Books to Help Celebrate Disability Pride All Year Long

Most people don’t know, but the month of July marks the celebration of Disability Pride Month. Most organizations picked this month for the American Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990, a law that promises that people with disabilities not be discriminated against in any setting.

Although it is not nationally recognized, it is essential to celebrate and embrace the fact that people with disabilities can do anything. They are not defined by their disability but have embraced it, and hearing those types of stories encourages readers of all abilities. The way to promote disability justice and prevent ableism is to exemplify these voices, and the perfect way to do that is through reading!

Although July is ending, this is something we should be doing every day. So here are some great reading recommendations that will help you display your disability pride all year long:

Break the Mould: How to Take Your Place in the World by Natalie Byrne and illustrated by Sinead Burke

Sometimes we can feel like we are not good enough. That we don’t belong. Or that we want to be more like our friends. In this empowering guide, Sinéad Burke draws on her own experiences and encourages young readers to believe in themselves, have pride in who they are and use their voice to make the world a fairer, more inclusive place.

From the power of being different, to celebrating the things you love about yourself and helping others do the same, this is a brilliantly inspirational handbook for breaking the mould and finding your place in the world. (Credit: Hachette Children’s Group) 

A Kind of Spark by Elle McNicoll

Ever since Ms. Murphy told us about the witch trials that happened centuries ago right here in Juniper, I can’t stop thinking about them. Those people weren’t magic. They were like me. Different like me.

I’m autistic. I see things that others do not. I hear sounds that they can ignore. And sometimes I feel things all at once. I think about the witches, with no one to speak for them. Not everyone in our small town understands. But if I keep trying, maybe someone will. I won’t let the witches be forgotten. Because there is more to their story. Just like there is more to mine. (Credit: Knights of Media)

Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty

Diary of a Young Naturalist chronicles the turning of 15-year-old Dara McAnulty’s world. From spring and through a year in his home patch in Northern Ireland, Dara spent the seasons writing. These vivid, evocative and moving diary entries about his connection to wildlife and the way he sees the world are raw in their telling.

“I was diagnosed with Asperger’s/autism aged five … By age seven I knew I was very different, I had got used to the isolation, my inability to break through into the world of talking about football or Minecraft was not tolerated. Then came the bullying. Nature became so much more than an escape; it became a life-support system.”

Diary of a Young Naturalist portrays Dara’s intense connection to the natural world, and his perspective as a teenager juggling exams and friendships alongside a life of campaigning. “In writing this book,” Dara explains, “I have experienced challenges but also felt incredible joy, wonder, curiosity and excitement. In sharing this journey my hope is that people of all generations will not only understand autism a little more but also appreciate a child’s eye view on our delicate and changing biosphere.” (Credit: Ebury Publishing )

I Am Not a Label: 34 Disabled Artists, Thinkers, Athletes and Activists From Past and Present by Cerrie Burnell and illustrated Lauren Mark Baldo

In this stylishly illustrated biography anthology, meet 34 artists, thinkers, athletes, and activists with disabilities, from past and present. From Frida Kahlo to Stephen Hawking, find out how these iconic figures have overcome obstacles, owned their differences, and paved the way for others by making their bodies and minds work for them. (Credit: Wide Eye Editions)

Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law by Haben Girma

Haben grew up spending summers with her family in the enchanting Eritrean city of Asmara. There, she discovered courage as she faced off against a bull she couldn’t see, and found in herself an abiding strength as she absorbed her parents’ harrowing experiences during Eritrea’s thirty-year war with Ethiopia. Their refugee story inspired her to embark on a quest for knowledge, traveling the world in search of the secret to belonging. She explored numerous fascinating places, including Mali, where she helped build a school under the scorching Saharan sun. Her many adventures over the years range from the hair-raising to the hilarious.

Haben defines disability as an opportunity for innovation. She learned non-visual techniques for everything from dancing salsa to handling an electric saw. She developed a text-to-braille communication system that created an exciting new way to connect with people. Haben pioneered her way through obstacles, graduated from Harvard Law, and now uses her talents to advocate for people with disabilities. (Credit: Twelve)

Rolling Warrior: The Incredible, Sometimes Awkward, True Story of a Rebel Girl on Wheels Who Helped Spark a Revolution by Judith Heumann with Kristen Joiner

“If I didn’t fight, who would?”

Judy Heumann was only 5 years old when she was first denied her right to attend school. Paralyzed from polio and raised by her Holocaust-surviving parents in New York City, Judy had a drive for equality that was instilled early in life.

In this young readers’ edition of her acclaimed memoir, Being Heumann, Judy shares her journey of battling for equal access in an unequal world–from fighting to attend grade school after being described as a “fire hazard” because of her wheelchair, to suing the New York City school system for denying her a teacher’s license because of her disability. Judy went on to lead 150 disabled people in the longest sit-in protest in US history at the San Francisco Federal Building. Cut off from the outside world, the group slept on office floors, faced down bomb threats, and risked their lives to win the world’s attention and the first civil rights legislation for disabled people. (Credit: Beacon Press)

Almond by Won-pyung Sohn and translated by Joosun Lee

Yunjae was born with a brain condition called Alexithymia that makes it hard for him to feel emotions like fear or anger. He does not have friends—the two almond-shaped neurons located deep in his brain have seen to that—but his devoted mother and grandmother aren’t fazed by his condition. Their little home above his mother’s used bookstore is decorated with colorful post-it notes that remind him when to smile, when to say “thank you,” and when to laugh. Yunjae grows up content, even happy, with his small family in this quiet, peaceful space.

Then on Christmas Eve—Yunjae’s sixteenth birthday—everything changes. A shocking act of random violence shatters his world, leaving him alone and on his own. Struggling to cope with his loss, Yunjae retreats into silent isolation, until troubled teenager Gon arrives at his school and begins to bully Yunjae. 

Against all odds, tormentor and victim learn they have more in common than they realized. Gon is stumped by Yunjae’s impassive calm, while Yunjae thinks if he gets to know the hotheaded Gon, he might learn how to experience true feelings. Drawn by curiosity, the two strike up a surprising friendship. As Yunjae begins to open his life to new people—including a girl at school—something slowly changes inside him. And when Gon suddenly finds his life in danger, it is Yunjae who will step outside of every comfort zone he has created to perhaps become a most unlikely hero. (Credit: HarperVia)

Wink by Rob Harrell

Twelve-year-old Ross Maloy just wants to be normal. Not to have a rare eye cancer, not to lose his hair, not to have to wear a weird hat or have a goopy eye full of ointment. Just normal. But with a sudden and horrifying diagnosis, Ross can’t help standing out. His new life is medical treatments that feel straight out of a video game, vision loss in one eye, disappearing friends who don’t know what to say to “the cancer kid,” cruel bullying, and ultimately, friendships new and old that rise above everything.

Just when Ross starts to feel like he’s losing his footing, he discovers how music, art, and true friends can change everything. Filled with Rob Harrell’s comic panels (Batpig for the win!) and spot art, this novel brings effortless humor and hope to an unforgettable, uplifting story of survival. (Credit: Dial Books)

Can You See Me? by Libby Scott and Rebecca Westcott

Things Tally is dreading about sixth grade:

– Being in classes without her best friends
— New (scratchy) uniforms
— Hiding her autism

Tally isn’t ashamed of being autistic — even if it complicates life sometimes, it’s part of who she is. But this is her first year at Kingswood Academy, and her best friend, Layla, is the only one who knows. And while a lot of other people are uncomfortable around Tally, Layla has never been one of them . . . until now.

Something is different about sixth grade, and Tally now feels like she has to act “normal.” But as Tally hides her true self, she starts to wonder what “normal” means after all and whether fitting in is really what matters most. (Credit: Scholastic)

Perfect World (Series) by Rie Aruga

A company get-together reunites 26-year-old Tsugumi with her high school crush, Itsuki. In the years they’ve been apart, Itsuki has realized his dream of becoming an architect–but along the way, he’s also suffered a spinal cord injury that’s left him in a wheelchair. Seeing Itsuki again rekindles Tsugumi’s feelings for him. It also forces her to confront her own hidden prejudices. Itsuki’s disability seems like an intimidating obstacle at first, but soon, Tsugumi discovers that her world feels imperfect without him. (Credit: Kodansha Comics)

Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper

Melody is not like most people. She cannot walk or talk, but she has a photographic memory; she can remember every detail of everything she has ever experienced. She is smarter than most of the adults who try to diagnose her and smarter than her classmates in her integrated classroom – the very same classmates who dismiss her as mentally challenged because she cannot tell them otherwise. But Melody refuses to be defined by cerebral palsy. And she’s determined to let everyone know it – somehow. (Credit: Atheneum Books for Young Readers)

The Boy With the Butterfly Mind by Victoria Williamson

Jamie Lee just wants to be normal but his ADHD isn’t making it easy. If only he could control his butterfly mind then he’d have friends, be able to keep out of trouble, live with his mum and not be sent to stay with his dad.

Elin Watts just wants to be perfect. If she could be the best student and daughter possible, then maybe her dad would leave his new family and come back to Glasgow to live with Elin and her mum, happily ever after.

When Jamie and Elin’s families blend, the polar opposites of chaotic Jamie and ordered Elin collide. As their lives spiral out of control, Jamie and Elin discover that they’re actually more alike than they’d admit. Maybe there’s no such thing as normal, or perfect. And perhaps, just like families, happy-ever-afters come in all shapes and sizes. (Credit: Floris Books)

Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-first Century edited by Alice Wong

One in five people in the United States lives with a disability. Some disabilities are visible, others less apparent—but all are underrepresented in media and popular culture. Now, just in time for the thirtieth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, activist Alice Wong brings together this urgent, galvanizing collection of contemporary essays by disabled people.

From Harriet McBryde Johnson’s account of her debate with Peter Singer over her own personhood to original pieces by authors like Keah Brown and Haben Girma; from blog posts, manifestos, and eulogies to Congressional testimonies, and beyond: this anthology gives a glimpse into the rich complexity of the disabled experience, highlighting the passions, talents, and everyday lives of this community. It invites readers to question their own understandings. It celebrates and documents disability culture in the now. It looks to the future and the past with hope and love. (Credit: Vintage)

The Pretty One: On Life, Pop Culture, Disability, and Other Reasons to Fall in Love With Me by Keah Brown

Keah Brown loves herself, but that hadn’t always been the case. Born with cerebral palsy, her greatest desire used to be normalcy and refuge from the steady stream of self-hate society strengthened inside her. But after years of introspection and reaching out to others in her community, she has reclaimed herself and changed her perspective.

In The Pretty One, Brown gives a contemporary and relatable voice to the disabled—so often portrayed as mute, weak, or isolated. With clear, fresh, and light-hearted prose, these essays explore everything from her relationship with her able-bodied identical twin (called “the pretty one” by friends) to navigating romance; her deep affinity for all things pop culture—and her disappointment with the media’s distorted view of disability; and her declaration of self-love with the viral hashtag #DisabledAndCute. (Credit: Atria Books)

Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

In this collection of essays, Lambda Literary Award-winning writer and longtime activist and performance artist Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha explores the politics and realities of disability justice, a movement that centers the lives and leadership of sick and disabled queer, trans, Black, and brown people, with knowledge and gifts for all.

Care Work is a mapping of access as radical love, a celebration of the work that sick and disabled queer/people of color are doing to find each other and to build power and community, and a tool kit for everyone who wants to build radically resilient, sustainable communities of liberation where no one is left behind. Powerful and passionate, Care Work is a crucial and necessary call to arms. (Credit: Arsenal Pulp Press)


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