Almost, but not quite, a year ago today I put a call out on my personal journal looking for recommendations or lists of YA books that feature characters with disabilities.
From that call out, I got just under 200 books (many listed multiple times), as well as lists of book recs from other sources.
I’m still going through and sorting them, looking for reviews of the books, but I thought it might be interesting to discuss here any pros & cons of the books listed, and the books that are included in other lists.
Part of the reason I like books like this is that the response to pop culture criticism from a disability-rights standpoint often is met with “But, what sort of stories do you want us to tell?” or “Telling such stories is difficult!” I want to generate a list of fiction that shows that yes, people with disabilities have stories – and not all of them are magical cures or dreams of being non-disabled. (Certainly not all of the books below don’t fall into those various traps – in the document I’m finishing up right now, many are flagged up as problematic, so this is more a book list than a book recommendation list!)
So, share your thoughts! What books would you recommend? Do you see any books on this list that you want to gush about, or point out as a problem? Anything you’d love to discuss with other readers? Feel free to link reviews of the books (your own or someone else’s), especially if they specifically mention the disability-related aspect.
Please flag up any spoilers in your comments.
Schneider Family Book Award Winners List
The Schneider Family Book Awards honor an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.
The Young Adult Library Association does lists of titles under certain topics every year.
Bodies: “They come in all shapes, sizes, and abilities…love it or hate it, you only have one body.”
K-State Library Subject Guide: Disability.
Below the cut is the list that was generated from the comments on the above-linked post, sorted by author.
Anthony, Piers – Killobyte
Anderson, Laurie Halse – Speak
Alexie, Sherman – The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Armstrong, Kelley – The Summoning
Anderson, R. J. – Knife [North American title is Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter]
Aronson, Sarah – Head Case
Applegate, K. A. – Animorphs (last books have a number of disabled characters)
Anderson, V. C. – The Hudson Series
Bingham, Kelly – Shark Girl
Blum, Judy – Deenie
Blum, Judy – Then again, maybe I won’t
Bujold, Lois McMaster – Sharing Knife quadrology
Byars, Betsy – Summer of the Swans
Byars, Betsy – The Pinballs
Butler, Beverly – Light A Single Candle
Burnett, Frances Hodgson – The Secret Garden
Butler, Dorothy – Seadog: A Tale of Old New Zealand
Brennan, Sarah Rees – Demon’s Lexicon
Boston, Lucy M – The Chimneys of Green Knowe (flagged as dodgy race issues)
Bloor, Edward – Tangerine
Brent-Dyer, Elinor M – Trials for the Chalet School
Blackman, Malorie – Pig Heart Boy
Banks, Lynne Reid – The Fairy Rebel
Coolidge, Susan – What Katy Did
Caswell, Brian – A cage of butterflies
Cassedy, Sylvia – Me and Morton
Cooper, Louise – The Shrouded Mirror
Crutcher, Chris – The Crazy Horse Electric Game
Crutcher, Chris – Chinese Handcuffs
Crutcher, Chris – Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes
Clement, Andrew – Things Not Seen
Dokey, Cameron – The Storyteller’s Daughter
Dickinson, Peter – Annerton Pit
Dorsey, Candas Jane – A Paradigm of Earthy
Delany, Samuel R – Stars in my Pocket Like Grains of Sand
Delany, Samuel R – Dhalgren
Donaldson, Stephen – Thomas Covenant series
Duane, Diane – A Wizard Alone
Ethridge, Kenneth – Toothpick
Friedman, C. S. – This Alien Shore
Fletcher, Susan – Shadow Spinner
Forbes, Esther – Johnny Tremain
Gervay, Suzanne – Butterflies
Garfield, James – Follow My Leader
Gallo, Donald R – Owning It: Stories about Teens with Disabilities (anthology)
Griffin, Paul – The Orange Houses
Haddon, Mark – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
Hesser, Terry Spencer – Kissing Doorknobs
Henry, Marguerite – King of the Wind
Hill, David – See Ya, Simon
Howell, Simone – Everything Beautiful
Halpern, Julie – Get Well Soon (award winner for “outstanding literary contribution to a better understanding of mental illness”)
Hucklesby, Jill – Deeper than Blue
Henry, Frances Mary – Quest for a Maid
Ibbotson, Eva – A Countess Below Stairs
Jinks, Catherine – Evil Genius
Jinks, Catherine – Genius Squad
Jordan, Sherryl – The Raging Quiet
Jenkins, A.M. – Damage
Keith, Lois – A Different Life
Kent, Debora – Belonging (and all other books by author)
Klages, Ellen – The Green Glass Sea
Killilea, Marie – Karen
Killilea, Marie – With Love from Karen
Kazuhiro, Okamoto – Translucent
Kelley, Ann – The Burrying Beetle
Kelley, Ann – The Bower Bird
Kelley, Ann – Inchworm
Kebbe, Jonathan – Noodle Head
Koetge, Ron – Stoner and Spaz
Little, Jean – Mine for Keeps
Little, Jean – From Anna
Little, Jean – Listen for the Singing
Lebert, Benjamin – Crazy
L’Engle, Madeline – The Young Unicorns
L’Engle, Madeline – A Swiftly Tilting Planet
Lackey, Mercedes – Bardic voices series
Lambke, Bryan – I Just Am: A Story of Down Syndrome Awareness and Tolerance
Lord, Cynthia – Rules
Larbelestier, Justine – Liar
Lowry, Lois – Gathering Blue
Lowry, Lois – Rabble Starkey
Lowry, Lois – The Giver Triology
Lindberg, Reeve – My Little Grandmother OFten Forgets
Leguin, Ursula K – Tehanu
Martin, Ann M – The Babysitters Club series
Martin, Ann M – Kristy and the Secret of Susan (BSC 32) (flagged as very bad portrayal of autism by multiple people)
Martin, Ann M – Jessie’s Secret Language (BSC 16)
Martin, Ann M – The Truth About Stacey
Martin, Ann M – Stacy’s Emergency
McCaffrey, Anne – Brain & Brawn series
McBryde Johnson, Harriet – Accidents of nature
Micklish, Rita – Sugar Bee
McGaughrean, Geraldine – The White Darkness
Moon, Elizabeth – Speed of Dark
Maybe, William – Gideon Ahoy!
Murdoch, Catherine – The Off Season
Mass, Wendy – A Mango-Shaped Space
MacLean, John – Mac (PTDS)
Montgomery, L. M. – Emily
Marsden, John – So Much To Tell You
Orr, Wendy – Peeling the onion
Park, Ruth – My Sister Sif
Park, Ruth – Poor Man’s Orange
Pratchett, Terry – Equal Rites
Pierce, Tamora – The Circle of Magic
Pierce, Tamora – Shatterglass
Pierce, Tamora – Will of the Empress
Pierce, Tamora – Magic Steps
Philbrick, Rodman – Freak the Might
Riordan, Rick – Percy Jackson series
Roberts, Barbara A – Adventures of Phoebe Flower
Rickert, Janet Elizabeth – Day with Russ
Rapp, Adam – Under the Wolf, Under the Dog
Ridley, Philip – Scribbleboy
Roberts, Willo Davis – Sugar Isn’t Everything
Scott, Virginia – Belonging
St John, Patricia – Treasure of the Snow
Scrimger, Richard – From Charlie’s Point of View
Sutcliff, Rosemary – The Eagle of the Ninth
Sutcliff, Rosemary – Warrior Scarlet
Southall, Ivan – Let the Balloon Go By
Stork, Francisco X – Marcelo in the Read World
Schlitz, Laura Amy – A Drowned Maiden’s Hair
Tan, Shaun – The Red Tree (picture book)
Tan, Shaun – The Lost Thing (picture book)
Thiele, Colin – Jodie’s Journey
Turner, Megan Whalen – Queen’s Theif series
Voigt, Cynthia – Izzy, Willy-Nilly
Voigt, Cynthia – Tillerman Cycle
Wilson, Jacqueline – The Illustrated Mum
Wilson, Jacqueline – Sleepovers
Wilson, Jacqueline – My Sister Jodie
Wilson, Jacqueline – Take A Good Look
Wilder, Laura Ingalls – Little House on the Prairie (skeevy racial issues)
Westerfeld, Scott – Ugies/Pretties/Specials series
Wilcott, Lizzy – griEVE (trigger warning for self-harm)
Werlin, Nancy – Are You Alone on Purpose?
Willard, Barbara – Mantlemass books – scoliosis?
Wein, Elizabeth E – The Lion Hunter
Wein, Elizabeth E – The Empty Kingdom
Wright, Betty Ren – The Dollhouse Murders
Well, Rosemary – Through the Hidden Door
Yolen, Jane – The Seeing Stick (picture book)
Zindel, Paul = Pardon Me, you’re stepping on my eyeball!
Zephaniah, Benjamin – Face
40 thoughts on “Fiction Book List!”
I have a bunch more Jane Yolens listed/described here:
The ten-year-old reader in my house also suggests Sharon Creech, Granny Torrelli Makes Soup (one of the main characters is blind). It’s a chapter book she read two years ago.
This looks brilliant, thanks for sharing. I really look forward to being able to check out some of these, because there are lots I haven’t read, as well as some that I have.
I’d be interested in seeing /What Katy Did At School/ on the list, as well as /What Katy Did/. [SPOILER] The second book is interesting because, despite Katy’s great big cure in book #1, she still needs some accommodations when she’s away at boarding school – I think the portrait of disability is actually considerably more nuanced than Coolidge gets credit for. Indeed, two of the later books in the series (/Clover/ and /In the High Valley/) could also go on the list, as they address chronic illness – tuberculosis – in quite a lot of detail.
So do a great many of the /Chalet School/ books – /Trials/, which is on the list, has Naomi’s [SPOILER] more visible disability (very badly treated in my opinion), but there are a lot of characters, especially in earlier books in the series, who have chronic problems – such as easy susceptibility to infection – and the school is partnered with a sanatorium. Disabilities are not confined to the school’s pupils – the singing master, Mr. Denny [SPOILER] has unspecified lung problems which flare up severely at times, and which require accommodations (such as living in certain places), while his sister effectively acts as a part-time carer. I have noticed a rather interesting tendency among fans of the books to romanticise his condition by deciding that it must have been caused by (heroic, manly) exposure to gas during the First World War – this isn’t stated in the books, it’s an invention of the readers, and I wonder whether it reflects a wider preference for disability to be acquired under ‘exciting’ circumstances, perhaps.
In /Eustacia Goes to the Chalet School/, [SPOILER] somebody does acquire a disability, under the dubious circumstances of running away from school – although the injury is quite punitively treated in some ways (and it’s essentially a narrative punishment for transgression), there are also interesting choices in the depiction of the character’s recovery over a number of books. She stays for quite a long time in a private house belonging to the school’s (married) founder, in which there is a lift – which is used to allow her to move between levels of the house while her mobility is still highly restricted: this is a book published in 1930. When she is able to attend the school again, she still experiences flares of pain, and needs sundry accommodations.
I’ll see if I can think of any more examples – this is a wonderful idea of yours, very nice for the YA fans among us.
I notice you’ve not got the 7 Harry Potter books on the list. They’ve all got disabled characters in them. Professor Flitwick has dwarfism (and they make it quite clear that he’s not a leprechaun or any of the other magical creatures that appear throughout the books, he’s a human of restricted growth), Neville Longbottom is almost certainly dyspraxic even though the word “dyspraxia” is never used while his parents were “tortured into insanity”. Mad Eye Moody was an amputee with a facial disfigurement. Bill Weasley acquires a facial disfigurement as the books go on. Dumbledore’s sister acquired mental health problems after being raped by some muggle boys when she was 6.
The word “dyspraxia” isn’t used in the first one and a half Twilight books either (that’s as far through them as I’ve got, I don’t know if it gets used further through) but the protagonist Bella is clumsy enough to end up in the ER getting stitches on a regular basis so I think it’s fair to say that she’s a diagnosis waiting to happen.
Bella’s dad’s best friend is a wheelchair user. I can’t believe I forgot that when writing my first comment.
I can’t tell you the joy this list brings to my (disabled, former Kindergarten Literacy teacher) heart… I’m very excited to look through it more thoroughly and to add a lot of these new-to-me books to my TBR pile.
I’d also like to suggest a YA book I enjoyed recently: “Brother to Dragons, Companion to Owls” by Jane Lindskold. The main character has grown up in an asylum, and has a unique form of mutism, and there are multiple other characters with various (and largely undisclosed) mental illnesses – it’s set in a dystopian reality, but was a compelling read, and I’ve added it to my keeper shelf.
I’ll also dig up my thesis paper (now ten years out of date) on picture books and their portrayals of disabilities (and then I may have rambled on a bit about which disabilities were portrayed and which were ignored) and see if I have any on my list that aren’t on yours.
The protagonist of the Thomas Covenant series rapes a woman early in the first book; if you’re going to recommend it, that should probably be warned for.
ahh, “kristy and the secret of susan.” i adore the baby-sitters club, but that book is awful. how bad? well, at the end of it, susan’s parents – who had thought they couldn’t have any more children – find out the mother is pregnant with a girl, and they decide to name her hope. as in (it is very clearly implied), “we HOPE this one doesn’t have autism.” (ann m. martin worked with kids with autism early in her educational career, too, so make of that what you will.)
in harry potter, i don’t think it’s suggested ariana was raped, but she was traumatized after the muggle boys saw her doing magic and attacked her for it. (also, flitwick is part goblin, according to jkr. 🙂 but analogies could definitely be drawn between perceptions of disability and the perceptions of not-entirely-human people as well as muggle-borns in the hp universe.)
“marcelo in the real world” really is a pretty great depiction of neuroatypicality that isn’t ruined by the author trying to force the character into some rigid diagnosis.
^is a story from the perspective of a girl with asperger’s.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky
Prozac Nation – Elizabeth Wurtzel
Breathing for a Living – Laura Rothenberg
Cut – Patricia McCormick (trigger warning)
I’ve just stumbled across this blog, and this particular post couldn’t be more timely for me. I’ve been looking for just these types of books.
I’ve been reading the Ender Quartet by Orson Scott Card (I know, I know, but it’s for a book club). There’s a character who becomes disabled in Speaker for the Dead, and lives with his disabilities in Xenocide. How the author treats him, and later, resolves his struggle, infuriated me. My invisible disability is relatively new to me, so I’ve been thinking the past few days about books I’ve read, trying to find a book that includes disabled characters in a respectful way. With my “new eyes”, I was startled to realize that I couldn’t name one. So I’m hungry for relatable stories, and I’ll definitely be using this list as a resource in my future selections.
Thanks for the info and the whole blog, really. I will be subscribing. Great material.
I love Tamora Pierce a whole lot but I don’t remember any disability in her wild magic quartet (although, I can see how maybe the magic could be interpreted in that way for certain people). I guess this is yet another reason to go back and re-read.
And thanks for the list of suggestions!
Julia Gray’s fantasy series The Guardian Cycle has a main character with a physical disability, which as far as I can recall is not magically healed… though there is a thing with his best friend – ‘she’s not crazy, just /magical/’ – which might make people sigh a little.
The one on the list I have read that makes me cringe is Susan Coolidge’s book What Katy Did. Someone else mentioned What Katy Did At School in the comments, and I think that’s probably a better book – someone coping after a long illness, needing accomodations. But in What Katy Did, (SPOILERS) after the main character acquires her disability, she is explicitly told by her (also disabled) cousin that even though she’s in pain she should never show it, she should stop frowning, clean herself up, make herself look pretty, and always be patient and good and sweet so her family will love her instead of avoiding her. Also I hate the fact that though they get her a wheelchair, so she can get from her bed to the window, they never think to convert a downstairs room to a bedroom or anything and take her down there so she can get around the whole main floor of the house.
I read Izzy, Willy-Nilly a while ago – a friend who saw me struggle lent it to me, and though it took me a while to really think about it, I find that it’s a great depiction of acquiring a disability. I think most people here will have read The Secret Garden. I loved it as a kid, but reread it recently and found (SPOILERS) the depiction of the boy’s disability (a lot of “it’s all in his head”), and the story of his recovery, quite problematic.
I’m wondering about The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. I really enjoyed it, but I would love to know what people on the spectrum think about it.
FEED, by Mira Grant aka Seanan McGuire – the main character, Georgia, has a (fictional) disability called Retinal KA (Kellis-Amberlee, the zombie virus in her universe) that causes her pupils to be permanently extremely dilated (and I think some other things in her eyes changed, basically her eyes are adapted for low light because zombies are) and requires accommodations in the form of lots of sunglasses and special lights in her room. (And she gets lots of migraines from having to be in the light too long, and at one point [spoiler?] some jackass government people try to order her to take her sunglasses off with searchlights pointing directly at her face despite the fact that they have documentation of her retinal KA and that would permanently blind her. Because government is like that.) Later on another character is introduced who got retinal KA before they really figured out what it was and what to do about it, and her vision is basically ruined and mostly gone – I think she sees shapes and light/dark. (But is entirely functional.)
Er, last sentence should read but *she* is entirely functional – no OMG SAD CRIPPLE CAN’T DO ANYTHING.
It’s been a long time since I’ve read it, but maybe The Door in the Wall by Marguerite di Angeli is worth a look? It was written quite some time ago, but the main character Robin doesn’t undergo a miraculous cure, and he ends up saving his manor (although not through Magical Cripple Powers!)
I have read really good things of Dairy of A Part-Time Indian from American Indians in Children’s Lit. so thats something.*
I would also like to point out that the Hunger Games depict a wide variety of mostly acquired mental and physical disabilities. How well they are handled vaires but is genrally better than I’m used to and it does have a large number of female characters to boot.
I don’t think that they were intended as Y.A. but the Jackelian books(Court of The Air, The Kingdom Beyond the Waves ect.) tend to be used that way. IIRC they have a fairly positive take on physical disabilities. For example Benjaman Carl is a wheel chair user who(spoiler for first book) leads a major resistance movement when Jackals is invaded and (spoiler of second book) ends up being elected first guardian(PM). On the other hand people in the books particularly in the second book on have a sometimes call the villain things like crazy.
I definitely recommend Jean Little’s books, and most of them have a disability aspect. The author herself was born with a visual impairment and her books have refreshing authenticity in how they incorporate practical aspects of living with a disability without that becomming the entire theme or plot. She wrote Mine For Keeps when she was teaching children with mobility impairments who had difficulty relating to the miracle cure aspect of such disability classics as Heidi and A Secret Garden.
I enjoyed “Curious Incident” the first time I read it, too, but in retrospect I realize that it’s an example of an autistic character being given *every single* possible autistic trait, and hence not being a fully realized character, but rather a laundry list of stereotypes. It’s…rather tiresome, and it’s no coincidence that the best autistic characters tend to be characters which are not explicitly labeled as autistic in canon.
I don’t know most of the books on the list, except for the Babysitters Club. Ah, yes, another stereotypical representation of autism! And one which basically supported institutionalization, at that. From what I recall of the ongoing storyline with the Deaf boy, though, it was actually fairly decent, though I’ll of course defer to the judgments of Deaf people on this one. The diabetes storyline in BSC is problematic for the reason that the medical info is WAY off, even taking its late ’80s/early ’90s context into account.
The Diane Duane autistic character apparently is cured as a reward for his deeds, or something like that. Very disappointing; I won’t be getting around to finishing that series.
My favorite YA series ever, “Animorphs” by K.A. Applegate, had several explicit disability storylines, which were a decidedly mixed bag.
I intensely disliked Curious Incident. Give me relateable characters, people! He wasn’t a character at all. He was a bundle of what neurotypical people think autistic people are like. Ew. Do Not Want.
And I got so angry at the treatment of autism in A Wizard Alone that I wrote a correction and mailed it to her publisher. It was THAT angry-making.
Much love for Speed Of Dark, though.
Sorry the * was supposed to be a footnote to the review of Dairy at http://americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com/2007/04/beverly-slapins-review-of-sherman.html
Another Ann M. Martin one that deals with autism is “Inside Out.” [SPOILER] The main character of the story is a boy who’s about 10 or 11. His younger brother, age 4 or 5 or so, is autistic. I read it about 20 years ago, when I was about 10, but for some reason, there’s one scene that’s stuck in my mind — one of the younger brother’s therapists is working with him on making eye contact. The therapist says something like, “James, look me in the eye — look at me,” and when James does it, briefly, the therapist gives him a few Cheerios as a reward. The older brother, Jon, is watching this, and he remembers that he helped his best friend train a new puppy the previous year, and it looked pretty much the same — they’d tell the puppy to do something, and when he did it right, he’d get a treat. Jon asks his mother about that, basically asking, “Why are they treating my brother like a dog?” I don’t remember the answer that the mother gave, but I remember that I was really unsatisfied with that answer as a reader, and that Jon wasn’t altogether comfortable with it, either. (I wish I could find a copy of this book somewhere. I definitely remember that scene as playing out leaving some questions about whether this method of “training” really was the best thing for James, or just the most convenient thing for his parents and teachers, but I could be projecting some of my own thoughts and ideas onto my memory of the story, and it might not be written like that at all.)
Mayra L. Dole has severe CFS/ME and MCS, and she’s written some bilingual/bicultural children’s books that don’t particularly address disability, though they are very feminist and celebrate difference and creative responses to oppression. Her YA book, Down to the Bone, is about a teenage Cuban-American lesbian who is kicked out of her home and community for being lesbian. Although the protag doesn’t have a disability, she talks about the importance of using nontoxic products and cleans with them, and the health effects of the poisonous products usually in use. I’m not sure if other characters have a disability or not.
The 10pm Question by Kate De Goldi (this book slowly reveals details about it’s characters so everything I’m going to say could be considered spoilery, but it wouldn’t have spoiled my enjoyment of the book had I known it in advance) is about a boy whose mother has severe agoraphobia, and the protagonist himself is on the borderline between a phase of childhood anxiety and a diagnosable anxiety condition. This was a set text for a class I took recently, and a lot of people reacted badly to the mother, considering her a neglectful parent, but I felt completely differently – to me she’s a very positive portrayal of a character who understands the limitations of her disability and works her life around them (for example, she has established a business she can operate without leaving the house) whilst at the same time the author doesn’t hesitate to acknowledge that living with an anxiety disorder can really suck sometimes.
Margaret Mahy, Memory – about a teenage boy’s friendship with a woman with dementia. I don’t know enough about dementia to really assess if this is a good portrayal, but there is commentary on the lack of social care resources available.
King of the Pygmies by Jonathon Scott Fuqua – is about a boy with psychotic episodes. I think this might be controversial, but I really liked it. Again, it shows how people function with mental illness in ways that are not all sunshine and roses but don’t universally suck either. If you read extracts it may sound very supercrip, but if you read it all the way through it’s very definitely not.
Another mental illness-related title I’d add is The Woman in the Wall by Patrice Kindl (though a quick Amazon search tells me that it’s now out of print…). It’s an eerie, magical-realist story of a girl who is so extremely shy (how the character describes herself, though I’d say she’d be diagnosed with severe social anxiety and agoraphobia) that she essentially goes into hiding at age 7, living in the secret rooms and passageways of her old Victorian house, and stays there until age 14, when the story takes place.
As a kid, I really related to the descriptions of her extreme shyness and anxiety (and I think I still would relate today), though other people with similar issues might find the story a bit triggering, given that her family all but forgets she exists after she’s been in the walls for a while.
I would add Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga to that list, as her protagonist Miles is born with severe osteoporosis and scoliosis caused by exposure to a violent teratogen in utero and, while his bones are piecemeal replaced with synthetics as he gets older, he is still somewhat less than five feet in height (I think he’s 4ft 9ins?) and hyperactive, quite possibly bipolar. He also has a bleeding ulcer, controlled by a chip on his vagus nerve, and a seizure disorder caused by brain damage during a cryogenic freezing/revival procedure. I think Bothari would also qualify – he’s schizophrenic, isn’t he? Taura has a chronic (and ultimately terminal) illness due to her genetic alterations, and Komarr’s Tien and his brother have a (fictional) hereditary degenerative illness (Vorzohn’s Dystrophy). There’s also baby Raina Csurik, born with a cleft palate and murdered by her grandmother for it at just over one week after her birth.
Bujold’s novel The Curse of Chalion should also be here, I think, as Cazaril has multiple adhesions that cause him chronic pain, along with two half-amputated fingers on his left hand.
assiya, re. Wild Magic, Daine’s nervous breakdown could probably be counted as a disability, albeit temporary.
I agree EBD’s Eustacia and Naomi should be on the list. Probably also Nina Rutherford’s cousin Alix?
Also in the Vorkosigan books, Mark Vorkosigan, who is multiple, which is presented as a way of coping with extreme trauma, but not as an unalloyed bad thing. In Mark’s case, there’s one ‘core’ personality, Lord Mark, and a group of personalities who serve the core. Mark is in therapy, not so much for the multiplicity as for his severe sexual dysfunction, eating disorders, and PTSD.
Great list! A couple more recommendations off the top of my head:
Raskin, Ellen – The Westing Game: Christos Theodorakis is a wheelchair user with some level of speech impairment and difficulty with muscle control, all due to an unidentified illness. I haven’t read the book in a while but I remember the portrayal as being good until the end when there was something of a magical cure. There’s also Sydelle Pulaski who [spoilers] fakes an injury for attention then actually becomes injured, and uses crutches for some time, but also makes a full recovery – the book compares her to Christos a lot, usually through Sydelle’s own perspective. And finally there are references to Flora Baumbach’s late daughter Rosie who had an unidentified mental disability.
Konigsburg, E.L. – The View From Saturday: Eva Marie Olinski, the teacher who inspires the four main sixth-graders, is paraplegic. Again, as far as I can remember the portrayal is fairly good but I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts.
I’m surprised I can’t think of more just now, but sadly I don’t have my bookshelf in front of me! I’ll keep meditating on it, though.
I feel like “A Prayer for Owen Meany” by John Irving should be on the list somewhere, but I’m not sure in what way. Irving really has a thing for amputation as metaphor, though — pretty much every book of his features a pivotal scene in which a character loses arms or legs (or, in one case, genitals.)
“Black Swan Green” by David Mitchell is one of my favorite books that depict stuttering. It is about a boy in post-Cold War England that has a stutter. The book spans and year and explores his experiences with bullying, public speaking, and family issues. I found myself thinking “This is sooo true!!” and laughing when reading about his experiences and how similar they are to mine. “The Loop” by Nicholas Evans is another good one, too.
Dia Calhoun’s YA fantasy The Phoenix Dance has a bipolar heroine. (Being a fantasy set in a past-ish time, they don’t use the term, but that’s what it is.) It’s loosely based on the fairy tale of the 12 dancing princesses, and the princesses are portrayed as having magically-induced rapid cycle bipolar disorder – one reason the heroine is drawn to try to help them. There’s also the heroine trying to deal with her medication, which makes her feel not like herself and gain weight, and rumors of a magic insta-cure for any disease in which the insta-cure is NOT presented as the goal – in fact, it’s a distraction from things she can actually fix. The author is herself bipolar, and the afterword in which she talks about how she came to write this book is worth reading.
Speaking of E.L. Konigsburg, maybe Silent to the Bone? It’s about a boy named Branwell who stops speaking after being accused of a crime, and his best friend tries to figure out what happened by communicating with Branwell using cards with their inside jokes written on them. I don’t know if this is exactly a disability book because Branwell isn’t nonverbal permanently–he starts talking again at the end–but it’s an interesting portrayal of alternative communication.
(I’ve also seen E.B. White’s The Trumpet of the Swan suggested as a good book about AAC. It’s about a swan that can’t make noises like the other swans, and communicates by writing on a chalkboard. :))
I’m not 100% sure if Robert Sawyers WWW Trilogy (of which WWW: Wake and WWW:Watch have now been published) is YA fiction, but the protagonist, Catilin, is a blind teenager, whose blindness is due to a genetic condition. A scientific discovery is used to give her sight, and there are discussions in the book about moving from being a blind person to sighted (and how hard that would be), and the assisted technologies that blind people use when using the internet and reading.
In my limited knowledge of disability activism/discussion I thought that the representation of disability in this book was fantastic, especially Caitlin’s retorts to some of the adults in the book when they’re discussing various issues with her.
Wikipedia link here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wake_%28Robert_J._Sawyer_novel%29
I haven’t yet read Watch, but just recently bought it.
What about Hilary Mckay’s Casson family books?
There’s a series of 5 books, starting with Saffy’s Angel.
Saffron’s best friend Sarah uses a wheelchair. I think it’s good to see disability in a humorous book rather than the usuall tragic issue book. On the other hand it is a friend of the family who’s disabled not one ofthe family themselves.
Uhh…JK Rowling has said that Professor Flitwick is part goblin. He doesn’t have dwarfism.
Also, I read LHA’s Speak last month on s.e.’s rec, and I have a review of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian coming up in pending somewhere, if you are interested, Annaham. I really liked both of them.
I read all of the Baby-sitter books when I was young, and I don’t remember her handling of diabetes being very realistic. It was overly simplistic from my own experience with it in my family, but I haven’t seen every case everywhere, and I don’t have it myself, so it could be realistic to some people. I just never saw her depictions of disability as very good or believable. emotionally challenging for young readers? Possibly.
Kissing Doorknobs is supposed to be a really good book about living with OCD. I haven’t really read it my self, but the excerpt(?) I read looked promising.
I almost forgot (until I was working on another post) that Ann Brashares’ Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series deals with disability in every book.
The first one has a character with cancer, but it is an Extra Special Lesson sort of situation that teaches one of the main characters about living life and seeing people. Etc. Etc. However, it also deals with another main character’s depression.
The second book revisits that character’s depression, and how she learns to deal with it and overcome it.
The third book includes a character who is a wheelchair user, but she is also used to teach a character a Very Special Lesson to another main character who is privileged beyond belief (my own opinion).
The fourth book revisits the depression that has affected the family who has a lost a mother to suicide, and how they have adapted. It also looks at one of the young women and how she has seemingly become depressed after being away from her support system for a year, and adjusting to how her family dynamics have changed while she was away.
They have very interesting themes of disability in them, both good and bad, that I recommend to anyone, and I would recommend them for your list.
Holy, this is tl;dr! Oops!
@Ouyang Dan I read it.
The Darkest Powers trilogy by Kelley Armstrong (of which The Summoning is a part) doesn’t have anyone with a disability, IIRC. Instead, a bunch of teens with magical abilities/races are sent to a fake mental health home, where they either accept their fake diagnosis or get killed. While initially the main female character is coming to terms with her illness, she learns her diagnosis is fake only a few chapters in and that she’s just ~magical and from there mental illnesses aren’t mentioned as anything other than a rouse they have to work around and their “doctors” as nothing more than people that they have to escape from.
I just remembered that The Darkest Powers series (of which The Summoning is a part) DOES have a PWDs in it. Simon, a main character and love interest, has diabetes. My mind had completely blanked on that part in all of the mental illness fail.
Oh! The Keys To The Kingdom series, by Garth Nix – the protagonist has severe asthma (in the hospital multiple times and nearly dies severe) that is fairly disabling at times. (He does get a work-around with a magic artifact that clears it up a bit when he’s touching it.)
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