ALL the books!
As a general rule, I don’t view this newsletter as a method of recommending books to others. Winchester Ave is more a little laboratory of words where I test out my tentative returning writing skills. But Disability Pride Month is the exception. So there are a couple of nonfiction titles from Australia and a couple of young adult books, which I’m especially excited to share.
Growing up, I didn’t have any friends that were sick like me. Yes, some of them had some health issues, but I didn’t know any other kids that traveled hours to see a specialist on a regular basis. Of course, I also actively tried to not think about how sick I was, which is an effective, yet very unhealthy, method of dealing with medical trauma. (Internalized ableism, anyone?)
I didn’t read about kids like me either. So when I discover young adult books with disabled characters, I feel so excited that disabled kids like me will be able to see themselves in books. They won’t have to settle for seeing disabled kids as side characters that teach the able-bodied protagonist a positive life lesson. They get to see themselves on the page as fully fleshed out, flawed human beings, just like everyone else.
Growing Up Disabled in Australia edited by Carly Findlay
During Disability Pride Month, a lot of bookworms are picking up Disability Visibility, which I absolutely love. So if you like that anthology, then you need to check out Growing Up Disabled in Australia edited by Carly Findlay.
Like Disability Visibility, Growing Up Disabled in Australia features disabled writers from a wide range backgrounds and experiences. Each essay gives readers a small slice of the author’s life and what their experience with their disability has been like.
Disability is really just an umbrella term for all sorts of conditions and lived experiences. Both Findlay’s and Wong’s anthologies are vital additions to disability literature as both essay collections ask readers to bear witness to disabled people’s lives in such a powerful way.
Ten Steps to Nanette: A Memoir Situation by Hannah Gadsby
Sometimes books are just better on audio, and I think this is one of those times. Hannah Gadsby vaulted to world renown with her comedy special Nanette, where she declared that she was quitting comedy. She goes on to break down her jokes from the first half of the show to illustrate that these jokes don’t actually tell the whole story. I don’t want to give any spoilers if you haven’t seen the special, but let’s just say I will never think about comedy in the same way again.
Now Gadsby has put out her memoir, Ten Steps to Nanette, which follows her thru her childhood in Tasmania to her life on the mainland attending university and discovering comedy. As a neurodivergent lesbian, Gadsby didn’t often fit in with those around her. She constantly felt like something was wrong with her, like everyone received a social playbook that she never received.
As a neurodivergent person myself, I really appreciated Gadsby’s frank discussion of being diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder as an adult and how her diagnosis gave her a better understanding of herself and how she moved through the world.
The audiobook features Gadsby’s signature perfect comedic timing and witty turns of phrase. I finished the whole thing in under 24 hours. It’s just so good. I also now know the proper way of peeling carrots. #IYKYK
A Face for Picasso by Ariel Henley
One of my favorite kinds of posts on Bookstagram are ones where someone shares a book they think needs a lot more love. For me, that’s A Face for Picasso by Ariel Henley.
In this YA memoir, Henley shares what it was like for her and her twin sister to grow up with crouzon syndrome, a condition where bones in the skull fuse early or are unable to expand. Henley and her sister had many operations, which saved their lives. But they also grew up with obvious facial differences, and both kids and adults often said ableist things to them, and even sometimes became hostile.
There’s so much heart in this memoir, as Henley shares both the good and the bad, the joy and sorrow of her childhood experiences. And, most of all, I’m so thankful that young people, the target audience for this book, with facial or other bodily differences might feel represented by Henley’s story.
Breathe and Count Back from Ten by Natalia Sylvester
One of my favorite books of the year is Breathe and Count Back from Ten by Natalia Sylvester. Verónica, the book’s protagonist, is such a vibrant character with so much heart and determination. She has hip dysplasia, and as she’s dealing with the continued care of her body, she also wants to just live her life. For her, that’s becoming a professional mermaid, but her parents want her to focus on practical things that will help her get into college.
There are so many things I loved about this book, including its perfect title. Going under for a procedure can be terrifying, especially when you don’t know what the surgery’s outcome will be. You signal to the anesthesiologist that you are ready and then it’s like you take a plunge into unconsciousness. For Verónica, choosing to pursue her dreams is her own plunge into making her own choices about her life and her body.
Things I Made That Went Up This Week
My friends Jennifer, Matthew, and I host a readathon for Women in Translation Month. Please join us!
We love a book about disability available in multiple formats! Here’s more recommendations if you need them. :)
The truth is that, both in and outside of the book community, dismantling ableism takes effort. It takes time and dedication, and people must possess a willingness to decenter themselves and listen to disabled people. Disability allies don’t have to be perfect. A little bit of effort and a willingness to change go a long way.
We don’t tell our stories to make nondisabled people feel better about themselves. We tell our stories to encourage each other and to remind the rest of the world that we exist, fully human just like anyone else.
Baby girl turned one! She’s growing up too fast. Unlike Dylan, she is not afraid of fire and almost managed to eat the candle. (At least she’s cute.) They both inhaled their pupcakes and played with Gwen’s new toys. Based on how Dylan immediately claimed the teddy bear, I suspect they will each be getting toys at both birthdays.