Books About Disability

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People with disabilities—physical and mental—have long been stigmatised and shunted to the fringes of society. However, we can learn a lot from their struggles. Their life stories can inspire us. Their strength in dealing with debilitating life conditions and troubling societal attitudes has been chronicled in many memoirs. Along with true-life stories, many books are dedicated to helping those with disabilities traverse life. In recent times, fictional novels are increasingly featuring protagonists with some form of a disability. This attention is slowly bringing about a positive change in attitudes towards people with disabilities.

  1. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon: The book is told through the eyes of an autistic boy, Christopher. The plot follows him as he tries to solve the mystery of the death of the neighbour’s dog. Through his journey, he faces strange and fearful experiences and the reader gets a glimpse into his unique mind.
  2. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett: This classic novel explores the themes of health, well-being and companionship through the friendship of a young girl and a wheelchair bound boy. Using magical realism it follows the journey of the boy from darkness to light.
  3. The Unexpected Minority by John Gliedman and William Roth: It takes the reader on a whirlwind journey through time and space exploring the concept of disability through the eyes of politics, religion and different cultures. It explores the social ramifications of the disenfranchisement of the disabled and the history behind this marginalisation.
  4. Blind by Rachel Dewoskin: Emma Sasha Silver, a high school student, loses her eyesight in an accident. As she tries to cope with her loss, she falls into a spiral of depression. When her friend dies, she finds perspective in her life and tries to find what makes her life worth living.
  5. Learning to Fall by Phillip Simmons: At the age of 35, Phillip Simmons was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease. Facing a shortened life span and years of disability preceding death, he starts on a journey of spirituality looking for answers.
  6. Tumbling After by Susan Parker: Told from a different perspective, the author is the wife of a person with a disability. Her husband is a quadriplegic. In a moving book, she describes the challenges but also the heart-warming moments of love and sometimes hilarity that fill their lives.
  7. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby: This entire book was written by blinking one eye at a time. The author suffered from locked-in syndrome—paralysed and unable to communicate except by blinking one eye. This is a heart-breaking book, written with a massive effort by one very brave man.
  8. Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot by John Callahan: Everybody has a different coping mechanism and it is obvious that humour is John Callahan’s way. He is a feisty and witty writer but never trades humour for the truth. He describes his life in a wheelchair with a startling combination of cynicism and spirituality.
  9. Still Alice by Lisa Genova: Alice Howland is a successful woman, in her professional and personal life when she notices her memory becoming weaker. She is soon diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. The book is told from her point of view as she experiences losing her memories and with them, her sense of self.
  10. Under the Eye of the Clock by Christopher Nolan: It was at age 3 when Christopher realised he was different from others. He had been born with cerebral palsy. This poetic book is the autobiographical in nature and is centred on “a crippled boy” called Joseph Meeran. It is an insightful look into a beautiful soul residing inside a broken body.

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