While great strides have been made for equality over the last several decades, things are far from perfect. In 2010, the US Census reported that 19% of Americans lived with some sort of disability. The official definition of disability in the United States includes any mental or physical impairment that limits one or more major activity. This can include everything from anxiety disorders and depression to multiple sclerosis and epilepsy.
Even in our modern society that, for the most part, tries to embrace all kinds of diversity, disabled people can still feel marginalized. One way we as a culture can overcome that sort of marginalization is through literature, especially memoirs.
Here are 8 books written by people that are living with a disability.
Laughing at My Nightmare and Strangers Assume My Girlfriend is My Nurse by Shane Burcaw
Shane Burcaw is actually the inspiration for this post. Back when I still used Tumblr, I followed Shane Burcaw and read Laughing at My Nightmare as soon as it came out. Shane has spinal muscular atrophy and his experience with the disease is the focus of both books. Despite the difficulties he has to deal with, he has such a wonderful sense of humor and maintains a level of positivity that is inspiring. Shane and his girlfriend Hannah have a great Youtube channel that you should check out called Squirmy and Grubs.
There’s a Boy in Here: Emerging from the Bonds of Autism by Judy Barron and Sean Barron
There are a lot of books about autism out there, but this one is written in a unique way. It’s told from both the perspective of a child with autism and his mother. While we often hear about autism from the outside, if you’re really interested in what it’s like living with autism, this is a great book to pick up.
The Story of My Life by Helen Keller
This autobiography by Helen Keller is near the top of my TBR list right now. I can’t even begin to imagine the difficulties of being born with both blindness and deafness. Keller overcame her disability and thrived, and is truly an inspiration.
Elegy for a Disease: A Personal and Cultural History of Polio by Anne Finger
With advancements in science in the mid- to late-1900s, polio has become a disease of the past in developed countries. Reading memoirs such as Anne Finger’s is still important, however, in order to remember how the disease worked and how people lived with it.
My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey by Jill Bolte Taylor
There are two medical conditions that terrify me over all others: strokes and aneurysms. Dr. Taylor had a stroke at the age of 37 and lived to write about the experience. Due to Dr. Taylor being a Harvard-educated brain scientist, she has some unique insights into the experience. Thankfully she made a full recovery.
A Different Life: Growing Up Learning Disabled and Other Adventures by Quinn Bradlee
Quinn Bradlee was born with Velo-Cardio-Facial Syndrome (VCFS) which manifests in a range of physical and learning disabilities. Bradlee discusses his life with a great sense of humor and insight.
Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan
This novel is part memoir and part medical mystery. Susannah Cahalan woke up strapped in a hospital bed at the age of 24 after experiencing psychosis, but the doctors weren’t sure why.
Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness by William Styron
While William Styron is best known for his acclaimed literary fiction, in this memoir he writes about his depression and suicidal tendencies. For those of us (myself included) living with long-term and severe depression, we’ll probably recognize many of the symptoms that Styron discusses. However, this memoir would also be a good choice for people who want some insight into how people with depression and mental illness feel.
5 thoughts on “8 Memoirs Written by People Living with a Disability”
I love this post, I have cerebral palsy
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I have bipolar and An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison, about her life with bipolar, is my favorite.
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I cried so much reading “when breath becomes air” about the neurosurgeon who gets cancer. I want to get to “I am, I am, I am” by Maggie O’Farrell as well, which I’ve heard good things about.
I have chronic illnesses that have left me very disabled at times and I really want to read more of other’s experiences. Good post!
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