By Zoe Doyle, Amy Wright and Rowan Jackson
Amazon has recently announced their intention to add a new disability fiction subcategory to their online bookstore. This comes after a campaign by authors Penny Batchelor and Victoria Scott, who explore disability within their own work and are frustrated with the marginalisation of disability representation in the publishing industry. Hopefully, this means that readers can now quickly identify books with disability representation and increase the diversity of their reading. Here are some of our own recommendations within this category (with one memoir included for those of you who like non-fiction).
One For All by Lillie Lainoff
Fancy an own voice, gender-bent retelling of The Three Musketeers? Tania de Batz feels most alive when she is holding a sword, but everyone else views her through the lens of her disability and labels her as weak and sick. When her beloved father is murdered, she attends the finishing school L’Académie des Mariées to fulfil his dying wish. However, the school is not what it seems and is actually a secret training ground for women to become undercover Musketeers. Tania has to navigate self-doubt, chronic illness and a dangerous attraction that could jeopardise her mission as she trains. Lainoff explores sisterhood and found family in this fun take on a classic story – expect plenty of fencing, duels in ballgowns and seductive spies! Like Tania, Lainoff is a fencer and also suffers from Postural Tachycardia Syndrome (PoTS). She hopes to help other teenagers (and adults) suffering from chronic illnesses feel like the heroes in their own stories.
Sitting Pretty by Rebekah Taussig
The creator of the Instagram account @sitting_pretty, Rebekah Taussig explores her experiences growing up in the 90s and early 2000s surrounded by flat, one-dimensional depictions of disability in the media. In her memoir-in-essays, she attempts to paint a more nuanced narrative – that disabled people are complex individuals who feel and experience a spectrum of emotions and are not merely “monstrous” or “inspirational” to able-bodied people. In a world where ableism is rife in every facet of our society, this is an important book that challenges readers to reconsider the way they view disabilities. Rebekah also explores the challenges of living independently, experiencing intimacy and how the media perpetuates ableism.
So Lucky by Nicola Griffith
So Lucky by Nicola Griffith is a powerful story about Mara, a headstrong character whose marriage comes to an end at the same time as a multiple sclerosis diagnosis (MS). The story sees the protagonist come to terms with the reality that her future will be unlike anything she imagined in all aspects of her life. The author’s own lived experience of being diagnosed with MS is evident through Mara’s frustrations with how she is treated and ignored. This short novel explores the invisibility that is experienced daily by disabled and chronically ill people. Griffith does not hold back with the reality of living with MS and gives an honest account of the lack of awareness of this chronic disease. So Lucky is an important story that highlights the ableism within our society and the damaging ignorance and assumptions that people hold.
My Heart to Find by Elin Annalise
Twenty-five-year-old Cara is asexual. A couple of years ago she met Damien on a retreat for people on the asexual spectrum, but they didn’t stay in touch. Now that their paths have crossed once more, Cara wants to get to know Damien and hopes that her chronic Lyme disease and OCD won’t stand in her way. However, Cara faces many challenges, including ableism from medical staff who don’t listen to her and the fact that Damien seems more interested in her best friend Jana, who is also asexual. My Heart to Find is a sweet story, yet it also covers serious topics and provides an insightful account of what it's like to live with Lyme disease and OCD in a society that lacks awareness.
Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney
Conversations with Friends is an honest, modern exploration of love and friendship and follows the story of Frances – an intelligent, observant, cool-headed student and aspiring writer – in the throes of an affair with a married man. She also suffers from endometriosis. Endometriosis is a chronic illness which causes debilitating pelvic pain before and during a period, amongst many other unpleasant and painful symptoms. It can also lead to fertility issues. Rooney depicts the pain, confusion and frustration of Frances’ experience with endometriosis and her journey to a diagnosis, in a way that resonates with individuals who also suffer from the same chronic illness.
It is refreshing to see this illness spoken about by such a popular and influential author. Endometriosis is highly misunderstood and by discussing it so openly in this book, hopefully diagnosis and conversations around endometriosis will increase and improve.