I know I’m not the only one who has trouble finding books with good disability representation. My goal as a writer for Think Inclusive is to make that search easier. The following lists my five favorite 2019 books with disabled representation, a memoir, an essay collection, two graphic novels, and a picture book. In 2020, I hope to find and review a few new releases every month that feature people with disabilities to make them easier to find for us readers and teachers and to give more publicity to these authors who are significantly underrepresented in publishing.
5 Of The Best 2019 Books With Disabled Representation
One of my favorite books of the year, this memoir changed the way I think about my disability and how it affected my reading and writing habits. Nnedi Okorafor is a famous and award-winning author of science fiction and fantasy. But at the beginning of her college career, writing wasn’t on her mind. She was a top track athlete. But then what was supposed to be a routine surgery left her paralyzed. She soon found herself thinking instead of bugs and creatures and science fiction. Of doorways and thresholds and the recreation of something broken into something transformed and whole. When she returned to college, she began to write. This slim memoir is loosely based on Okorafor’s 2017 TED Talk.
The Pretty One: On Life, Pop Culture, Disability, and Other Reasons to Fall in Love With Me by Keah Brown
Keah Brown is the creator of the #DisabledAndCute viral campaign and is a disability rights advocate. This essay collection is such a refreshing and positive look at living with a disability. Brown was born with cerebral palsy, and like all of us with disabilities, her disability may shape her daily life but it doesn’t define who she is. Her sense of humor permeates each essay, but she’s also vulnerable and honest in her discussions on the intersections between race and disability, on her hopes to find romance, on her relationship with her non-disabled twin. I both read this in print and listened to the audiobook, which is read by her. If you’re open to both options, I’d recommend listening to it on audio. Listening to her read and tell her story makes her vulnerability and humor even more impactful. Many of the essays take place on a college campus. If I still taught college courses, I would use some of the essays in this book.
This graphic novel is the feel-good read of 2019. It’s utterly magical and charming and features a witch protagonist named Nova who uses hearing aids. Nova teams up with her best friend and werewolf Tam to defeat dark forces that want to take over Tam’s body against their will. The relationship between Nova and Tam is adorable, and I love Nova’s kickass witchy grandmothers. Not only is there disability representation, but also LGBTQ+ representation. Tam uses ‘they’ pronouns and Nova’s grandmothers are in a loving relationship with one another (and also own a witchy bookstore). While written for a young adult audience, any age reader would enjoy it.
Stargazing will simultaneously make you smile, laugh, and cry. It packs a gut punch for a middle-grade graphic novel. While at first hesitant, when Moon Lin and her mother move into Christine’s family’s guest house, Christine and Moon soon become fast friends. Both kids come from Chinese-American immigrant families, though the similarities stop there. Moon is boisterous, charismatic, and impulsive, where Christine is studious, introverted, and insecure. Their families also have different cultural and religious practices. Yet Moon and Christine are inseparable, that is until Moon is hospitalized with a brain tumor. This story, while fictional, is based on true events.
I recommended this picture book last month on Think Inclusive, and it’s still my favorite 2019 children’s book with disability representation. In a Malaysian kampung, or village, Aleeya and her Mommy Sayang play and spend all day together. But then Mommy Sayang becomes ill and has to stay in bed all day. Aleeya is left alone during the day, and she misses her mommy. The story is based on Rosana Sullivan’s childhood. The pictures are sweet and charming.
Would you add any other books to this list?
Margaret Kingsbury writes about disability representation, fantasy, science fiction, and fairy tales for Book Riot, The Bronzeville Bee, Star Trek, and more, and she’s co-creator of Baby Librarians where she, a friend, and their children write about the children’s books they love. Her fairytale fiction has been published in Nonbinary Review, Devilfish Review, and Expanded Horizons, among other places. She lives in Nashville, TN with her husband, daughter, and their many, many books. Find out more on her website and follow her on Instagram @babylibrarians or Twitter @areaderlymom