background preloader

Disability in Literature

Facebook Twitter

8 Books That Move Disability From the Margins to the Center. As a disabled writer, I’ve looked at how disability is represented in our literature for over two decades. This interest has taken me across the globe, with a special focus in disability representation in Japan, and more recently in Germany. Recently, at the behest of a writer colleague who was about to teach a class on writing with empathy (and inspired by the Bechdel Test), I came up with the Fries Test to measure the progress of disability representation. The questions of the Fries Test are purposefully basic, or as someone once commented, the bare minimum of how disability should be accurately represented in our literary culture. Here, I’ve compiled a list of texts that go further than that. Geek Love, Katherine Dunn (1989) A finalist for the National Book Award, Dunn’s novel is the story of the Binewski family, whose offspring are purposely born with various disabilities so they can perpetuate the family business—working in the circus.

Article continues after advertisement. 574. School Library Journal. While fans of Wonder await the feature film, critics claim that central character Auggie's cranial facial deformity has been "softened" in the movie version the best-selling book by R.J. Palacio. Mike Moody first picked up R.J.

Palacio’s novel Wonder at the age of 21 and immediately connected with Auggie, the young protagonist. Moody was born with Crouzon syndrome, a craniofacial disorder similar to Auggie’s. A UK-based writer, Moody was impressed with Palacio’s ability to create a character with Auggie’s condition “so truthfully,” she said by email. The movie is another matter. Released by Lionsgate on November 17, Wonder stars 11-year-old Jacob Tremblay as Auggie and Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson as his parents.

Writing Wonder, Palacio left the specifics of Auggie’s face vague. Disability made "more palatable" Get Print. Libraries are always evolving. "Disability Destiny" or: Why I Like "Finding Dory" Children's Literature That Includes Characters With Disabilities or Illnesses | Blaska. Books serve as mirrors for children to see characters who look like themselves and have feelings and experiences similar to their own. Books also serve as windows through which children learn about their world by looking beyond their immediate surroundings and seeing characters and events that occur in other communities or other parts of the world (Rudman & Pearce, 1988; Rudman, 1995).

Children with disabilities or illnesses need to see people similar to them. Perhaps no group has been as overlooked and inaccurately presented in children's books as individuals with disabilities. Most often they were not included in stories and when they were, many negative stereotypes prevailed such as characters who were pitiful or pathetic, evil or superheroes, or a burden and incapable of fully participating in the events of everyday life (Biklen and Bogdan, 1977). All young children need to have the opportunity to learn about diversity of ability much as they learn about cultural diversity.

Dr. Common Portrayals of Persons with Disabilities. The Canadian Association of Broadcasters report found that disabled “individuals are viewed as the objects of pity and depicted as having the same attributes and characteristics no matter what the disability may be.” Similarly, the website Media and Disability, an organization advocating for broader representation of people with disabilities, points out that “disabled people, when they feature at all, continue to be all too often portrayed as either remarkable and heroic, or dependent victims.” Not only are people with disabilities stereotyped, the full range of disabilities is not reflected in media portrayals. Lynne Roper of Stirling Media Research Institute, in her article “Disability in Media,” notes that “wheelchairs tend to predominate… since they are an iconic sign of disability.

Most actors playing disabled characters are, however, not disabled. Victim Hero The flip side of the victim stereotype is the hero, the character who proves her worth by overcoming her disability. Villain. Introduction to Disability Terminology. Language is complicated. Language relating to marginalized groups, doubly so.

Using the wrong term can cause individual harm and perpetuate oppression on a larger scale. Much of our everyday language is casually ableist, and this translates to ableist language in novels, whether the novel features disabled characters or not. Sometimes, these words are intentionally included to make a point. With this article, we don’t want to tell authors what to do. To help you make an informed decision, though, we wanted to point out a few things to keep in mind, whether it’s regarding straight-up ableist language or simply what terminology to use to refer to your disabled character. Please note that this article will include the uncensored use of many different kinds of ableist language and slurs, as well as example sentences they might be used in.

Disability terminology: How should you refer to disabled people? “With a disability” or “disabled”? These are completely individual decisions. An autistic. The Daily Commute - Disability Spoken Word [CC] Disabled children and their parents discuss disability representation in literature - Scope. Catapult | I’m a Disabled Woman Who Wants to See More Literary Characters Like Me | Marian Ryan. The Alienating Lack of Disability Representation in Literature. As a kid, I read and wrote constantly. I was born with cerebral palsy, which affects my balance and mobility. When I wasn’t at physical therapy, I had a lot of extra time to read while my non-disabled classmates were playing sports.

I always wanted to write to convey my unique experiences of growing up disabled. However, I almost never saw disabled characters represented in literature. Like most people in my age group, I loved the Harry Potter series. In 1997, when the first book was published in the US, I was eight. Yet I noticed that, apparently, none of Harry ‘s classmates were disabled. The first fictional, disability representation that I ever encountered was Robin, the young protagonist of The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli. Of course, people enjoy reading fiction for countless reasons, not just to see themselves reflected.

In high school and college, I encountered countless examples of ableism in classic literature. From Richard III to Captain Ahab: what literature reveals about how we treat disabilities | Books. The controversy over Toby Young’s appointment to, and then resignation from, the Office for Students, and especially his comments about wheelchair ramps in schools, dyslexic students and accessible assessments, indicates how rife disability oppression remains in our cultural and educational institutions. There is a direct connection between negative writing about disability – stereotypes, prejudices, hate speech – and the treatment of disabled people in society. Reading literature provides one window on to the narratives about disability that circulate across cultures and throughout history. King Richard’s soliloquy at the start of Richard III is one of the most dramatic openings of any piece of literature.

From the play’s very first lines, Shakespeare stresses that his central character is vengeful, vindictive and morally vacuous. Many literary villains are disabled, providing a metaphorical shortcut to ideas of deviance, bitterness or desire for revenge. Representation matters.