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so ask already!!! > Best books on disability

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message 1: by Christy (new)

Christy (christymtidwell) | 149 comments I'm brainstorming for a potential future course and would like some suggestions from this group: What are the best books/stories about disability that you've read?

I'm primarily interested in more contemporary literature, but older suggestions could be useful in providing context and history. I'm defining disability fairly broadly at the moment and am interested in a wide range of approaches to the topic, including but not limited to visible and invisible disabilities, mental disability, mental illness, Deaf culture, disease (AIDS and cancer, for instance), and chronic pain. I'd prefer that disability be central to the story or important to the main character(s) rather than a peripheral issue.

I'd appreciate it if you could say why you like whatever you suggest, too. Is it a meaningful representation of disability for you? Do you love the characters? Is the author's style and facility with language the main draw? I have a long list of general suggestions from friends and from my research, but here I'd really like to get a sense of what you as readers actually like and enjoy that deals with disability.


message 2: by Jason (new)

Jason | 8 comments Katherine Dunn's _Geek Love_. I love it, and it's worked gangbusters in courses I've taught on this subject. Its outrageously excessive approach to difference runs hard against conventional pity narratives, parodies the "freak" narrative, and spurs discussions that sidestep (or at least challenge) the typical traps about representation.

I'm particular to works that defamiliarize disability, and interrogate conceptions of normalcy. The anti-Rain-Man. Jonathan Lethem's _Motherless Brooklyn_ has also worked pretty well, but I thought it didn't get in our face enough--most of my students (and, heck, me too) find it a lot easier to talk about Tourette's than they do about the body.


message 3: by Christy (new)

Christy (christymtidwell) | 149 comments Thanks, Mike! I really enjoyed Geek Love myself. I taught in a course several years ago, but the course wasn't focused on disability (and the students had a hard time with the book), so I'm glad to hear that it teaches well in that context. I haven't read Motherless Brooklyn yet, but it's gotten recommended several times in other venues so far, so it looks like it's jumping up my to-read list.

And thanks Koeeoaddi, too! I am certainly open to nonfiction, too. I've read The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, and I'll check out the others, too.


message 4: by Meredith (new)

Meredith Holley (meredithholley) | 194 comments I think An Unquiet Mind is interesting about bipolar disorder. Jessica has a great review of it here. I found it very disturbing to read as someone who grew up with a bipolar parent. It is by a psychiatrist who is also bipolar, so it is very much about what it is like to experience the illness from the inside, not as much from the outside.

I have a friend who just graduated from high school, and she has always loved Girl Interrupted, but I have not read it myself. Do you think that The Bell Jar would fall under a decline into mental illness, also?

Oh, and One Flew Over the Cukoo's Nest.


message 5: by Jason (new)

Jason | 8 comments Oh, yeah--second Cuckoo's Nest and Speed of Dark!


Cheryl is busier irl atm. (cherylllr) I'm currently loving The Giant's House - beautifully written (almost but not quite 'purple' prose) fairly light fiction. Sometimes the story seems a little implausible, but it works very well as a fable or allegory. And the disabled character seems very real to me.

I have lots of Autism and Asperger's suggestion. My favorites among them are the ones that are best at helping me feel like I'm inside their heads, that I face the same challenges they do. Speed of Dark was excellent, but not my favorite. Consider adding to your fiction list (if it's not there already) Marcelo In The Real World. The assorted memoirs I've read are great, too.


message 7: by jo (new)

jo | 43 comments hi christy. i really like, beside the books already mentioned, Songs of the Gorilla Nation: My Journey Through Autism, which does a great job of explaining why autistic young people with loving families end up homeless, and also addresses the intersection of queerness and disability.

i also like teaching in disability classes anne carson's Autobiography of Red, which also deals beautifully with the intersection between disability and queerness.

as a novel, i like Animal's People, because it's set in india, because it contextualizes disability within capitalism and colonialism, and because it's a riot.


message 8: by Christy (new)

Christy (christymtidwell) | 149 comments Elizabeth wrote: "If you want sci-fi there is always The Warrior's Apprentice - any of the Miles books actually since it's one of the big themes she explores in them. There's always Bujold's novella abo..."

I'm totally up for science fiction suggestions. Elizabeth Moon's The Speed of Dark is on my short list already. I love some things about it and hate the ending, which I think would make it really interesting to teach.


message 9: by Christy (new)

Christy (christymtidwell) | 149 comments Cheryl in CC NV wrote: "I have lots of Autism and Asperger's suggestion. My favorites among them are the ones that are best at helping me feel like I'm inside their heads, that I face the same challenges they do. Speed of Dark was excellent, but not my favorite. Consider adding to your fiction list (if it's not there already) Marcelo In The Real World. The assorted memoirs I've read are great, too. "

I have Marcelo in the Real World from the library now and it will be read soon. I've heard great things about it. I've been reading memoirs dealing with autism, too, but if you have specific suggestions of ones you liked best, I'd love to hear them.


message 10: by Christy (new)

Christy (christymtidwell) | 149 comments jo wrote: "hi christy. i really like, beside the books already mentioned, Songs of the Gorilla Nation: My Journey Through Autism, which does a great job of explaining why autistic young people w..."

Thanks! I have Songs of the Gorilla Nation from the library now and am looking forward to reading it. I enjoyed Animal's People, too, and I'll definitely add Autobiograpy of Red to my reading list.


message 11: by peg (new)

peg (mcicutti) | 79 comments The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and My Left Foot are two of my favorites in this genre.

I would also recommend The Autobiography of Mrs Tom Thumb.I read this book recently and was impressed by the author's ability to convey the special needs and yearnings of the disabled in the 19th century,and,of course,it is relevant in today's society as well.


Cheryl is busier irl atm. (cherylllr) Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant was somehow more lovely than most.

also Not Even Wrong: Adventures in Autism, which is more about the family than most, as it's told by the father. It also includes a lot of history and some background science, as Collins did a lot of research and is already a writer.

Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's was pretty intense. The difference here is that Robison didn't have a loving family that did the best they could. He probably would have grown up almost indistinguishable from 'normal' if he had.

Thanks for the thread - I want to read about people with other challenges and there are some great suggestions here, for example The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb.


message 13: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine | 455 comments Prozac Nation I think this is probably the best book I've read about depression. It really gets into the feelings that make depression. feeling like a defective model etc.


message 14: by peg (new)

peg (mcicutti) | 79 comments I have another book to add to my recomendations. "The Story of Beautiful Girl." It's a wonderful story about a couple who escape from a home for "incurables."


message 15: by Elatsoe Stan (new)

Elatsoe Stan | 42 comments Through the arc of the rain forest. has many protagonists but at least one of them (arguably more) has a disability.


message 17: by Taylor (new)

Taylor "Born on a Blue Day" was amazing. I have synesthesia as well, and although I wish that was a more highlighted topic in this narrative, I very easily sympathized with his world.


message 19: by Taylor (new)

Taylor (Psssst, Sam…syn isn't a disability. That's actually considered offensive in our community because it doesn't limit our ability to function normally. Just thought I'd let you know. :) )


message 21: by Mel Auslan (new)

Mel Auslan Osborne (Mellow-Nerd) | 9 comments I have a few Deaf Culture related stories you might find interesting. They are true stories but very informative.
1. Deaf Like Me by Thomas S. Spradley
2. I'll scream later by Marlee Matlin
3. Deaf children crossing by Marlee Matlin
4.Helen Keller by Margaret Davidson

Hopefully they're what you're looking for.


message 22: by Denae (new)

Denae (whimsicalmeerkat) | 126 comments Sparrow wrote: "I think An Unquiet Mind is interesting about bipolar disorder. Jessica has a great review of it here. I found it very disturbing to read as someone who grew up with a bipolar parent. It is by a ..."

An Unquiet Mind is wonderful. While I don't have the same type of bipolar, I understood and felt the themes reaching out to me even before I was diagnosed.


message 23: by Jason (new)

Jason (skinnydippingintobooks) | 234 comments Me before you


message 24: by Jason (new)

Jason (skinnydippingintobooks) | 234 comments Autobiography of a Face

Might work too


message 25: by Mel Auslan (new)

Mel Auslan Osborne (Mellow-Nerd) | 9 comments All of Me. Sorry I can't remember the author. It's a true story about a woman with multiple personality disorder.


message 26: by karen, future RA queen (new)

karen (karenbrissette) | 1315 comments Mod
All of Me


message 28: by Arnie (new)

Arnie (idiotwind) You Are Not A Stranger Here by Adam Haslett is an excellent book of short stories that, for the most part, deals with various forms of mental illness.


message 29: by Allison (new)

Allison Hennessy | 1 comments Just Don't Fall by Josh Sunquist is a good book about growing up and being an amputee. He is a Paralympic skier, a good writer, and also a motivational speaker.


message 30: by Gabrielle (new)

Gabrielle | 2 comments I'm not sure if it's the right kind of disability, but wonder by R J Palacio was truly incredible.


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