Diversity matters! We’re finally seeing more books being written by and about disabled people. This list includes ten books, published this year, by authors with disabilities, chronic illnesses, or mental illnesses. I love seeing reviews by regular readers, so I’ve included a review from Goodreads for each book and links if you want to support a disabled writer and nab a copy.
1. Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh
“Although allie brosh is infinitely more talented than i will ever be—what she’s able to convey with just posture in her cartoons is exquisite—there’s so much of that RELATABLE CONTENT the kids are always talking about. in fact, there were times i actually felt like she was speaking directly…to me but even when she wasn’t breaking that fourth wall, i felt both a kinship with her and an urge to comfort her and tell her how seen and heard and appreciated she is.” —karen, Goodreads Reviewer
Allie Brosh has severe depression and ADHD, and her comics have won praise from others with those conditions and mental health professionals. Her first book, Hyperbole and a Half, which is written in a similar style of part comic, part narrative, brought me to tears of laughter and includes one of the most accurate descriptions of depression I’ve ever read. This was one of my most highly anticipated books of 2020.
2. Come Tumbling Down (Wayward Children #5) by Seanan McGuire
“This is probably my favorite addition to the series since Down Among the Sticks and Bones and my heart is SO FULL. I love these characters so much and it was especially gratifying to spend more time with Jack and the gang from the first book. I now DESPERATELY need Christopher’s story and I really, really hope that his is next to come!” —Chelsea, Goodreads Reviewer
Seanan McGuire has an invisible disability due to herniated disks in her spine. She’s spoken about how doctors blamed her condition on her weight and following their advice made things worse. She deals with chronic pain and also identifies as neuroatypical. Her Wayward Children series is “the story of Eleanor West’s School for Wayward Children, a boarding school for kids who come home from portal fantasy worlds and can’t adjust to their new, ordinary lives.” The series includes a diverse cast of characters. Book 1 in the series is Every Heart a Doorway.
3. Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee
“Phoenix Extravagant takes us through an inspiringly imaginative journey about devotion, connection, and the power of art as resistance. Part fantasy, part literary fiction, this book will prove irresistible to all readers prizing a story brimming with cultural significance, vivid artistic imagery, and the limitless capability of art for reclaiming one’s identity.
Drawing a fantasy world analogous to the Japanese occupation of Korea before and during World War II, the book centers the effects of colonialism and imperialism in the desolation of culture, by speaking of the losses war spreads beyond its battlefields and by making Gyen Jebi, a non-binary artist, its main character.” —Arina, Goodreads Reviewer
Yoon Ha Lee is a Korean-American SFF author who has bipolar disorder and struggles with depression. His novel Phoenix Extravagant follows a nonbinary painter as they team up with a mecha dragon against an evil empire.
4. The Deck of Omens (The Devouring Gray #2) by Christine Lynn Herman
“Returning to Four Paths was a breath of fresh air; I really enjoyed the eery, atmospheric buildup that was provided in The Devouring Gray, which left me prepared to find out more regarding The Beast and Gray in The Deck of Omens. What started out as backstory in book one has bled into determining a plan to defeat the evil entity encompassing the founding family’s beloved home, while also dealing with personal struggles pertaining to each character individually.” —Chelsea, Goodreads Reviewer
Christine Lynn Herman suffers from depression and anxiety. She wrote the first book in this series, The Devouring Gray, while grieving, exhausted, and trying to take care of herself. The series includes diverse characters, including a protagonist who’s missing an arm and two who are bisexual.
5. Ikenga by Nnedi Okorafor
“From the acclaimed author of Akata Witch and Binti, comes a middle-grade book about a boy yearning for justice who gains the power he desires to make a difference… I thoroughly enjoyed this book, so much so that I read the entirety of it in one sitting. It gives a wonderful glimpse into Nigerian life and culture. I especially loved all the mention of the different food. And you best believe, I googled all of them and plan to try some of the recipes I found.” —Hasmeen, Goodreads Reviewer
Nnedi Okorafor is a Nigerian-American author who was paralyzed from the waist down after having surgery for scoliosis. Through the experience, as she went through recovery and learned to walk again, she discovered a love of writing.
6. Disfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space by Amanda Leduc
“This is one of the most beautiful books I have read in years. Fairy-tales are a part of our lives, serving as a model for modern day stories, often as lessons in morality, a warning, a guiding tale that even smacks of those early after school specials my generation was so fond of… Amanda Leduc dissects many of the familiar fairy tales, and lesser known ones, to shed light on how the disabled are used, abused, or downright invisible in such stories.” —Lolly, Goodreads Reviewer
Amanda Leduc is a Canadian author with cerebral palsy. She is a disability advocate who goes in-depth into how fairy tales contribute to the ableism we see often in current society.
7. Vagina Problems: Endometriosis, Painful Sex, and Other Taboo Topics by Lara Parker
“Buzzfeed editor Lara Parker shares her personal experiences with endometriosis in this raw and honest memoir. Lara spent years dealing with undiagnosed pain and other symptoms. Many doctors implied that it was all in her head. Finally, she received a diagnosis of endometriosis.” —Jessica, Goodreads Reviewer
Lara Parker has endometriosis, vaginismus, and vulvodynia. These illnesses are often considered “taboo” because they’re associated with having a vagina. They are also frequently misdiagnosed or ignored by medical professionals. Parker goes into her story with these illnesses, offering a helpful hand to others with similar conditions, in this book.
“In a world where the disabled voice is often viewed through the lens of what disability rights activist Stella Young coined as “inspiration porn” or with the rah-rah sympathies of the latest Lifetime Channel movie, a book like Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century is an act of revolutionary love and claiming of space.” —Richard, Goodreads Reviewer
Alice Wong has spinal muscular atrophy and is a disabled activist, media maker, and consultant. This book is a collection of experiences that highlight the disabled experience and invites readers to question their assumptions about illness and disability.
9. How to Be Sick: Your Pocket Companion by Toni Bernhard
“The best teachers are able to take a mass quantity of knowledge and distill the fundamental concepts within all that knowledge. That’s what Toni Bernhard has done in this Pocket Companion. She offers a few seemingly simple ideas that can be life-changing.” —Jennifer, Goodreads Reviewer
Bernhard got sick with a viral infection in 2001 and never got better. This book is a condensed, standalone version of her earlier book, How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and their Caregivers. She writes in a conversational style and offers practical advice on how to live with a chronic illness.
10. Super Sick: Making Peace with Chronic Illness by Allison Alexander
“This was a super interesting (no pun intended) book that made me feel seen and understood, as someone who also has a chronic illness. I loved the comparisons to characters from pop culture, especially since disabilities are often ignored, even more than other minorities and we desperately need more disabled characters.” —Kim, Goodreads Reviewer
I did work pretty hard on this book for several years so I only feel slightly guilty for including it on this list! I speak openly about “taboo” topics like chronic pain, sex, and bowel disorders and focus on stories to relay the experience of the chronically ill.