The Pride Library 2019 Challenge is hosted by Library Looter, Anniek’s Library and Michelle Likes Things. Join in on it anytime or link your post in the comments so I see it! Also all reviews I’ve written will be linked.
I know that “Far From You” by Tess Sharpe and “History Is All You Left Me” by Adam Silvera, which I have yet to read, has main characters that fit under this banner of being disabled/neurodiverse. But I want to take this chance to write a quick post about my thoughts on reading about disabilities and the very clear reason why I haven’t been doing it so far. Full disclosure, I’ve rephrased this post a couple times and am still nervous, but also very curious about people’s thoughts on this!
I grew up chronically ill. I still am, just last summer I could barely walk and was in a wheelchair for a short time, but with the right medicines I’m back on my feet, if not healthy. I tried to let it not define me growing up, it was extremely important for a sense of identity and belonging. I didn’t have a name, a diagnosis, to what I was struggling with, I knew it as something that was only causing me problems and leaving me without hope. Nowadays, I have a generally much more healthy relationship with being sick, with shorter periods of it being really dark and awful. There’s times where it’s very visible that I’m ill, like for a long period my joints were fucked up, but for the most part it’s been invisible which comes with its own challenges (that’s another post).
Literature and reading has both been a source of escape, but also to learn about other people’s perspectives, and that’s one reason why diversity and representation is so important. I like learning about other people’s mindset, cultures, problems, whatever it might be, through novels. But I was burned too many times as a disabled kid trying to pick up books about or with chronically ill or disabled people. Being sick was an experience I knew too well, that I was surrounded with 24/7, so when the author eventually got so many things wrong or forced a strange mindset on the character, it cut so deep. That’s the importance of #ownvoices authors. There are authors that doesn’t need to go through the exact experiences and can still write really good diverse novels through skill & lots and lots of research, but there’s also those books that without this just turn out really really bad. And that hurts if you’re too close to it. I didn’t need characters being magically cured or having no illness/physical problem after all at the end of the book. I needed realistic portrayals of characters with daily changes in rutine depending on if it’s a good or bad day, and having their ups and downs – the really high highs and really low lows that can come with having a diagnosis or a disability.
I’m so glad that there’s more #ownvoices and accurate portrayals of disabilities out there. I already know I want to read more books with neurodiverse characters and there’s so many great disabled&neurodiverse bloggers out there recommending the accurate books. But diving into the world that is disabilities in literature has just felt too daunting and like I’m still not emotionally in a place where that seems healthy?? Like I still will get x10 times more hurt when someone wrecks writing that character than any other novel. Not to mention triggers, I can’t watch hospital scenes on the TV right now, whether it’s a broken arm or someone dying.
I’ve found listening to podcasts with real people telling about their real stories of dealing with disabilities, mental illnesses and pysical illnesses to be just the middle-ground I needed – SICKBOY Podcast is one I really really recommend whether you’re disabled/ill or not at all. The hosts are a trio of guys, one who has Cystic Fibrosis, where they interview a new sick person each episode in a really deep, but fun way with humor as well. Jordan Whelan talked about how it was to have ulcerative colitis, a similar gastrointestinal illness as myself, while being gay (ep. 108).
I want to end on the note that remember that queer disabled people face twice (in my community more than that) the harassment and discrimination as others, and I really think accessibility on queer events need to be given more awareness and thought. The first pride parade I attended this May I was proud to barely make it through as my lungs & feet were pretty fucked up, but after they had an accessible indoor event. Everyone deserves to celebrate their pride!
That said, read any book with disabled/neurodiverse characters that you loved?