Reading Disability

New Year’s Resolutions are often more trouble than they’re worth, mainly leading to guilt and unworn workout gear, plus it’s almost March anyway, but at the beginning of the year I did set myself one goal (besides finishing this damn PhD); to focus my reading on works by disabled people, particularly life-writing by disabled women.

One of the struggles when looking at disability representation is that in most representations in the mainstream, whether it’s film, television, literature, news etc, disabled people are the subject, written about from a non-disabled perspective, but don’t often get to speak or write for themselves. When we do, our work is rarely read outside of the community unless it’s yet another abled-gazey, inspiration porn article about finding love, or climbing a mountain, or going to the shops (you know, the things that abled people find inspirational).

Our experiences are important, and deserve to be read widely, especially considering that many non-disabled people’s only experience of disability and our lives come from inaccurate, shallow and stereotypical portrayals in the media. In my own reading of these texts I’ve found, for the first time, writing that speaks to me fully as a disabled person, and from conversations I’ve had with other disabled people, all with very different lives and experiences, I know I am not the only one.

Below I’ve put together a partial list of published work by disabled women. I’m focussing on memoirs, essay collections and ‘life-writing’ (which is maybe not surprising seeing as my own work is on disabled women’s life experiences). Some I have already read, others are on my to-read list. They cover physical impairments, mental illness, chronic illness, sex, love, activism, family, work, and much more. This list is by no means exhaustive (and is overwhelmingly white and American at the moment) so please comment below or tweet me (@cat_sierra) with your suggestions.

Waist-High in the World: Life Amongst the Non-Disabled- Nancy Mairs
Too Late to Die Young- Harriet McBride Johnson
Wishful Drinking-Carrie Fisher
Shockaholic- Carrie Fisher
The Cancer Journals- Audre Lorde
Hot Wet & Shaking: How I Learned to Talk About Sex- Kaleigh Thrace
Dirty River: A Queer Femme of Color Dreaming Her Way Home- Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
Don’t Call Me Inspirational: A Disabled Feminist Talks Back- Harilyn Russo
My Body Politic- Simi Linton


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