I became interested in this after talking with Naz about how seldom people of color are represented in works about disability, particularly fiction. I’ve been an avid reader all my life. People constantly give me books, and I’m always buying more or making great finds on the free shelf at the library. Besides the thousands of books my family owns, we always have at least a dozen library books checked out from various places (usually closer to a hundred…). For at least the past decade, I’ve had an interest in reading books with disabled characters. How could I never have read a book with diverse disabled characters?
It took a week, but finally I thought of one. A Wizard Alone, which is the 6th book in the Young Wizards series. The series focuses on two wizards, and I did not realize until rereading it for review that one wizard is Latino.
Naz had also recommended a book for this category: The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork, and as with all of his recommendations, this book was excellent.
Then I was selecting my Target pick. [For newcomers, every month I pick a diverse book from Target to encourage my local store to continue to stock books and especially diverse books.] The 2017 American Girl of the Year had a prominent endcap. We don’t normally read the Girl of the Year books, although I noticed she was African-American. When I picked up the book and started flipping through it, I saw she also stutters and it’s an #ownvoices book.
As I was thinking about it later, I also remembered a library book – the first in the Alvin Ho series – which I’d read quickly. The main character’s first person voice was so engaging that I’d forgotten he had selective mutism.
Eventually, a friend also lent me her copy of Everything, Everything, which I do not recommend, but which certainly fit the bill in terms of PoC disabilities.
With those books, I then felt that I had enough for a new tag. There aren’t enough portrayals of diverse characters who are also disabled. It seems like mainstream publishing only will recognize one type of “other” at a time, but there are plenty of real people who are PoC and disabled, not to mention LGBTQ or religious minorities or other persecuted or disadvantaged groups.
Once I had a tag, I started a list. I haven’t posted many booklists yet, because when I do start a booklist like this, I tend to get a wee bit obsessive. I decided to include fiction and non-fiction (mostly biographies). I found a bit more than I was looking for, and was turned on to some new books like You’re Welcome, Universe.
After some reflection, I decided not to include books with white characters who are marginalized in other ways (religion, sexuality, gender, etc.) and not to include characters struggling with addiction unless there was another disorder present. This might change in the future if I decide to expand.
To be included on my list, at least one major character had to be a person of color with a disability. It’s not always the main or POV character, although I’d prefer that, because there were a few novels that feature the character heavily and were too interesting to pass up.
There also are a few that don’t give specifics on the character’s race or disability. In Sharon Draper’s Out of My Mind, Melody’s race is never specified, and in Counting by 7s, the main character, who was adopted, doesn’t appear to know the specifics of her ethnic background. However, since Sharon Draper is African-American, and Willow self-identifies as a brown person, I decided to include them on the list.
Check out the list for yourself and let me know what you think! I’ve read a few of the ones I bought recently and am hoping to review them soon. Any great books that I missed? Leave me a comment and let me know so I can add them.