Nuanced and complex stories of disabled people are few and far between in mainstream media, but one place where these stories are not lacking is in the nonfiction section of your local bookstore. Here are some of our favorite books by disabled authors, illustrating the rich variety of their experiences, and detailing what it is like to live in a world that is not always open to a diversity of abilities.
Incredible Books by Authors with Disabilities
Sitting Pretty: The View from My Ordinary Resilient Disabled
By Rebekah Taussig
In Sitting Pretty, Rebekah Taussig discusses disability in a way that is both honest and nuanced. Her autobiographical essays touch upon issues like the complexities of charity, experiencing intimacy as a paralyzed woman, and the pervasiveness of ableism in mainstream media.
The Pretty One: On Life, Pop Culture, Disability, and Other Reasons to Fall in Love with Me
By Keah Brown
As the founder of the viral campaign #DisabledAndCute, Keah Brown has become a known face of self-love. In The Pretty One, she shares essays about her journey towards self-acceptance as a person born with cerebral palsy, and how being a woman who identifies as disabled and black has shaped her path.
Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights
By Judith Heumann
As a life-long disability activist, Judith Heumann knows what it is like to have to fight for acceptance, respect, and equality. And in her book, Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist, Heumann details her battles, from fighting to attend grade school — and winning a lawsuit against the New York City school system — to leading the longest occupation of a governmental building in history, as a leader of the Section 504 Sit-in.
Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law
By Haben Girma
Haben Girma is the first deafblind person to have graduated from Harvard Law School, but don’t let the title of her book fool you, because it is about so much more than Harvard. In her memoir, Girma discusses her extraordinary life experiences, demonstrating determination, resiliency, spirit, and grace. These include building a school in Mali, developing a text-to-brail communication system, climbing an iceberg in Alaska, and meeting a U.S. president.
Girl at War
By Sara Nović
The only work of fiction on this list, this debut novel by author Sara Nović explores the effects of war on a young girl whose childhood is forever changed by the Yugoslavian civil war in the early 1990s. Girl at War was named one of the best books of the year by Electric Literature and was a Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist, establishing Nović, a deaf author, as one to watch.
If at Birth You Don’t Succeed
By Zach Anner
For those who like their memoirs jam-packed with hilarity, Zach Anner’s If at Birth You Don’t Succeed is a must-read. Born premature and with cerebral palsy, Anner claims to have “botched” his birth, which should give you some sense of the tone of this book.
Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability
By Sheila Black, Jennifer Bartlett, and Michael Northen
Beauty is a Verb is a compilation of poetry, essays, and other writings, all focused on disability. Edited by Sheila Black, Jennifer Bartlett, and Michael Northen, this anthology is a breathtaking collection for anyone interested in issues of diversity, ability, and identity.
Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century
By Alice Wong (Editor)
In Disability Visibility, activist Alice Wong presents a collection of eclectic essays from disabled individuals, such as comedian Maysoon Zayid and human rights lawyer Haben Girma (author of a book on this list). In addition to these essays, the book also includes blog posts, manifestos, eulogies, and more, all of which offer insight into the diversity of disabled identities and experiences.