Perspectives on Disability
Some disabilities are visible, others less apparent—but all are underrepresented in media and popular culture even though one in five people in the United States lives with a disability. All of these books and films show what it is like to live with various disabilities.
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True Biz: A Novel2022 by Nović, SaraGet this item
A moving and insightful coming-of-age story that discusses discrimination against and within the Deaf community from multiple perspectives. A great pick for those who watched and enjoyed the movies Sound of Metal and CODA. The author, Sara Novic is Deaf, an instructor on Deaf studies, and a Deaf rights activist. Suggested by Rummanah.
Best Summer Ever (DVD)2021Get this item
Though it takes a few cues from Grease and Footloose, this musical is not a copycat. It’s fresh, funny, and delightfully irresistible. About half the lead actors (as well as several extras and those doing behind-the-scenes jobs) have disabilities as part of their identity and not as a plot point. Inclusivity in filmmaking works. Suggested by Sharon.
A Face for Picasso: Coming of Age with Crouzon Syndrome2021 by Henley, ArielGet this item
A powerful and revelatory memoir about beauty, identity, internalized ableism, resilience, sisterhood, and trauma. The analysis of Picasso's works is enlightening and fascinating. This book is also the 2022 Schneider Family Book Award Honor title for teens. Suggested by Rummanah.
This Is My Brain in Love2020 by Gregorio, I. W.Get this item
Winner of the 2021 Schneider Family Book Award, This Is My Brain in Love is a nuanced and realistic portrayal of how anxiety and depression affect the relationships of two teens who are grappling with family expectations and figuring out a future for themselves. Suggested by Rummanah.
Sitting Pretty: The View from My Ordinary Resilient Disabled Body2020 by Taussig, RebekahGet this item
A pull-no-punches memoir about life in a wheelchair. Taussig doesn't claim to speak for everyone with a disability: “I would be doing us all a great disservice if I led you to believe that the conversation starts and ends with bodies and experiences that look just like mine." But she does speak of her own experience and shows a glimpse into her life with “a body that doesn’t work." Suggested by Becca.
Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law2019 by Girma, HabenGet this item
The incredible life story of Haben Girma, the first Deafblind graduate of Harvard Law School, and her amazing journey from isolation to the world stage. I found this moving, uplifting, and inspiring memoir to be reflective of a person who champions access and dignity for all. At times I laughed, cried, reflected, and marveled not only at her many accomplishments but also her staunch advocacy for the disabled community. Suggested by Mary.
Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century2020Get this item
This collection of essays from contemporary disabled writers celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act focuses on issues such as disabled performers in the theater and the everyday lives of the community. Library Journal says, "The collection sheds insight on topics that are rarely explored in mainstream works, including the difficulties of finding adaptive clothing, the dangerous mindset of the cure mentality, and the high rates of disability among LGBTQ people. Overall, Wong urges people with disabilities to expect more and deserve more." Suggested by Becca.
The Pretty One: On Life, Pop Culture, Disability, and Other Reasons to Fall in Love with Me2019 by Brown, KeahGet this item
From the disability rights advocate and creator of the #DisabledAndCute viral campaign, a thoughtful, inspiring, and charming collection of essays exploring what it means to be Black and disabled in a mostly able-bodied white America. For me, the compelling aspect of these essays reflects her contemporary and relatable voice for the disabled—so often portrayed as mute, weak, or isolated. With clear, fresh, and light-hearted prose, these essays explore everything from her relationship with her able-bodied identical twin (called “the pretty one” by friends) to navigating romance. Suggested by Mary.
Good Kings Bad Kings: A Novel2013 by Nussbaum, SusanGet this item
Residents and staff at a Chicago facility for physically disabled teens find ways to push back against a culture of neglect. The result is hilarious and heartbreaking, wonky and righteously angry, and unironically life-affirming. The seven POV characters offer a range of perspectives (ex. one is inspired by a mural that another finds extremely condescending) that will challenge any preconceptions the reader brings. Suggested by Andrew.
Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice2019 by Piepzna-Samarasinha, Leah LakshmiGet this item
Care Work has motivated me to challenge myself and other able-bodied and neurotypical folks on how to dismantle ableist practices and institutions, so that we can expand our compassion and empathy beyond ableist models. In this collection of essays, Lambda Literary Award-winning writer and longtime activist and performance artist Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha explores the politics and realities of disability justice, a movement that centers the lives and leadership of sick and disabled queer, trans, Black, and brown people, with knowledge and gifts for all. Suggested by Mary.
Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity2015 by Silberman, SteveGet this item
Explaining society's changing understanding of autism--and autistic people's understanding of themselves--requires a nonfiction epic, encompassing everything from the experiences of individual families to pop culture milestones (the good, bad, and ugly of the movie Rain Man gets its own chapter). This book is also a triumph of journalistic storytelling: probing, compassionate, and immensely readable. Suggested by Andrew.
Challenger Deep2015 by Shusterman, NealGet this item
Shusterman's son Brendan was 16 when he was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and told his dad that, "it feels like I'm at the bottom of the ocean screaming at the top of my lungs and no one can hear me." Seven years later, Shusterman was able to work with his son to write and illustrate this book about 14-year-old Caden Bosch and his gradual descent into schizophrenia. I lost a close family member to their struggle with schizoaffective disorder, and this is the book that helped me to understand what they might have been going through. As Shusterman said, "There is a lot of despair when dealing with mental illness, but there is also a great deal of hope." Suggested by Becca.
Golem Girl: A Memoir2020 by Lehrer, RivaGet this item
Born with spina bifida, the author/artist has been exceptional all her life, and she has lived bravely, challenging what many call normalcy. For more on her creative process, be sure to check out the short film The Paper Mirror. Suggested by Sharon.
Diary of a Young Naturalist2021 by McAnulty, DaraGet this item
Dara McAnulty chronicles finding his voice as a writer and activist--while also having struggles that will resonate with anyone who's ever been a teenager, autistic or otherwise. Readers will fall in love with Dara's neurodiverse family. And he's still only 17! Suggested by Andrew.
A Quiet Place2018Get this item
If you see only a few horror movies a year, this and its sequel should be two of those. In the film, Earth in 2020 is host to giant creatures that are blind; however, they have an acute sense of hearing and they hunt by tracking noise. Within three months, they destroyed most of the human race. The film focuses on the Abbott family, living in quiet, communicating by signing. Their daughter is deaf, which adds an additional level of tenseness, as well as interesting plot developments. Of course, you can take this apart and think some things are illogical. I say, go with the flow and enjoy. John Krasinski directed, co-wrote, and he co-stars with his wife, Emily Blunt. He cast Millicent Simmonds, who is a deaf actor, as their daughter. Krasinski said that he wanted to keep the movie authentic about her character, and she contributed input to various scenes to achieve such. Simmonds has a larger role in the second installment, which was absolutely the right way to go. Suggested by Sharon.
I'm Telling the Truth, But I'm Lying: Essays2019 by Ikpi, BasseyGet this item
Ikpi's memoir in essays will change your preconceptions as Bassey bares her own truths and lies for us all to behold with radical honesty. As Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy, stated, "We will not think or talk about mental health or normalcy the same after reading this momentous art object moonlighting as a colossal collection of essays.” Suggested by Becca.
Romance in Marseille2020 by McKay, ClaudeGet this item
Buried in an archive for almost 90 years (though it wouldn't be hard to believe it was written in 2020), this is a pioneering novel of physical disability, transatlantic travel, and Black international politics. A vital document of Black modernism and one of the earliest overtly queer novels in the African American tradition. Suggested by Chris.
There Plant Eyes: A Personal and Cultural History of Blindness2021 by Godin, M. LeonaGet this item
M. Leona Godin explores the fascinating history of blindness, interweaving it with her own story of gradually losing her sight. “[Godin] traces two ideas: that being unable to see brings deep insight and that the blind can show how little the sighted truly see. Godin counters these stereotypes with her own experiences and with surprising details from the lives of blind activists such as Helen Keller, to argue that 'there are as many ways of being blind as there are of being sighted.’” (The New Yorker) Suggested by Chris.
Keep the Change2018Get this item
This is a landmark motion picture—a movie about people living with autism in which all of the characters who have autism are portrayed by nonprofessional performers who also have it. "....Keep the Change is not a seamlessly crafted movie, but it’s awfully tenderhearted and thoroughly disarming. It deserves to be widely seen." (Glenn Kenny review via the New York Times). Suggested by Chris.
Unbroken: 13 Stories Starring Disabled Teens2018Get this item
Full of "compassionate, engaging, and masterfully written stories" (Booklist), this anthology features central characters, all of whom are disabled, in a variety of settings and circumstances. There is something for everyone in this book, and since the authors of each story are also disabled, there is a powerfully geniune nuance and depth. Suggested by Paul.
Invisible Differences: A Story of Asperger's, Adulting, and Living a Life in Full Color2020 by Dachez, JulieGet this item
Originally published in French and recently translated into English, this critically acclaimed graphic novel explores life with Asperger's with candor and compassion. The story chronicles the life of Marguerite--a fictionalized version of Dachez--a young Parisian woman who is frustrated about the ways she is different from other people. When she is able to identify as having Aspergers, however, she feels liberated. With resources for support, Marguerite begins to advocate for herself, fighting to make changes in her professional and social interactions so she can lead a healthy, happy life and become an advocate for those who are also on the autism spectrum. Suggested by Rummanah.
Give Me Liberty2020Get this item
A message for why representation and authenticity matter. Featuring several actors with disabilities, with a breakout performance from Lauren “Lolo” Spencer (who has ALS), this screwball comedy follows medical transport driver Vic as he and his passengers get stuck together because of unforeseen circumstances. Ultimately, they find connectedness through their humanity. Suggested by Rummanah and Sharon.
Being Seen: One Deafblind Woman's Fight to End Ableism2021 by Sjunneson, ElsaGet this item
Elsa Sjunneson is a Deafblind, bisexual award winning author, professor, and activist. In her memoir and social critique hybrid, she provides powerful, keen observation and thought provoking analysis on the ways in which society and media (particularly books and film) shape our perceptions of disability and further ingrain ableism. Suggested by Rummanah.
Speechless: The Complete First Season2018Get this item
This sitcom aired on ABC for three seasons, but was canceled too soon. It centers on the DiMeo family, with Minnie Driver and John Ross Bowie starring as a couple with three kids, the eldest of which, teenager JJ, has cerebral palsy, uses a wheelchair, and is nonverbal. Exploring family dynamics and challenges, the cast, writers, and production team hit the mark with the right blend of humor and seriousness. Micah Fowler, who plays JJ, has cerebral palsy, and we love his authentic portrayal. Suggested by Rummanah and Sharon.
The Heart Principle2021 by Hoang, HelenGet this item
Based on the author's own experience, this is Helen Hoang's most personal book yet. Anna's journey of self discovery, realizing she is on the autism spectrum, and the discussion of masking, and setting boundaries for herself, is heartfelt and engaging. Suggested by Rummanah.
Deej2022Get this item
This Peabody Award-winning documentary takes you into the life of Deej, a non-speaking young man with autism who was abandoned by his birth parents and put into foster care. Adopted by a supportive, loving family, he learned how to read and write. We meet Deej as he finishes high school and moves toward achieving his goals, which include a college education, independent living, and being a published writer and advocate for inclusion and disability rights. This story encourages you to learn more about the subject. Suggested by Rummanah and Sharon.
Josee, the Tiger and the Fish2022Get this item
Beautifully animated, Josee, the Tiger and the Fish has characters that you’ll love getting to know. Josee has had a condition from birth that makes her live with paraplegia. She dreams of being an artist, but thinks she needs to find a more conventional occupation. Tsuneo, a marine biology student struggling to earn money, becomes Josee’s temporary attendant despite her objections. It's uplifting and heartfelt, with a hard-won romance at the center. Suggested by Sharon.
The Words in My Hands2021 by AsphyxiaGet this item
Winner of the 2022 Schneider Family Book Award, this speculative, own-voices novel centers on Piper's journey to understand her identity as a Deaf teenager in a futuristic Australia that is struggling with food insecurity, fuel shortages, political corruption, and censorship. Piper embraces her Deaf identity by learning sign language and advocates for a more sustainable world through her artwork and her involvement at a community garden. Suggested by Rummanah.
The Greatest Thing2022 by Searle, Sarah WinifredGet this item
Winifred and her friends Oscar and April navigate high school and the messiness of discovering oneself. This graphic novel is a sensitive, compassionate, and poignant story of mental health struggles that also emphasizes the importance of community, self-acceptance, and finding the courage to ask for help. Suggested by Rummanah.
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