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Accidents of Nature

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  521 Ratings  ·  107 Reviews
Seventeen-year-old Jean has cerebral palsy and gets around in a wheelchair, but she’s always believed she’s just the same as everyone else. She goes to normal school and has normal friends. She’s never really known another disabled person before she arrives at Camp Courage. But there Jean meets Sara, who welcomes her to “Crip Camp” and nicknames her Spazzo. Sara has radica ...more
Published May 1st 2006 by Listening Library
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This is an odd choice for me & not likely one I'll repeat. I'm a norm (pretty much, anyway) & don't really even know anyone who isn't. I don't know why this even came to my attention, but it did & I read the author's bio - she was disabled & very active in the community. She didn't like the Jerry Lewis telethon, called it demeaning. Why?

I had my suspicions & they turned out to be correct. Kids that are born with MLS, CP, or some other debilitating disease or defect look diff
April (Aprilius Maximus)
I learnt so much reading this! I admire Harriet McBryde Johnson so much and all that she did in her life to educate people and fight for equality for people with disabilites!
Jun 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone. Especially those going into PSW or special education careers
*mild spoilers ahoy*

Loved this book. Well, okay, some of it rubbed a bit too raw, and the scene of the counselors teasing the campers sexually made me absolutely sick to my stomach, but only because it was so true. It's gritty and sharp and smart and mean, but it's also real and sort of sweet, in it's way. The scene with Robert yelling about the canoe made me cheer right along with the campers, and though I found Sarah an insufferable know-it-all about as often as Jean did, she was also so reali
Harriet McBryde Johnson may have looked at her life as being "too late to die young;" however, she died younger than she should have and her unique, powerful voice was lost to us. I tend to be skeptical about freshman novels, skeptical about the first person, skeptical about authorial self-inserts and skeptical about manifestos parading as novels. Accidents of Nature falls into all of the above categories; however, it is transcendent.

First and foremost, for a lawyer with no formal training on cr
This book is set in 1970 from the POV of a teen girl with cerebral palsy who is attending a summer camp for disabled teens for the first time. She has always striven to be considered "normal" and when faced with a camp full of others with disabilities and a militant camper versed in Marxist theories, she begins to question her long-held beliefs. The subject matter is important for young people. Having grown up in a world of disability awareness and personal rights, it was uncomfortable to see th ...more
Jun 04, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Apropos to this time of year, Accidents of Nature is all about summer camp. Camp Courage is for children with a variety of special needs. The campers have labelled these needs themselves with names like "Spaz, crip, para, quad, Ausie, and walkie-talkie." Jean, who has Cerebral Palsy, has been raised in a "normal" school. Her first ever summer camp is also her first exposure to other kids with disabilities. Luckily, she meets Sarah right away. Sarah has been to Camp Courage for eight straight yea ...more
Apr 05, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kate by: Teen Book Club selection
Jean has cerebral palsy, but likes to think of herself as normal. Then she is sent to Camp Courage, aka Crip Camp, and meets Sara, another girl with CP who feels very strongly about the way the "Norms" treat the "Crips." As Jean observes the other campers, she begins to question whether it is better to identify as Norm or as Crip.

I could not help to compare this book to Izzy, Willy-Nilly, which I read last month for the same book club. Izzy and Jean seem to have similar personalities and thought
Jun 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A must read for people with disabilities and our allies...teens and adults, and parents who want to guide their children with disabilities into a positive future equipped to live full lives of dignity and choice.

Harriet McBryde Johnson "gets it" and explains it to the rest of us through the thoughtful and passionate Jean, a young woman with cerebral palsy staying for the first time at a sleep-over camp for "cripples." Set in 1970, Jean meets the militant, the meek, and everything in between amon
Dec 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gr 9 Up-Jean, an intelligent 17 year old with cerebral palsy who is wheelchair bound, goes to Camp Courage, a summer "Crip Camp," for the first time in Harriet McBryde Johnson's powerful novel (Holt, 2006). She's the only handicapped student at her normal school, has non-handicapped friends, and has never really seen herself as different. Jean has no idea what she's in for during her 10 days at camp. Everyone there has a label: spazzos (CP), walkie talkies (handicapped but can walk and talk), MR ...more
This book is a good description of how it feels to have a disability, espeically cerebal palsy and mental retardation..The book is about a gropu of disabled group of teens who are at Camp Courage for ten days. Jean and Sara feel welcomed to a place where they fit in, and the camp gives them a new perspective on what it is like to be normal or disabled. They call themselves "crips" (or crippled), and other nicknames.

I would not purchase this for my school, even if I was a high school librarian.
May 07, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Seventeen-year-old Jean has lived with cerebral palsy her entire life, attends "normal school" and does not think of herself as "different" until she goes to Camp Courage (nicknamed Camp Crip). For the first time in her life, Jean is confronted with differently-abled peers. Her new friend, Sara's caustic humor and in-your-face attitude spark internal changes in Jean.

This book's characters are quirky, strong, and believable. The plot moved quickly and kept me fascinated. The main character is not
This book is extremely good in it's own right, but definitely the best that I have read that falls into the genre about disabilities (not that I've read many, and not that many even exist). I think that it's well worth its while for anyone to read for an honest, funny, sharp novel about that gives insight into the disabled community/culture. The novel isn't sentimental, and impressed me with its non-Pollyanna-type ending and the author's description of the main character's sudden coming-of-age m ...more
Feb 04, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya
The story of handicapped teens at a summer camp. The talk of "Crips" "MRs", "Norms" and "Spazes" was weird at first; the author suffered from a neuromuscular disease and clearly had first hand knowledge of what life was like for these teens. I liked that it showed a population that is hardly ever featured in books. I liked that they showed these teens having the same kinds of feelings and desires that all teens have. It focused on the campers day as they participated in the way that they were ab ...more
May 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Youth, young adults, people with disabilities, disabled people, parents of disbled kids
I would have hyperfocussed on this
historical fiction for a decade had I read it as
a youth- a crip summer camp where
two young adults encounter each
other and leave changed. There's
little smulch but much sexuality.
While clearly written from a disabled pride and rights perspective, it fills a deep void in fun teen literature that deals with reality and questions oppression. I cried when it reached the end, both because it hit close to home and because I didn't want it to be the end of a unique e
May 15, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: heard
Nuanced and engaging portrait of that moment in time before people got that telethons suck. Also before people got that "mixing the races" was no big deal. The narrator's syrupy southern accent was a bit distracting, as were the Mary Sue tendencies of Sara, but overall I enjoyed the story of Jean's awakening. I dug the insight into the struggles of Jean, who has CP, to communicate, and how it felt when her body didn't go along with the wishes of her mind.
May 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned-books
Such a heartwarming read
Aug 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My only complaint about this book was that it was too short. I could have read about Jean and Camp Courage and what happened next for a lot longer. Books about peoples with disabilities are few and far between, especially ones that look at it in such a funny and frank manner as this one did. Not to say that there was anything "fun" about this book, just that the characters had a sense of humor in order to get them through the challenges of every day life. This book was raw, and made me feel pret ...more
Aug 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I definitely recommend this book. Having said that, I can't say I enjoyed it. But, being written by a handicapped author who had her own experiences in "Crip camp"--a camp for people with every "disability" from epilepsy to quadriplegics, to mentally retarded--I'm assuming at least part of it represents her own feelings or experiences. There are a lot of things "norms" never think of, and this book does a great job explaining some of them. I'm glad I read it--especially as I have an amputee in m ...more
May 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4,5 étoiles! Excellente lecture et livre #ownvoices, écrit par une auteure handicapée qu'on retrouvait très clairement dans le personnage de Sara (amie du personnage principale). Un livre important sur la place des personnes handicapées de toutes sortes dans ce monde et plus particulièrement dans celui des années 1970 (particulièrement sans pitié... alors que les épileptiques n'avaient pas le droit de se marier!!???). Bref, une lecture essentielle, charmante et inspirante!
Laura Overstreet
Hands down, the best disability book I've read. If I could recommend only one book about disability, this would be it.
Oct 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: disability, ya
Written by disability-rights activist Harriet McBryde Johnson, who had muscular dystrophy, this novel is set in a summer camp for disabled people, in 1970. I have never before read a book where all major characters are disabled: usually, novels about disabled people focus on the protagonist trying to interact with and fit into the abled world. But this novel is about throwing that idea away: it's about how the disabled body is something to celebrate, and disabled people do not have to change to ...more
Jennifer Wardrip
Reviewed by Mechele R. Dillard for

Jean feels fantastic about her place in the world. Why shouldn’t she? She’s seventeen, an honor student at Crosstown High School, her friends are great, and her family supports all of her dreams. But this summer, Jean spreads her wings, away from the cocoon of her parents, friends, and her small town, and spends time at Camp Courage--“Crip Camp,” as the campers sarcastically refer to it--a camp for children with physical and mental disabilities,
May 07, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have not read many books about characters who have disabilities...because there aren't that many out there. And honestly, I stumbled upon this one by happy accident.

The main character, 17-year-old Jean, has CP and is spending part of her summer away from her family (at Camp Courage) for the first time. Jean has successfully gone to a "norm" school all her life, and has always done her best to negotiate the realities of "norm" life, getting good grades and having "norm" friends. At Camp Courage
Miss Ryoko
Jun 19, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult
Actual rating: 2.5

Agh.... I'm very conflicted with how I feel about this book. On one hand, I think it was very well written. Because Harriet McBryde Johnson has actually "been there done that" she was able to write on a level no "norm" would have been able to. Her words speak truths beyond just fictional storytelling. Jean's thoughts, opinions, fears, desires, all of that was further believable to the audience because the author had experience with it. There is something about the realness that
Dustin Cooper
Nov 06, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you get into non-fiction books that speak the truth then the book Accidents Of Nature is the book for you. The book mainly takes place at a crip camp “Camp Courage”. Jean is the main character and she meets new friends and has new experiences. Jean has cerebral palsy and is in a wheelchair. Jean thinks of herself as being as normal as anyone else in that era. She doesn’t let anyone discourage her, and we all can learn from Jean and no matter what you can go on with life after an accident or i ...more
Elizabeth Hubbard
Accidents of Natureis about Jean, a 17 year old with cerebral palsy and gets around in a wheelchair, but she's always believed she's just the same as everyone else. She goes to normal school and has normal friends. She's never really known another disabled person before she had arrived at Camp Courage. But there Jean meets Sara, who welcomes her to 'Crip Camp' and nicknames her Spazzo. Sara has radical theories about how people fit into society. She's full of passion and rage against pitying in ...more
Bethany Joy
- Unique insight into the world(s) of teenagers with disabilities in an ability oriented society. This is something needed in teen fiction (and for adults who work with or live with teenagers who have disabilities too).
- The book dealt well with a lot of challenging issues - the de-sexualization of people with physical/cognitive disabilities, the negative effects of many fundraising attempts (i.e. Telethons), and the dangers of categorizing people with disabilities as heroes, victims, ange
Sep 05, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: youth
I try pretty hard to stay away from books and movies about people with special needs. It's so rarely done right. (My one exception is Al Capone Does My Shirts which is brilliant as a book and as an example of sibling life.) So I was nervous about this one, but the author has CP, so I figured it was worth a shot.

I liked Sara, who was very clearly the author stand-in. And the Talent Night skit was the most brilliant thing I have ever read - The Telethon to Stamp Out Normalcy (take THAT, Jerry Lew
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Harriet McBryde Johnson (July 8, 1957 - June 4, 2008) was an American author, attorney, and disability rights activist. She was disabled due to a neuromuscular disease and used a motorized wheelchair.

Johnson, who was born in eastern North Carolina, lived most of her life in Charleston, South Carolina.

In 2002, Harriet Johnson debated Peter Singer, challenging his belief that parents ought to be abl
More about Harriet McBryde Johnson...