These works of fiction and nonfiction confront ableist ideas through their depictions of disability.
Ashley Shew. Norton, Sept.
In this manifesto, Shew—a bioethicist and associate professor of science, technology, and society at Virginia Tech—challenges ableist assumptions about technological improvements for disabled people. As a self-described “hard-of-hearing, chemobrained amputee with Crohn’s disease and tinnitus,” Shew draws on her own experience and that of other disabled people to break down tropes and imagine a more accessible future. According to PW’s review, the book is “equally fierce and funny.”
Melissa Blake. Hachette, March 2024
Blake, a freelance writer, activist, and social media influencer who has been trolled for her appearance, shares her experience living with Freeman-Sheldon syndrome in this debut memoir that highlights what it’s like to live in a world that isn’t designed for disabled people, offers insight into how society views disability, and calls allies to action.
Andrew Leland. Penguin Press, July
When Leland was a teenager, he noticed signs of his sight failing. He soon was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a condition that has progressively narrowed his vision. Now an editor at the Believer, Leland writes of coming to terms with the total blindness that he knows is in his future and conducts a cultural and historical investigation of blindness. PW’s starred review was effusive: “Enriched by its sparkling prose, this is an extraordinary and intellectually rigorous account of adapting to change.”
Edited by Alice Wong. Vintage, Feb. 2024
The founder and director of the Disability Visibility Project follows 2020’s Disability Visibility anthology and her 2022 memoir, Year of the Tiger, with a collection that illuminates the many meanings of intimacy, from caregiving, community, and friendship to sex. The anthology includes essays by activists and authors such as Marieke Nijkamp, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, s.e. smith, and Ingrid Tischer, as well as poetry by Ashna Ali, John Lee Clark, Cyrée Jarelle Johnson, and Ellen Samuels. (An essay by Wong, "Disabled Authors Deserve, and Demand, More," appears here.)
The Framed Women of Ardemore House
Brandy Schillace. Hanover Square, Feb. 2024
Schillace, a neurodiverse medical historian, makes her fiction debut with this cozy mystery series launch. The story follows an autistic and hyperlexic book editor in New York who’s thrilled to inherit an estate in the English countryside after a year of losses. When the town groundskeeper is found dead in her manor and a family portrait goes missing, she finds herself both suspect and potential victim.
The Fruit Cure
Jacqueline Alnes. Melville House, Jan. 2024
Alnes was a Division I runner in college, only to have mysterious neurological symptoms—episodes of losing speech and her ability to walk—cut her athletic career short. Despite a battery of testing, doctors could not determine a diagnosis, leaving Alnes desperate for answers and hope. She seemed to find both in the online fruitarian community, which promotes an all-fruit raw diet, claiming it can cure a slew of conditions. Alnes’s personal story provides scaffolding for an exposé of fruitarianism and a critique of how the U.S. healthcare system drives vulnerable people into the scammy recesses of wellness culture.
Angie Kim. Hogarth, Aug.
Kim’s novel opens with a mystery—the father of a Korean American family in suburban Virginia has gone missing, and the last person with him, his 14-year-old nonspeaking son with autism, can’t explain what happened. As the plot progresses, Kim weaves in a reckoning with language and human connection inspired by her research on neurodivergence and communication methods, and her experience teaching creative writing to nonspeaking people.
How to Dance
Jason B. Dutton. Alcove, Feb. 2024
In this opposites-attract, male-lead rom-com, Nick, who like debut author Dutton has cerebral palsy and uses a walker, relishes singing at a local bar’s weekly karaoke night but longs for the joy he sees on professional dancer Hayley’s face as she moves across the floor. After an awkward start, the two fall into rhythm together.
Loving Our Own Bones
Julia Watts Belser. Beacon, Sept.
Mining the Bible for stories of disability, Belser, a rabbi and Georgetown University professor of Jewish studies and disability studies, crafts a spiritual companion and political manifesto. Through her analysis, she finds the positive in verses that are typically framed as linking disability to misfortune. Threaded throughout are her experiences of confronting ableism as a wheelchair user and finding power in community.
Eddie Ndopu. Legacy Lit, Aug.
Ndopu, a global humanitarian who was born with spinal muscular atrophy, wrote this memoir with his one good finger. In it, he focuses on his time as a graduate student in public policy at the University of Oxford, where he experienced exclusion and discrimination. “Wryly detailing the costs and complications of his attendance at Oxford, Ndopu shines a light on ableism both conscious and unconscious,” according to PW’s starred review. “This raw yet triumphant tale should be required reading.”