Disability! 20 great books - all by disabled authors

By The Catchpoles

By The Catchpoles
A Face for Picasso: Coming of Age with Crouzon Syndrome

A Face for Picasso: Coming of Age with Crouzon Syndrome

Ariel Henley

$18.99 $17.66

Ariel Henley’s YA memoir is the perfect antidote to Wonder, an insider’s take on facial disfigurement. Real life is frequently crueller than fiction. Our expectations are up-ended - the shock of the ‘successful’ surgery which changes her and her twin’s faces: 'we cried for months, begging to go back to the way we were before.' There’s cheerleading and prizes for being ‘inspirational’. Adults don’t always handle Henley’s disability with anything like the care some fiction would have us believe. (Content note: very graphic descriptions of surgery, distressing bullying from adults and children.)

Sitting Pretty: The View from My Ordinary Resilient Disabled Body

Sitting Pretty: The View from My Ordinary Resilient Disabled Body

Rebekah Taussig

$16.99 $15.80

Rebekah Taussig’s joy of a memoir takes us from her chaotic, boisterous childhood, through teenage romance, marriages, her career as a teacher and by the end, approaching motherhood with skill and humour. The confusion between her own perception of herself as a child, and a growing realisation that as a wheelchair user, society has a whole bag of stereotypes ready to apply to her, is beautifully drawn.

Disfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space

Disfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space

Amanda Leduc

$16.95 $15.76

Fairytales can be conflicting for a disabled child - disabled characters are almost always villains, waiting for a magical cure, or exist to provide comedy. Leduc details her own love-hate relationship with these stories. From the seven dwarves to the Beast to Bran the Broken, she moves from Hans Christian Anderson and the Grimms to Disney and Game of Thrones. She points out we’re all misled by fairytales - into expecting goodness to be reflected in physical perfection.

Frida Kahlo and My Left Leg

Frida Kahlo and My Left Leg

Emily Black

$19.95 $18.55

Emily Rapp Black’s lyrical book weaves her thoughts on Frida Kahlo’s art and disability in with reflections on her own life - on what being an amputee has meant to her, and the curious narratives the world insists on applying to disabled women. ‘In mine and Frida’s story, in this reverse fairytale… nobody overcomes anything. A broken back stays broken. When your limb is lost it stays lost.’ (Content note: child death.)

The Perseverance

The Perseverance

Raymond Antrobus

$16.95 $15.76

Antrobus’s skilful, award-winning poetry explores his deafness and his British Jamaican identity. His frustration at deaf schools now and in his own childhood is palpable: 'you erased what could have always been poetry'. He parodies Ted Hughes, whose poem Deaf School describes children as 'alert and simple, like little animals' printing the poem with every line crossed out.

How to Lose Everything: A Memoir

How to Lose Everything: A Memoir

Christa Couture

$16.95 $15.76

A beautiful memoir about childhood cancer and disability, motherhood and loss. Couture, a Canadian Indigenous singer-songwriter, resists and rejects simple stories of bravery or triumph over adversity: 'There are truly hopeless situations… I wanted everyone to be okay with that: to be okay with despair.' Sometimes 'you will lose everything, and it will be different.' Striking photos of Couture, pregnant, in her floral prosthetic limb spread across the internet a few years ago, and there’s a nod to them in the floral print on the cover. (Content note: child death and childhood cancer.)

Sick Kids in Love

Sick Kids in Love

Hannah Moskowitz

$9.99 $9.29

Disabled and ill characters die with concerning frequency in fiction. This very enjoyable YA love story between chronically ill teenagers was written as a counterpoint to The Fault in Our Stars and the many books about ill teenagers with tragic ends. 'They don’t die in this one', boasts the cover. (Content note: in early passages, the character ‘others’ people with cancer.)

Get a Life, Chloe Brown

Get a Life, Chloe Brown

Talia Hibbert

$16.99 $15.80

Romance seems more prepared to present disabled heroines than other genres of novel. Chloe Brown’s chronic pain is never forgotten or ‘overcome’, but woven into a traditional enemies-to-lovers romance. Chloe Brown is a rare Black British disabled heroine in this compelling love story. (Content note: sex scenes are explicit, lengthy, and include the 'c' word.)

Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist

Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist

Kristen Joiner and Judith Heumann

$16.00 $14.88

Judith Heumann is a grande dame of disability activism, a force behind major legal and political change for disabled people. She appears prominently in the Netflix documentary Crip Camp. This hefty book follows her through her 1950s childhood, in which the unabashed discrimination makes you wince, and through her activism and Washington jobs for both Clinton and Obama.

Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century

Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century

$17.00 $15.81

There’s a particular strength in non-fiction anthologies when it comes to disability. Esteemed US disability activist Alice Wong has gathered together 35 truly diverse disabled writers. A Black New York lawyer, a Deaf prisoner, the creator of the #hospitalglam hashtag on instagram - individual stories that nonetheless throw up common themes and shared experiences. Unabashedly written by and for disabled people, everyone will find it illuminating. (Content note: subjects ranging from eugenics to infanticide - each chapter carries its own content warning.)

So Lucky

So Lucky

Nicola Griffith

$15.00 $13.95

Fiction by disabled authors is far rarer than memoir. So Lucky may draw on Griffith’s experience of MS but she is a seasoned, accomplished writer, and this is a thriller, complete with dramatic ending. Her hero, who starts as a powerful dispenser of charity running an AIDS foundation, is diagnosed with MS and becomes a potential recipient of charity. She strains at the reversal of roles. (Content note: MS diagnosis, brief but detailed descriptions of violent hate crimes against disabled people.)

Growing Up Disabled in Australia

Growing Up Disabled in Australia

$21.99

Like many of us, Carly Findlay rejected the term ‘disabled’ as a child: ‘I thought disability looked a particular way, and I didn’t fit that’. Having embraced the term, this book is a celebration of the community it gave her. Like Wong’s anthology, many different cultures and disabilities are reflected in these Australian non-fiction stories. (Content note: these stories contain many themes that may be distressing, from ableist language and homophobia to medical trauma, suicide and self-harm.)

If you really love me, throw me off the mountain: a memoir

If you really love me, throw me off the mountain: a memoir

Erin Clark

$21.85

In her unforgettable memoir, Erin Clark writes about adventure and intimacy. 'I had been watched my whole life… Approached, interrupted, discussed. But that was all through the lens the public had for disabled people. They thought they knew me because they saw my wheelchair.' She tries to wrestle back the narrative - through aerial performance, pole dancing, paragliding and through writing.

The Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded: Poems

The Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded: Poems

Molly McCully Brown

$15.95 $14.83

Molly McCully's poetry collection was inspired by an old institution near to her home - The Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded. These are raw poems, as she imagines the lives of its former inhabitants. (Content note: eugenics, forced sterilization.)

El Deafo

El Deafo

Cece Bell

$14.99 $13.94

This middle-grade coming of age graphic novel is autobiographical - author and illustrator Cece Bell is deaf, if not a rabbit. A hugely enjoyable read for children and adults. Education is not the point, but hearing readers will wince at the mistakes made by hearing characters, and quietly vow not to repeat them. (Content note: set in the 60s, the technology is out of date. “Deafo” is discussed as a slur.)

I Am Not a Label: 34 Disabled Artists, Thinkers, Athletes and Activists from Past and Present

I Am Not a Label: 34 Disabled Artists, Thinkers, Athletes and Activists from Past and Present

Cerrie Burnell and Lauren Mark Baldo

$23.99 $22.31

This stylish illustrated book of short biographies for children presents a range of notable disabled people. Author and former CBeebies presenter Cerrie Burnell, herself disabled, chose individuals from the obvious: Frida Kahlo, Stevie Wonder and Beethoven, to the less well-known, like Nabil Shaban who played Sil in Doctor Who, and a few we might not immediately identify as disabled at all, like Lady Gaga.

This Beach Is Loud!

This Beach Is Loud!

Samantha Cotterill

$17.99 $16.73

An exuberant, talkative boy visits the beach with his father. Autism isn’t named in the story - except in the back matter - and this book by an autistic author-illustrator does not explain autism to a non-disabled reader. We see the story through the boy’s eyes - his excitement, the sensory overload of the beach.

Can Bears Ski?

Can Bears Ski?

Raymond Antrobus and Polly Dunbar

$16.99 $15.80

A child-bear discovers their deafness, visiting an audiologist with their father. It turns out it’s not 'can bears ski?' they keep being asked, but 'can you hear me?' This is an insider’s story of deafness for very young children, written by a deaf poet and illustrated by a hard of hearing illustrator. (Content note: this is a book about deafness - not Deaf culture. Bear is at a hearing school, there isn't any sign language.)