I complain a lot that there aren’t enough disabled characters in books. I’ve read a few lately and enjoyed them so instead of updating the long list I’ve posted before (which is on my to do list but will take ages so keeps dropping down the list) I thought I’d do a short list.
To illustrate my point I should add that I’d hoped to list thirteen books and call it a Thursday Thirteen of ones I’d read this year. I’ve read 84 books since January 1st. With the exception of
Bad Mothers United by Kate Long (which I felt was more about being a carer than disability itself so didn’t include) these 5 are the only ones with a disability element.
1. Home Front Girls by Rosie Goodwin
Whilst not one of the main characters this features a nonverbal child of 4 who has learning disabilities. She’s cared for by her older sister (who is a main character) who very obviously idolises her. It’s nice to see a book relevant to its setting (WWII) with a very valued crip character who isn’t used in a tokenistic way.
2. Kafka on The Shore by Haruki Murakami
This is told from alternating perspectives. Nakata had something unknown happen to him as a child and went from being an intelligent child to one who struggled to learn and had forgotten how to read. This disability is life long and is a key plot point. He uses the phrase “Nakata isn’t very bright” to describe himself several times. The second character is 15 year old Kafka. He could be argued as having a mental health condition if you think “The Boy Named Crow” who guides him is a hallucination.
3. Me Before You by JoJo Moyes
I liked this book until the last several chapters. It’s the tale of a man with an acquired disability who isn’t sure life is worth living any more and the companion hired by his family to change his mind. As a wheelchair user a lot of it rang true. It’s a powerful book but for me the ending was wrong and it made me quite angry.
4. The Fault In Our Stars by John Green.
This book is amazing. Oh it was the best book I’ve read in probably years. The story of two teens with terminal cancer, it’s been a bit controversial. It’s a book that makes you feel. And the humour it uses was perfect. It was the same as the disability humour I have. I could relate to the reactions their cancer jokes got because many react to my wheelchair user jokes in the same way. I laughed a lot.
5. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Water for Elephants is Jacob’s story. Some of it is told from his perspective as a 23 year old. And the rest from when he is 90 – or 93 – looking back on those same events. At 90 – or 93 – (he can’t remember exactly how old he is by then) he lives in a nursing home. His wishes are often ignored by those around him as the medical staff try to jolly him out of arguments saying to him that he doesn’t mean it. I found a lot of parallels to disability at any age in those sections.