claiming Disability was groundbreaking twenty years ago and is still wonderful as it reclaims disabled people's bodies from the grip of the allied health professions.

Dawn Prince-Hughes' Songs of the Gorilla Nature is an autism memoir of homelessness, falling in love with primates, and eventual lesbian marriage.

The Disability Studies Quarterly is open-access: there's lots of crunchy reading in between the academic prose.

There is so much great writing.
posted by Jesse the K at 8:57 AM on May 6, 2018 [3 favorites]

I get the impression John Callahan was kind of a dick, but I really enjoyed, "Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot". And look, it's a movie now.
posted by latkes at 5:58 PM on May 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

I really enjoyed The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon. I believe the author is of the cishetwhitedude variety, but if I'm remembering this correctly, he modeled the main character of the book off of someone he knew and it is widely praised for portraying the main character, who is likely on the autism spectrum (though they never say this), with pathos and complexity and a rich inner life. I saw the stage version of it last year and it was also very good.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby is also a good read, but is a total gut punch. This would definitely fit the bill for a memoir.
posted by helloimjennsco at 6:44 AM on May 7, 2018

My Dyslexia is a memoir by Philip Schultz, who won a Pulitzer Prize for poetry, who didn't realize he suffered from dyslexia until his son was diagnosed with it.
posted by kristi at 10:46 AM on May 8, 2018

Would strongly recommend Ryan Knighton's books:

Cockeyed- A Memoir:

An original coming-of-age story, Cockeyed lights a new path into what we can know about our world through unseeing eyes. At once penetrating and hysterical, this memoir about Ryan Knighton's slow descent into blindness ricochets between black comedy and moving tragedy, providing a rich look into our bodies, our senses, our language, our culture and our fantasies and fears. Among other surprises, Knighton's failing eyesight takes him through warehouse hazings, punk rock nihilism, Korean ESL blues, an island for the blind, a Polish salt mine honeymoon, and the ideal IKEA. Readers will find it hard to put down this wild ride around the world with a wicked blind guide at the wheel.

C’mon Papa: Dispatches from a Dad in the Dark:

You can study the ultrasounds, ask a multitude of questions, and buy stuff-- unimaginable heaps of stuff-- but nothing prepares you for that first year of parenthood’s intensity and confusion. There’s plenty to feel anxious about— from figuring out how to work a diaper to divining why the baby is wailing at three in the morning—and the sleep deprivation only magnifies every challenge.

Now imagine doing all of it blindfolded.

Imagine trying to see your child through the tiniest sliver of sight you have left in your right eye. Imagine going for a walk in the chaotic streets of Vancouver with a three-month-old strapped to your chest, hoping you don’t go barreling into a pole, or worse. Imagine the baby silently toddling away and your only hope is she will respond to your calls. If you can imagine this, you will begin to see fatherhood as Ryan Knighton sees it, or, more accurately, doesn’t see it.

Here's a This American Life segment with Ryan Knighton.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 4:57 PM on May 8, 2018

Oh! And! Stephen Kuusisto's memoirs:

Planet of the Blind, which is quite good. He's also a poet (and professor thereof) by trade. He's a great writer.

Speaking of his poetry, there's also Letters to Borges.

And Have Dog, Will Travel, which is new.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 5:27 PM on May 8, 2018

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