By Toni Duval
How many books have you read this year by a disabled author? You may not even know if an author you read has an invisible disability due to the stigma associated with all disabilities. And yet, disabled writers are out there, part of the “one in five (22%) of the Canadian population aged 15 years and over – or about 6.2 million individuals – [who have] one or more disabilities.”
As the winter months set in, with shorter days and longer nights for enjoying a new book, consider picking up a work by a disabled author and expanding the representation on your bookshelf. All the authors below are unapologetically disabled and are re-defining the way we view disability. These are individual stories with universal messages of disability and activism.
*I make these comments as an non-disabled reader, I am learning about the diversity of the community with every story I read. As a person with a disabled parent my personal connection also fuels my activism.
Falling For Myself, by Dorothy Ellen Palmer
Let’s all name the target of this story: ableism.
With razor sharp wit, humour, and searing anecdotes Dorothy Ellen Palmer shares funny and heart-breaking stories of her life. We learn how ableism is taught in society as an attempt to erase and condemn disability with a wisdom only hindsight can bring. Palmer’s work as an activist for the disabled community will have non-disabled readers finding ways they can be an ally in their own lives.
Disfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space, by Amanda Leduc (Available on Audible Canada)
Have you ever considered how disability is portrayed in fairy tales? If you grew up with traditional fairy tales in books, movies and pop culture, Amanda Leduc will have you questioning everything you thought you knew. This book is part personal narrative, academic research, and disability advocacy. By reframing the fairy tales told in North America the reader is shown how disability is a way of being rather than as a curse or deficit. This title is fittingly the first Canadian title to be available in all accessible and traditional formats. A 2020 must-read in this reviewer’s humble opinion.
Disability Visibility, edited by Alice Wong (Available on Audible Canada)
Alice Wong is the founder and director of the Disability Visibility Project, created in 2014. She is also a disabled activist, media maker and consultant. This collection of essays by disabled people is a glimpse into the varied and complex world of the disabled experience. Non-disabled readers will find themselves challenged to learn more about the community.
In the words of Alice Wong: I want to centre the wisdom of disabled people and welcome others in, rather than ask for permission and acknowledgement.
Being Heumann, by Judith Heumann (Available on Audible Canada)
This story of an at-first reluctant but powerful activist is a personal memoir set against important historical moments for the disabled community, which have had ripple effects worldwide. As a young child in the 1950s Judith Heumann’s mother advocated for her because of her disability. Heumann was at the forefront of a national movement in the U.S. that led to the creation of the Americans With Disabilities Act. Her memoir is engaging and a must-read for those interested in the history of disability rights.