Top Ten Tuesday: (Freebie) Disability Pride Month




Back when I was at uni, I attended a workshop on writing for TV. What sticks with me most from that day is the advice - which really was more of a request - from a disabled actress who spoke directly to the group before she left, appealing to us as writers to make room for disabled characters in our work. She said it needed to be more than just sticking a character in a chair, but that didn't mean that disabled characters should be created only to serve a story specifically about their disability. She wanted us to write stories for disabled people that were about other things, including the disability but not focusing on it. So, just because a character is in a wheelchair, that shouldn't be their whole character arc.

I know I don't read as diversely as  should and I definitely don't read enough own voices (I read mostly classics and random stuff I find in the library or in the house...) But as it's Disability Pride Month, I wanted to celebrate a few of the disabled characters that I've read and loved over the years. I don't think any of them are defined solely by their disabilities but their conditions are not ignored either. Some are main characters, some are part of an ensemble, but all are well rounded and don't feel like tokenism. To me, anyway. 



Marcus
 The Eagle of the Ninth (and loads of other characters by Rosemary Sutcliff) 

The Eagle of The Ninth: Amazon.co.uk: Sutcliff, Rosemary ...

The Eagle of the Ninth is the story of a Roman soldier and a freed British slave who seek out the lost Ninth legion in ancient Britain. Marcus is a young soldier who is invalided out of the Roman army at the beginning of the novel and his damaged leg is a disability he will live with for the rest of his life. Yet it doesn't stop him becoming the hero of the story and going off on the central adventure. Rosemary Sutcliff had Still's Disease and used a wheelchair for most of her life, and many of her main characters have a disability that they have to manage - sometimes one they are born with, sometimes one they acquire over the course of the story. I really need to read some more of her stuff.


Ginny 
Small Steps by Louis Sachar


Small Steps is Louis Sachar's sort-of sequel to the bestselling Holes, which focuses on the character of Armpit, one of the Camp Greenlake boys from the first book. He's back at home trying to get his life back together and has started attending college, but his best friend is the little girl who lives next door. Ginny is smart, kind and perceptive for her age and she also has Cerebral Palsy. The plot of Small Steps is about Armpit's attempt to stay on the straight and narrow, and his budding romance with a teen pop sensation who he somehow gets mixed up with - but at it's heart is the friendship between the protagonist and Ginny, which is beautifully written.


Cormoran Strike
The Strike Mysteries by Robert Galbraith

The Cuckoo's Calling: Opening Extract | Hachette UK

J.K Rowling is fast becoming a poster girl for problematic authors, but before she developed this weird transphobic thing she has going on, she did create some brilliant characters - and not just in Harry Potter. In a series of books written under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, she gives us Private Detective Cormoran Strike. Strike is a character I love - big, grumpy, intelligent and unconventionally attractive, Strike is also ex-army and lost a leg in Afghanistan. His missing leg isn't really relevant to the plot but it is to his character. It often hurts him, it effects his Detective work in small ways (he doesn't drive - except an automatic at a push - he can't always chase after people effectively) and he sometimes worries how new romantic partners will react to it. It's all part and parcel of our hero's life, and not just thrown in there for added interest.


Sarah
 The Casson Series by Hilary McKay

Saffy's Angel: Book 1 (Casson Family): Amazon.co.uk: McKay, Hilary ...

The Casson books have what I think of as an ensemble cast, and Sarah, best friend to middle sister Saffy, is an honorary family member. She first appears in Saffy's Angel - the girl in the wheelchair down the street, who the Cassons have never spoken to. Their dad, Bill, always tells them 'not to stare, it's rude' - but when Sarah finally gets sick of being ignored for the sake of politeness, and mows down Saffron with her wheelchair, it's the beginning of something great. Saffy's always felt a bit alone, despite being part of a big family, and Sarah's a pampered only child. They both need a friend and theirs is one of my favourite depictions of female best-friendship in any book. Being the daughter of the headteacher at the 'posh school' Sarah's a bit of a rebel, she takes no messing from anyone and she and Saffron both become gradually more confident and more themselves from the moment they become friends.


Tyrion
 A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin 

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1): Amazon.co.uk ...

Tyrion Lannister is a character in a fantasy universe - he is also a man, with dwarfism, as opposed to a member of a magical race of people who all have beards and work down mines. He's my favourite character from A Song of Ice and Fire and although his disability is part of who he is, part of his story, it doesn't define him as a character. It often defines him in the minds of others, he faces prejudice and discrimination because of it, but he's also one of the most complex characters in the books. He's smart, kind, brave, funny, insecure and flawed - and privileged too, because of his wealth and his family. His speech at the Battle of Blackwater and his trial are still two of my favourite moments from the show. 



Auggie
Wonder by R.J Palacio

Wonder (Palacio novel) - Wikipedia

I don't know why it took me so long to read Wonder, because everyone kept telling me how great it was. But it lived up to expectations. August, the central character has a rare disorder called Treacher Collins syndrome (complicated by another condition.) The story is told mostly from his point of view, with some chapters from other characters' POV - such as his sister and his friends. Reading this, I was on edge a lot of the time hoping people wouldn't be too mean, and my heart broke for Auggie in one particular scene. But he was a great character, really engaging and his appearance didn't define him - any more than his love for Star Wars or his relationships with his family or friends.


And here a few from books I've not gotten around to yet...


Captain Ahab
 Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Moby Dick by Herman Melville, David Herd | Waterstones

Captain Ahab is one of the main protagonists in Moby Dick and his quest is driven by revenge on the whale who took his leg off. I think? I always think Moby Dick sounds deathly boring but I've been told this is untrue. The captain sounds cool anyway.


Christopher 
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time 
by Mark Haddon

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time - Scholastic Shop

A mystery novel told from the point of view of a boy with autism, this is a pretty short book and was critically acclaimed - so I'd imagine the representation is good. I've been meaning to read this for ever.

Christy Brown 
My Left Foot


The inspiration for the film starring Daniel Day-Lewis, this is a biography by an Irish author with severe Cerebral Palsy - who writes with his left foot - telling the story of his life growing up in Dublin in the 1940s/50s.


A Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue
by Mackenzi Lee

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee | Waterstones

Everyone buzzes off this book, and it sounds a lot of fun so I'm sure I'll get around to it. One of the main characters - I think it might be a spoiler so I won't say who? - has epilepsy, and from reviews, it sounds as if the subject is dealt with well, especially for historical fiction.






Comments

  1. Great topic choice! Reading books which feature characters with disabilities in starring roles is something I need to get much better at, too. I've heard so many good things about Wonder and The Eagle of the Ninth sounds really interesting!

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    1. Thanks! Eagle of the Ninth is lovely (and very different from the film!) if a bit heavy.

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  2. Oh, what a great list! I'm saving it for future reference.

    My TTT .

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  3. Fabulous list. The Eagle of the Ninth is a book that is little known here in America, I think, and it was a great read.

    I have a big author party going in Paris, after the pandemic, and I'd love to have you stop by and join in. All our favorite writers are there. Join us here!

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    1. Thank you :) I loved The Eagle of the Ninth. Haha your party looks fab!

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  4. I haven't read any of these except for Gentleman's Guide. Definitely need to try and find more books with disabled characters in them.
    My TTT: https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2020/07/28/top-ten-tuesday-274/

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    1. I need to read more too, heard loads of great things about Gentleman's guide!

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  5. Wonder is a book I cannot stop telling people to read. It's such a beautiful story about being kind and it pretty much made my heart explode.

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    1. Wonder was so lovely! I still need to see the film.

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  6. Interesting list! I've seen the movie adaptation of My Left Foot and enjoyed it, but never read the book. Here is our Top Ten Tuesday.

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    1. I still need to see the film, heard Daniel Day Lewis is supposed to be great in it!

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  7. I've read a few books with disabilities that I loved as well: The Year We Fell Down, Love and First Sight, Archer's Voice, Maybe Someday, and Falling From the Sky.

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    1. Will have to look them out, still need to read more!

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  8. Great idea for a topic! WONDER is an amazing book.
    Here's my TTT list this week.

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  9. Great topic choice! I've read a couple novels lately about deafness, which have been really interesting. I'd love to see more of these kinds of books for sure. They're fascinating and teach us to be empathetic, which is super important.

    Happy TTT!

    Susan
    www.blogginboutbooks.com

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    1. Thanks! Deafness is definitely something that needs more exposure I think, I've seen some great TV series' with deaf characters but never read a book that focuses on it that I can think of.

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  10. Cool topic choice! I’ve read a few of these, but I definitely can do better with reading about disabled characters. I don’t see many of them in my books.

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    1. Thanks! Same, definitely going to try and look out for more.

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  11. Very nice choice this week! I've been so happy to see disabled characters showing up more and more lately. And with their disability as just part of who they are, not what the story is about, like you said. It's so refreshing!

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    1. Thank you! I know, its nice when it's books that aren't just about the disability.

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  12. I never thought about Rosemary Sutcliff novels dealing with disability, at least physical (LOTS of emotional/mental stuff obviously). I forget about Marcus's leg except for the dramatic surgery part, which I thought mostly fixed it? Warrior Scarlet deals with a more devastating (in many ways due to the warrior society), that I do remember. One of her more heartwrenching ones, although they all, but man I LOVE those books. I don't think I've read anything that is technically a disability genre, I don't tend to like when something is made the focus like that, like it's a trope? But I feel like I've read books with characters with disabilities, I mean more than just the Sutcliff ones although I can't think of them off the top of my head. Of course I dropped Sound and the Fury, which is written from the perspective of a severally disabled character, but that is all on its own sort of thing.

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    1. Warrior Scarlet's one that shows up on lists, I need to read that one! I remember the main character in the lantern bearers had something going on as well, but can't remember that as well. I was proud of myself for finishing Sound and the Fury... but I thought it was pretty dire to be honest!

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