Disability and LGBTQIA+ Representation in Books
By Becca Binnie and Rosie Green
Wider representation is vital in literature, the diverse population being included and seen in literature is so important, everyone deserves to see themselves in the books that they read.
As July is Disability Pride Month we wanted to highlight and explore the books that represent the LGBTQIA+ and disability community. Understanding and learning about the intersections of identity, whether that be gender, sexuality or disability, allow us to see and celebrate each part of our unique identities.
We want to recognise positive, helpful representation that avoids problematic stereotypes or tropes, intersectional representation between LGBTQIA+ and disability communities can unfortunately be tricky to find! Below are some of our noteworthy LGBTQIA+ and disability inclusive books to add to the selves!
Wild and Crooked by Leah Thomas
Wild and Crooked by Leah Thomas is a mystery young adult novel published by Bloomsbury YA in 2019.
In a small Kentucky town named Samsboro, Kalyn Spence struggles to escape the reputation of her name. Her father committed a brutal murder as a teenager and now Kalyn must use a pseudonym as she is forced back to town to attend high school. Keeping her identity hidden is crucial as the residents of Samsboro will not forget the crimes of her father.
Enter Gus Peake. Unlike Kalyn, Gus is not afforded the luxury of redefining himself. As a native Samsboro citizen he is known either for his cerebral palsy or because his dad was murdered. For Gus, being known as himself is really important.
Finding Kalyn’s candor stimulating, Gus and Kalyn’s friendship grows strong. That is until unearthed family pasts threaten to upturn the truth. As their small town erupts, Gus and Kalyn are caught in the middle.
“Did I just read a book with healthy sexual and disability representation and a completely platonic friendship between a female and male? Why yes, yes, I think I might have.” – Five Star Goodreads Reviewer 2019
Thomas brilliantly explores friendship, small-town life and letting go of the past in this fascinating mystery, representative of both LGBTQIA+ and disabled communities.
My Heart to Find by Elin Annalise
Published in 2021, Elin Annalise’s My Heart to Find is a story novel which represents both asexuality and chronic illness (Lyme Disease and encephalitis-induced OCD, also known as PANS).
This mystery romance novel follows twenty-five-year-old, avid crime fiction reader Cara Tate. Although shy, Cara is desperate to find love. However, that is proving to be easier said than done, finding other aces isn’t easy and Lyme disease has caused brain inflammation and OCD leaving Cara afraid of another’s touch.
Cara and her ace best friend Jana went on an asexual spectrum retreat three years ago. There she found the only man she’s ever felt a connection with, dog-walker Damien Noelle. Cara has spent three years regretting the loss of contact, but as their paths cross again she is determined to let him know her feelings.
However, Damien only has eyes for Jana and Cara wouldn’t want to stand in the way of her best friend’s happiness, especially when Jana has been having a rough time.
Annalise conveys Cara’s determination to overcome shyness and OCD as she navigates day-to-day life, friendship, romance and searches for the right connection. This heartfelt, honest representation of asexual romance and disability is a must read!
An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon
Aster’s life on the HSS Matilda has been characterised by fear, violence and discrimination – in fact, this is the life all low Deckers have endured for the duration of the spaceship’s 300-year voyage. Inspired by the social history of the American South, a white Sovereign and guards control the ship, imposing strict laws and routine violence against the dark-skinned low Deckers.
When the epiphany that the journals Aster’s mother left, are in code coincides with sudden blackouts and the Sovereign’s unexplained illness, Aster begins to unravel a mystery that could offer – for the first time – a different future.
With an autistic coded protagonist and side characters with prosthetics and PTSD, the book is full of disabled representation in a story where characters’ disabilities affect how they interact with the world without being the whole story. Similarly, gender is explored alongside plot, adding to characters’ depth as they navigate their identity in a world where "traditional" gender roles and restrictions are arbitrarily imposed by those in power.
Published in 2017, An Unkindness of Ghosts expertly blends past and future in an engaging mystery exploring structural racism, trauma and gender identity. While not light reading (worth checking trigger warnings), well-crafted and compelling characters and fantastic world-building make for an emotionally powerful debut novel.
Although, books inclusive of both disability and LGBTQIA+ communities are harder to find, there are fantastic and wonderfully representative novels on the market.