Representation in books has always been important. However, when creating diverse reading lists, people’s minds immediately go to POC representation or LGBTQ+ representation. For whatever reason, I don’t really see much in the way of disability representation. Unless, of course, I look in certain spheres.
Before university, I was an ignorant reader, my bookshelves weren’t diverse at all apart from a few queer books scattered here and there. I’m ashamed to admit that I’d never considered disability representation. But the past few years, I’ve been trying to fight back against that. Until this year, I’d thought Me Before You was an incredible film, but when I read the book this summer, I had to take a step back. It was full of ableist bullshit, and I felt uncomfortable reading it. And yet it’s so loved. Obviously, it brings up some important topics such as euthanasia, so I’m not saying it’s a bad book. What I’m saying is that it’s not good representation.
Over the summer, I listened to the memoir Sitting Pretty by Rebekah Taussig, and I really checked my privilege. It was personal, humorous, informative and maddening all at once. One of my new favourite books, Love From A to Z by S.K. Ali is a beautiful YA romance where the main character has Multiple Sclerosis. Talia Hibbert’s romance Get A Life, Chloe Brown features a main character with chronic pain, and Act Your Age, Eve Brown features autistic main characters.
These books are beautiful. They can inform an ignorant reader, like me, of different disabilities without ever taking away the fact that these disabilities don’t make people any less human. Too many books with disabled characters have dehumanised them, and it often comes from ignorance. Disability representation is so goddamn important, because it reaches out to disabled readers and makes them feel seen, and that is so beautiful.