Five Books I’ve Read Recently Which Have Disabled Characters

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.

2 thoughts on “Five Books I’ve Read Recently Which Have Disabled Characters”

  1. Read ‘the fault in our stars’ after seeing your recommendation. I follow John green on YouTube (along with his brother Hank) and I didn’t know at first that he was an author let alone what his latest book was about.

    The book is utterly beautiful. I finished it a few days ago but keep thinking about it – looking at home made films of it on the Internet, checking out when it’s being made in to a film and getting to know nerdfighteria and the reasons behind John’s inspiration for the book.

    So, thanks for the heads up!!

  2. Hi–I lead book discussions as a part-time job, and the ladies for whom I work recently chose the book “Me Before You” as a selection. In wanting to know how this book was received by people living with disabilities, I came across your blog and read your impressions about this book. Would you be willing to expand a bit on your review above? I understand if you don’t want to spoil the story for prospective readers, so if writing more here is of concern and you are willing to email me instead, I would so much appreciate it. The overwhelmingly positive reviews of this book fail to consider many implications of the book’s ending and how it might make some readers feel. Sincerely, Roberta

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