Hi, friends! I hope everything is going well with you and, if not, I hope brighter days head your way soon!
It’s Disability Pride Month and so today I wanted to take a moment to discuss something that’s very close to my heart: disability representation in literature.
In case you don’t know, I have a disabling heart condition called Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), which causes me to experience a debilitating level of chronic fatigue and chronic pain. I also have severe ADHD and live with depression and anxiety. So, as you can probably imagine, disability rep in literature means a lot to me. And yet, despite what I’d call a “small renaissance” in diverse literature, with more publishers choosing to focus on people of color and queer people, disabled authors and their characters have never really had their time in the sun and we still see many ableist tropes running rampant in literature.
also check out:
Bertie of Luminosity Library‘s series “Ableist Tropes 101” Series
Of course, this is both infuriating and harmful for actual factual disabled people like me. Not to mention the number of times I’ve seen ableism forgiven just because a book was written by a queer person or a POC, but racism or homophobia cracked down on when the author is disabled? All of this hurts because the message it sends is that disabled people and our marginalization and struggles don’t matter. I mean, for fuck’s sake, disabled people don’t even have marriage equality in the US and are largely barred from immigrating out of their home country and yet we all act as if disabled folks have legally and socially ensured equal rights!
also check out:
Disability Representation Posts from Other Disabled Bloggers
This is why books by and about disabled people of all kinds are so important. It’s so important for able-bodied people to see us, to understand our struggles and our triumphs, to realize we are humans too. And that is why today I wanted to recommend some books by disabled authors that are about disabled characters!
So let’s dive right in!
one for all by lillie lainoff
postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (pots)
An OwnVoices, gender-bent retelling of The Three Musketeers, in which a girl with a chronic illness trains as a Musketeer and uncovers secrets, sisterhood, and self-love.
Tania de Batz is most herself with a sword in her hand. Everyone in town thinks her near-constant dizziness makes her weak, nothing but “a sick girl”; even her mother is desperate to marry her off for security. But Tania wants to be strong, independent, a fencer like her father—a former Musketeer and her greatest champion.
Then Papa is brutally, mysteriously murdered. His dying wish? For Tania to attend finishing school. But L’Académie des Mariées, Tania realizes, is no finishing school. It’s a secret training ground for a new kind of Musketeer: women who are socialites on the surface, but strap daggers under their skirts, seduce men into giving up dangerous secrets, and protect France from downfall. And they don’t shy away from a swordfight.
With her newfound sisters at her side, Tania feels for the first time like she has a purpose, like she belongs. But then she meets Étienne, her first target in uncovering a potential assassination plot. He’s kind, charming, and breathlessly attractive—and he might have information about what really happened to her father. Torn between duty and dizzying emotion, Tania will have to lean on her friends, listen to her own body, and decide where her loyalties lie…or risk losing everything she’s ever wanted.
This debut novel is a fierce, whirlwind adventure about the depth of found family, the strength that goes beyond the body, and the determination it takes to fight for what you love.
As someone with POTS, this book means the world to me. There were parts of this book where I was on the verge of tears because the representation was so relatable. And I love how Tania (the main character) doesn’t have to “overcome” or “get rid of” her chronic illness/disablity to be an inspiring and successful heroine!
turtles all the way down by john green
obsessive compulsive disorder (ocd)
JOHN GREEN, the acclaimed author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, returns with a story of shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship.
Aza Holmes never intended to pursue the disappearance of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Pickett’s son Davis.
Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.
I have yet to read this book, but it’s on my TBR! John Green has previously discussed his life with OCD and how it is reflected in this book and I’ve also heard so much praise for this book from readers who also live with OCD. I also know the giant orange downward spiral on the cover is meant to represent the “thought spirals” of anxiety disorders and I love that symbolism!
the kiss quotient by helen hoang
A heartwarming and refreshing debut novel that proves one thing: there’s not enough data in the world to predict what will make your heart tick.
Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases—a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.
It doesn’t help that Stella has Asperger’s and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice—with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can’t afford to turn down Stella’s offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan—from foreplay to more-than-missionary position…
Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but to crave all the other things he’s making her feel. Soon, their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic…
This is a supposedly sizzling hot Adult contemporary romance with great #OwnVoices autism representation that’s high up on my TBR! Honestly, I’ve never heard a bad thing said about this book from romance fans and/or autistic readers. And to top it off—The Kiss Quotient is actually the first in a series of companion novels starring autistic Asian characters!
six of crows by leigh bardugo
limp & usage of mobility aid (cane) & dyslexia
Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone. . . .
A convict with a thirst for revenge
A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager
A runaway with a privileged past
A spy known as the Wraith
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes
Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.
Despite the massive popularity of this book and its sequel, a lot of readers seem to forget that it’s an #OwnVoices portrayal of disability. Like author Leigh Bardugo, main character Kaz Brekker walks with a limp and uses a cane. I love that Kaz’s disability is not only visible in Six of Crows, it also enhances his character! Kaz can’t simply “magic away”* his disability even though he lives in a fantasy world, so instead, Kaz uses it to his benefit, using his cane as a weapon, among other things.
* “Magic-ing away” a disability is a common ableist trope found in fantasy and sci fi where a character’s disability is “taken away” via magic or technology, making the character functionally able-bodied, while still being a “token disabled character” in name.
this vicious grace by emily thiede
Three weddings. Three funerals. Alessa’s gift from the gods is supposed to magnify a partner’s magic, not kill every suitor she touches.
Now, with only weeks left until a hungry swarm of demons devours everything on her island home, Alessa is running out of time to find a partner and stop the invasion. When a powerful priest convinces the faithful that killing Alessa is the island’s only hope, her own soldiers try to assassinate her.
Desperate to survive, Alessa hires Dante, a cynical outcast marked as a killer, to become her personal bodyguard. But as rebellion explodes outside the gates, Dante’s dark secrets may be the biggest betrayal. He holds the key to her survival and her heart, but is he the one person who can help her master her gift or destroy her once and for all?
Emily Thiede’s exciting fantasy debut, This Vicious Grace, will keep readers turning the pages until the devastating conclusion and leave them primed for more!
I just started reading this book and I gotta say: I’m already loving the #OwnVoices representation of ADHD! Alessa—the main character—has so many traits typical of girls with ADHD and I love seeing it!!
sick kids in love by hannah moskowitz
rheumatoid arthritis & chronic illness
–for the other person.
She’s got issues. She’s got secrets. She’s got rheumatoid arthritis.
But then she meets another sick kid.
He’s got a chronic illness Isabel’s never heard of, something she can’t even pronounce. He understands what it means to be sick. He understands her more than her healthy friends. He understands her more than her own father who’s a doctor.
He’s gorgeous, fun, and foul-mouthed. And totally into her.
Isabel has one rule: no dating.
It’s never felt better–
–to consider breaking that rule for him.
One of the most tired ableist tropes is the “chronically or terminally ill or disabled people who fall in love and then the terminally ill/chronically ill/disabled half of the couple dies” (*cough* Me Before You *cough*). Moskowitz wrote Sick Kids in Love as a direct response to that trope. The main characters of Sick Kids in Love are two chronically ill teens who meet in a hospital—but their chronic illness has nothing to do with their relationship conflict!
also check out:
More From Me About Disability
So, friends, that’s all for today! I hope you learned something and/or got a new recommendation or two. Also, definitely check out all the posts from other disabled book bloggers that I’ve shared here too because they are all wonderful! Until next time, dear friends…
spill the beans, friends!
- What are your thoughts on the current state of disability representation in literature?
- Do you have any books by and about disabled folk that you enjoyed?