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5 Books to Read During Disability Pride Month

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July is Disability Pride Month, and it is my first time celebrating this month as someone with multiple mental illnesses. It has taken me a long time to come to grips with identifying as someone who has mental disabilities, but over the past few years I have done a lot of personal work and have begun to see my disabilities as neutral, rather than thinking of them negatively. For so long, individuals with disabilities have been stigmatized; but in recent years, individuals in this community have been working hard to erase the idea that disabilities are “weaknesses” or that they make someone a “lesser” person. I am so thankful to this community for positively representing disabilities, while also increasing the knowledge around mental illnesses and how many of these illnesses can be considered disabilities as well. There have been stereotypes of what a person with a disability “looks like,” but thanks to the actively growing discussion around disability, we are seeing more representation in this ever-changing landscape.

To celebrate this Disability Pride Month, I wanted to focus on books that feature characters with various mental and/or physical disabilities. Books are such an excellent way to feel connection and understanding while also educating ourselves on the lives of others. I have always found books to be a comfort, and it has been enlightening to see how many novels featuring diverse characters have been released in recent years. For now, I have chosen to exclusively feature young adult novels as I admire how much they tend to help readers connect and fully immerse themselves. My hope is that the following five novels help you to feel more understood or broaden your empathy and understanding when it comes to supporting those in the disability community.

1) “The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary” by Nonieqa Ramos

This novel follows Macy, a girl who has been identified as “disturbed” by her school, but who struggles with a psychological disorder that impacts her day-to-day life and her relationships. The novel is written dictionary-style with Macy describing the world in her own terms, which allows the reader to view life from Macy’s eyes. I found that this novel enveloped me as a reader and put me into Macy’s shoes. I learned a lot from her story, and it helped me not to feel so alone.

2) “Love From A to Z” by S.K. Ali

This novel follows Zayneb, a young Muslim girl who goes to Qatar for spring break and meets Adam, a boy recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The story follows Adam and Zayneb as they navigate Adam’s new diagnosis while handling familial issues and grief. S.K. Ali did well to portray multiple sclerosis as well as a racially diverse protagonist. I enjoyed their highly original and important story, and I’m sure you will fall in love with the characters like I did.

3) “The One Thing” by Marci Lyn Curtis

Maggie is a young girl who loses her eyesight but refuses to be pitied and instead becomes rebellious. Her story follows her as she gets into trouble for a prank going too far, and she begins to regain her sight – but is only able to see one person. While the storyline of this novel is farfetched, I appreciated how the author portrayed Maggie as a tough, rebellious teen, but also highlighted her vulnerabilities. Maggie is a beautifully evolved character, and she is sure to pull your heartstrings.

4) “The Silence Between Us” by Alison Gervais

This story follows Maya, a young deaf girl, who is forced to leave her Deaf school and enter a public one when her family moves. Maya navigates stigma surrounding her hearing impairment while trying to finish her final year of high school. Naturally, Maya meets Beau, a boy who becomes entranced by her and even learns ASL so that he can communicate with her better. However, their story begins to become complicated when Maya is offered a cochlear implant, but refuses. I found that the author did well to highlight how Maya should have complete control over choices involving her body, and that any decisions involving her disability are hers alone to decide.

5) “A Time to Dance” by Padma Venkatraman

“A Time to Dance” is written in verse, which makes it a fairly quick read that draws the reader in instantly. The story follows Veda, a prodigal dancer in India, who is injured in an accident and undergoes a below-the-knee amputation. With the help of her friend Govinda, Veda navigates her life post-accident as she reconnects with the world and those around her. I found this novel to be an excellent exploration of new beginnings and resilience.

Disability Pride Month is such a special time to celebrate what makes each one of us unique, and I am happy to be celebrating this year with these five beautiful reads! I hope that you find enjoyment, connection and understanding in them.

Getty image by fcscafeine.

Originally published: July 17, 2021
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