Perspectives on Disability

Six books explore the varied experiences of people living with physical and mental disabilities.

About Us: Essays from the New York Times ’ Disability Series. Liveright: Norton. Sept. 2019. 304p. ed. by Peter Catapano & Rosemarie Garland-Thomson. ISBN 9781631495854. $27.95. SOC SCI
In this expansive volume, Catapano (opinion editor, New York Times ) and Garland-Thomson (English, bioethics, Emory Univ.;Extraordinary Bodies) present 60 selections from the New York Times’ weekly "Disability" series, in which people discuss living with disability. This collection proves disability knows no boundaries, as the pieces chosen (grouped by thematic topics such as family, love, coping, work, and joy) represent a range of ages, genders, sexualities, professions, and classes, from individuals with disabilities physical or mental or a combination of both that might have been with them since birth or occurred through chance or accident. While it upholds the value and dignity of people with disabilities, this is no easy read of purely "inspirational" tales, as frustration, worry, and anger sit beside happiness, confidence, and reflective grace. The one notable flaw may also be a strength: by eschewing any larger sociopolitical theme and focusing on individual voices, it reinforces its message of disability as a complex aspect of the individual rather than a monolithic identity.
VERDICT A well-edited, thoughtful volume and a multifaceted glimpse into some of the experiences of the largest minority group in the world.—Kathleen ­McCallister, William & Mary Libs., Williamsburg, VA

Brown, Keah. The Pretty One: On Life, Pop Culture, Disability, and Other Reasons To Fall in Love with Me. Atria. Aug. 2019. 256p. ISBN 9781982100544. pap. $17. MEMOIR
Journalist/activist Brown begins her coming-of-age story by outlining how her Twitter hashtag, #DisabledAndCute, changed the course of her life and brought her a book deal, along with other successes. This frankness may feel overly confessional at first, but readers will come to appreciate the author’s voice, as a young black woman living with disability. Brown’s narrative is a bright and delicious exercise in transparency. Her desire to be beautiful, her angst about not yet knowing romantic love, and her longing for designer clothes intermingle with stark stories about life with cerebral palsy. By collaging pop cultural dictums alongside experiences of physical pain and encounters with the world’s disregard for her disabled body, Brown presents herself for what she is—a radical amalgam of vulnerable girlishness and wizened strength. All in all, this title details lovingly and unsparingly how Brown’s life has sputtered and roared along the way to result in the budding author she is today.
VERDICT Readers with lives like Brown’s will find solace in this debut; others will be similarly moved by her honesty and carbonated wit.—Sierra Dickey, Ctr. for New Americans, Northampton, MA

redstarGirma, Haben. Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law. Twelve: Grand Central. Aug. 2019. 288p. ISBN 9781538728727. $27. BIOG
Born with deafblindness, Girma grew up with enough vision to know when someone was in front of her and enough hearing to know when someone close to her was talking. However, she had difficulty reading facial features or distinguishing people in group conversations. Relying on her own problem-solving skills, Girma overcame roadblocks while simultaneously obtaining her undergraduate and then law degree. In the process, she developed new methods of communication and found her calling in advocating for the deaf and blind communities in more accessible communication, education, and employment opportunities. As a lawyer and advocate, Girma shares a collection of vignettes illustrating the defining points in her life. She peppers her writing with a witty sense of humor and showcases her strength in facing obstacles, along with challenging antiquated societal beliefs about people with disabilities, whether describing her experience climbing Alaska’s Mendenhall Glacier or helping a drunk friend get to his dorm by using her seeing-eye dog that he adores as a lure.
VERDICT An absolute must-read; Haben’s compelling account reveals a driven and accomplished woman and displays her impressive advocacy for the disabled community.—Stacy Shaw, Denver

Justesen, Pia. From the Periphery: Real-Life Stories of Disability. Lawrence Hill. Oct. 2019. 336p. ISBN 9781641601580. $18.99. SOC SCI
Human rights lawyer ­Justesen (disability rights; Univ. of Illinois, Chicago) interviews people in the Chicago area with various disabilities, from those with cognitive impairments and mood disorders to those with mobility aids, such as wheelchairs and canes, to create a moving, in-depth oral history of an oft-forgotten and ignored U.S. minority: people with disabilities. While all are personal stories, the core takeaway of each experience is the same; these individuals were treated with disrespect, ignored or infantilized, desexualized and separated from everyday life through a series of barriers to overcome in terms of careers, housing, or even going to a supermarket. All interviewees yearn to be treated with respect and given the chance to live a life that so many able-bodied people take for granted. This one-of-a-kind work allows those with disabilities to speak for themselves, giving readers a chance to see the individuals behind the diagnoses.
VERDICT A perfect primer for anyone ­interested in disability studies, oral histories, and getting to know the disabled community in a more personal way.—Ahliah Bratzler, Indianapolis P.L.

Mooney, Jonathan. Normal Sucks: How To Live, Learn, and Thrive Outside the Lines. Holt. Aug. 2019. 256p. notes. ISBN 9781250190161. $26. BIOG
Mooney was diagnosed with dyslexia and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder as a child. As a result, he described himself as a "weird" kid who obsessed over things, such as insisting on checker-patterned clothing and showering in his socks. He was labeled "abnormal"; someone who was "atypical" in school. He did not learn how to read until he was 12, and his experience was that people were forced to meet arbitrary standards of normal. This book explores the toll that not being "normal" takes on children and adults when they are constrained in environments that label. Mooney comes to realize through experience that he was not the problem, but the social system and concept of normal were. He spent a large part of his early life focusing on what was wrong with him, ignoring what made him valuable as a person. Ultimately, Mooney argues that abnormalities are social constructs, and recognizing this is the first step toward better understanding yourself and reclaiming your power. He challenges us to reorient how we think about diversity, abilities, and disabilities.
VERDICT Recommended for general readers, particularly those interested in questioning societal norms.—Gary Medina, El Camino Coll., Torrance, CA

redstar Okorafor, Nnedi. Broken Places & Outer Spaces: Finding Creativity in the Unexpected. S. & S./TED. Jun. 2019. 112p. ISBN 9781501195471. $16.99. MEMOIR
In her nonfiction debut, novelist ­Okorafor (Binti novellas) chronicles her journey from promising athlete to successful sf author. Okorafor discovered her passion for writing during her long recovery from back surgery. The daughter of Nigerian immigrants, she envisioned a future in entomology and running track. However, surgery to fix her scoliosis led to temporary paralysis, grueling physical therapy, and an end to her athletic career. Writing her thoughts in the margins of books and on scraps of paper, Okorafor began to reconsider her career plans. She started writing short stories with a scientific bent and elements of magical realism allowing disabled characters to become strong and powerful. In these brief pages, the author takes readers on a journey that is a bittersweet mix of past and present: family visits to her parents’ native Nigeria, racism and bigotry in the family’s chosen home of Illinois, and the strenuous period of growth and recovery that included bouts of depression, disillusionment with science, and feelings of helplessness.
VERDICT A brief but arresting memoir draped with colors of hope and resilience.—Leah Huey, Dekalb P.L., IL

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Yared Estifanos

Haben girma I'm PROUD OF YOU!!!

Posted : Nov 18, 2019 08:34


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