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Barbellion Prize Shortlist Announced

The Barbellion Prize is dedicated to the furtherance of ill and disabled voices in writing. On 8 January the shortlist was released, and we can confirm it did not disappoint. Jake Goldsmith notes that, “We want the prize to broadly represent varied genres and writing from around the world, and maintain that in the years to come we will continue to be open to more published and self-published books from disabled authors across the globe. Representation of disability in the publishing industry and contemporary literature is still far too low, so we hope that we can at least do something to help change that.”

Of the shortlist, Cat Mitchell, member of the judging panel and Programme Leader of the Writing and Publishing degree at the University of Derby adds, “These books bring disability and illness to the forefront, and give readers an insight into experiences that are often marginalised or ignored. They are all beautiful, heart-breaking, joyful, entertaining and ultimately offer an important and varied view of ill and disabled lives.”

For more information on the prize, you can visit The Barbellion Prize website here or email

Golem Girl: A Memoir, by Riva Lehrer

(One World)

When the founder and director of the Disability Visibility Project exclaimed, “Read it!” at the end of her review, I think we all knew this was going to be a book with incredible power. Riva Lehrer’s extraordinary story of creativity and resistance gradually pulls us in to explore a world where human bodies can become any form and take any shape. Riva was born with spina bifida and spent most of her childhood with doctors attempting to ‘fix’ her. But, after painting at an artists’ group during adulthood, she began to move away from thinking that she was broken, and instead began shouting about all the ways she was not. The book is clearly the work of an incredible artist, who not only has a way with paint, but who sees words as the vehicle for connection and exploration.

The Fragments of my Father: A Memoir of Madness, Love and Being a Carer, by Sam Mills

(4th Estate)

Whilst growing up, Sam’s father was completely absent from her life and she never understood why. Later, as she began to understand, her mother died and she was left as the primary carer of her father, a man who experienced a rare form of paranoid schizophrenia.

A captivating memoir on what it means to be a carer, combining the stories of other carers that Sam admires and another she hopes she does not become. Sam carries you through the book filled with emotion, experience and sacrifice. Her writing exposes her happiest feelings but also the intimate moments during which she was the most vulnerable.

Sanatorium, by Abi Palmer

(Penned in the Margins)

A book that uses tones of memoir and essay combined with those of a poem, Abi Palmer’s Sanatorium is a celebration of metaphor and description like nothing I have read for years. It’s a stunning and accessible story of disability that holds nothing back. After spending a month in a thermal water-based rehabilitation facility in Budapest, a young woman returns to London and attempts to replicate the therapy in an £80 inflatable blue bathtub. Throughout the book, this tub gradually becomes a metaphor for the intrusion of disability on an individual’s life. The novel is an experimental and gloriously compelling debut.

Kika & Me, by Amit Patel

(Pan Macmillan)

Kika & Me is an inspirational story full of pain and love, but one that does not shy away from the drastic changes that life can force upon us. Amit Patel was working as a trauma doctor when he was diagnosed with a rare condition that caused him to lose his eyesight within thirty-six hours. The book follows Amit’s transition back into his daily life without vision and eventually with his new sidekick, guide dog Kika. The story may focus on Amit and Kika, but the relationship Amit has with his wife Seema and their children makes it one of immense strength. Outside of his writing, Amit also continues to champion for disability access.


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