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July is Disability Pride Month and although it may not be as mainstream as LGBTQ+ Pride Month, it’s just as essential for members of the disability community. Disabilities can also refer to mental illnesses and other “invisible disabilities,” like neurological disorders and intellectual or learning impairments, that aren’t as apparent upon meeting a person as a physical limitation.
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But July is not the only time of year we should be celebrating disability pride. As with Black History Month, Women’s History Month, and Asian American and South Pacific Islander Heritage Month, there are opportunities to honor these communities year round. And what better way to do so than to educate yourself about the experiences those with disabilities have to face day in and day out?
Here are 10 non-fiction books about true experiences that can help you increase your disability awareness.
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1. A Disability History of The United States
A Disability History of the United States discusses disabilities dating back to the earliest days of American history, including the way Native Americans viewed those with disabilities, how the slave trade dealt with those individuals, and how those who came back from war weren’t given the support they needed. This intricate work by Kim E. Nielsen is a must-read for anyone interested in disability studies.
2. Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century
With 4.9 stars on Amazon, Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century by Alice Wong brings together a variety of contemporary essays from numerous people with disabilities. This book may make you question things that you take for granted on a daily basis and will leave you respecting and celebrating today’s disability culture.
3. The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma
Recommended reading by therapists and psychiatrists, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma has over 33,000 positive reviews on Amazon. This book is changing the way many people think about trauma and PTSD. Author Bessel van der Kolk has spent his life focusing on post-traumatic stress and is a world-renowned expert on trauma. The book discusses how those with PTSD can heal not just the mind, but also the body.
4. Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice
With a 4.8-star rating on Amazon, Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice is a collection of essays exploring the experiences of people with disabilities. This book by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha specifically focuses on celebrating disabled bodies and looking at how marginalized communities, like disabled queer/people of color, are working to create space for themselves.
5. Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability
Crip Theory talks about contemporary issues facing both queer people and people with disabilities, particularly where those two circles intersect. Author Robert McRuer explores the focus on the body in society, the “normal” standard, and how deviations from it “need to be corrected.” This book explores that relationship between the two groups, how they can help and learn from one another, and what can be done to help break down that “normal” standard of body.
6. Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Culture and Literature
Extraordinary Bodies frames disability not in medical terms, but as a minority discourse, which helps to further the conversation about disability rights and laws, and where they are lacking. Author Rosemarie Garland-Thomson examines older works through new a lens, looking at historical literary figures who were made fun of for being different when they were actually being discriminated against because of their disability. This work is an important read for anyone interested in literature and disability studies.
7. Sitting Pretty: The View from My Ordinary Resilient Disabled Body
Sitting Pretty is a memoir-in-essays from disability advocate Rebekah Taussig. She describes growing up as a “paralyzed girl” during the ’90s and early 2000s, and seeing disability represented in a few narrow viewpoints: monstrous (The Hunchback of Notre Dame), inspirational (Helen Keller), or angelic (Forrest Gump). As she got older, Taussig realized how few stories depicted people with disabilities being just, well, people—having jobs; going to school; and feeling pain, love, and heartbreak like anyone else—with the added troubles of being in a body that doesn’t fit into society’s standards.
8. Claiming Disability: Knowledge and Identity
As the first detailed text of disability studies as a field of study, Claiming Disability talks not only about the different types of disabilities that exist, but also what connotations and stereotypes each of them hold, and why. For example, why are physical disabilities treated differently than mental disabilities, both medically and socially? From the issue of access to buildings and public transportation to everything the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990 forgot to mention, author Simi Linton explores it all.
9. The Pretty One: On Life, Pop Culture, Disability, and Other Reasons to Fall in Love with Me
From the creator of the #DisabledAndCute viral campaign, Keah Brown brings us The Pretty One. This collection of essays helps to examine what it means to be Black and disabled. Born with cerebral palsy, Brown used to strive for “normalcy” and internalized a lot of the hatred society impressed upon her, telling her if she’s not white and able-bodied, she’s not doing it right.
Through this collection of essays, Brown details her self-love journey and how she came to terms with her identity and her body. With a fun and fresh relatable voice, Brown helps to smash the idea that people with disabilities are weak and frail. The name of the book comes from her able-bodied identical twin, whom her friends used to call “the pretty one” to differentiate the two. Now, she’s reclaiming the term.
10. Nothing About Us Without Us: Disability Oppression and Empowerment
With 4.8 stars on Amazon, James Charlton’s Nothing About Us Without Us analyzes how disability oppression is similar to (and different from) that of other groups. Charlton contrasts disability oppression from racism, sexism, and colonialism to shine a brighter light on the suffering people with disabilities face on a daily basis. His analysis is emphasized by interviews that he conducted over the course of 10 years with disability rights activists from Europe, the United States, and developing nations.
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This article originally appeared on Reviewed: 10 books to celebrate disability pride all year long