6 Anthologies Written By, For, and About Disabled People
From essays to dystopian fiction, these collections center disabled writers and characters
Even though minority literature is growing in popularity at a fast pace, there are still books that don’t authentically represent the disability experience. Either the characters are bathed in stereotypes or the disability is erased by way of a cure or similar.
While this isn’t an exhaustive list, here’s some books that are written by fellow disabled people, for disabled people. What makes these selections so unique is the fact that all of the main characters have a disability. But they’re not reduced to their disabilities; all of the books feature a wide character arc, as well. In these books, the disabled finally get to tell our stories.
Firsts: Coming of Age Stories by People with Disabilities, edited by Belo Miguel Cipriani
Doing anything for the first time has a profound impact on your life. In this collection, eleven authors write about their first time experiencing something. The firsts could be anything from raising a hearing child as a deaf parent, to navigating the complexities of a caregiver that isn’t a family member. What makes this anthology stand out is the different voices presented. Each writer has a very distinctive writing voice that makes it easy to like another story even if you didn’t care for the previous one.
Nothing Without Us, edited by Cait Gordon and Kohenet Talia C. Johnson
I’m a sucker for fiction, especially speculative and realistic fiction featuring stories where disabled people are the heroes of their own story. Nothing Without Us is a multi-genre, own-voices anthology where the lead characters identify as disabled, Deaf, neurodiverse, chronically ill, and/or mentally ill. There’s something for everyone in these 22 stories that range the gamut from satirical to thrilling and suspenseful. The anthology has a vast contributor pool, which helps to spread out the many kinds of writing styles. The stories are evenly placed so you won’t get shocked because you’re suddenly jumping jarringly to a very different genre.
About Us: Essays from the Disability Series of the New York Times, edited by Peter Catapano and Rosemarie Garland-Thomson
If you’ve never read the disability section of The New York Times, this is a great, packaged, introduction to the column. If you have, it could be a complementary binding for offline reading. This anthology includes 61 essays originally published as part of a New York Times series on disability. The essays are organized into the topics of justice, belonging, working, navigating, coping, love, family, and joy. Essayists have physical, motor, sensory, and cognitive disabilities.
Defying Doomsday, edited by Tsana Dolichva and Holly Kench
This anthology is pure fun. Defying Doomsday is an anthology of apocalypse fiction featuring disabled and chronically ill protagonists, proving it’s not always the “fittest” who survive—it’s the most tenacious, stubborn, enduring and innovative characters who have the best chance of adapting when everything is lost. There were a lot of good stories in here that had me hooked from the first sentence. A Deaf scavenger. A fellow blind person who’s just trying to survive but does everything wrong without giving up. There’s a lot here, mixed in with a lot of different genres and writing styles (and, thank goodness, a variety of ethnic backgrounds—not all the survivors are white). Even if you don’t like science fiction, I can guarantee there’s a story in here for everyone.
Unbroken: 13 Stories Starring Disabled Teens, edited by Marieke Nijkamp
I love a good young adult anthology and this one did not disappoint. In this anthology, thirteen short stories in various genres, each featuring characters with disabilities, present a lot of everyday emotions and experiences. The stories encompass everything from travel stories to war stories, to stories about riding a tandem bike with someone that you don’t know very well but shouldn’t judge. I really enjoyed all the stories and I especially loved the flexibility of the genres presented. Unbroken will offer today’s teen readers a glimpse into the lives of disabled people in the past, present, and future.
Behind Our Eyes: Stories, Poems and Essays by Writers with Disabilities, edited by Marilyn Brandt Smith and Sanford Rosenthal
This collection centers around the visually impaired experience. There are 27 contributors but most of the stories feature blindness or some kind of visual impairment. The stories in this collection are more contemporary , dealing with varying situations and emotions, such as the story “Rebel with a Cane,” in which a blind teenager defies her extremely protective parents and travels home, by herself, relying on her cane and her mobility skills. There are also stories about suffering strokes at age 25 and dealing with that emotional aftermath. Readers looking for contemporary stories will definitely like the pacing of this anthology.