Thursday, 2 September 2010

Books with disabled characters?

One of my friends sent me a tweet today asking if I knew of any fantasy books with either a disabled main character or a disabled character who plays a decent role and isn't a token crip sort of thing.  I was very pleased because she's able-bodied.  That normally wouldn't be a "yes, pleased" thing but I've been reading a few articles writen on news sites about disability today (by disabled people) which are absolutely full of missed the point comments about disability by able-bodied people. Some of which were downright insulting and some were just stupid but most were frustrating.  So being asked for book recs is, in a roundabout way, a good thing

And I can't really think of any.  I did receive a book to review today which is fantasy and which has a main character with CP.  But obviously, I'm not going to rec a book I haven read yet!

The interesting thing is when I e-mailed the author of that book to see about getting a review copy (in other words to crawl and beg, but hey it worked!) one of the things I said to him was that not enough books feature disabled characters.

So then after I got that tweet I started wondering about books in general with disabled characters.

The first one that came to mind was Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult.  That's a really good book (I did hate the ending but that had nothing to do with the disabled character, it just sucked as an ending IMHO) and it really handles having a character with OI (I have no idea how to spell the full version of that) well I think.  I don't know much about OI but I do know about being a wheelchair user, and she got really close to the experience.  In fact there was one moment when Willow, the crip in the book, mentions this one thing about being in a chair and I was blown away because it's in no way obvious about being a wheelchair user and I wouldn't expect it to be there.  I'm not even sure it's something I would mention if asked.

For the crips out there, I am talking of the problem of having long hair and having casters (front wheels) on a wheelchair.  We all shed hair, it happens.  If you've long hair and are in a chair, it will end up wrapped around them and caught.  And it builds up.  It's a pain in the arse and needs clearing out periodically.  And it's pretty disgusting.

Anyway, back to books.  It took me literally 20 minutes to think of any other book with a disabled MC.  Lottery by Patricia Wood was the only one that comes to mind.  That's a good book but I preferred Handle With Care I think.  Click on the link to see what I thought of it.

I can think of other books which handle disability issues well such as A Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell (I absolutely LOVE that book, must find the time to read it again).  But books with disabled characters or disabled characters who aren't token characters? I can't think of any.

Obviously, that doesn't mean they aren't out there and knowing myself like I do I wouldn't be surprised if one came to me in the middle of the night or in the shower or something.  But it is a bit disappointing that it's so hard for me to think of any.

So if you know of any, rec them to me.  And in the meantime I'll be in the corner getting over my cold.  And plotting my own book with a disabled main character and all that.  Because if I can't read about them, I'll clearly have to write about them.


Tequilamonkey said...

The Ben Elton book "Gridlock" has a main protagonist with cerebral palsy. Great book!

Vicky said...

"The Speed of Dark" by Elizabeth Moon has an autistic protagonist, and is excellent. It's one of my favourite books of all time.

"A different Life" by Lois Keith (young adult fiction) features a teenage protagonist who becomes disabled early in the book. I read it quite a few years ago when I was going through a bad patch with the M.E., and thought it was very well done.

Selcaby said...

Well, there's Skallagrigg by William Horwood, which is full of characters with really severe CP. It's a book I find hard to reread because the way some of the characters are treated is so harrowing - it's largely about the awful system of institutions that used to exist, although the protagonist, growing up in more enlightened times, is far luckier. There's also a major character with Down's syndrome and some with other disabilities. I'm fairly surprised if you haven't come across it before. It is about disability and the disabled community, so maybe not what you're looking for, but if you have read it I'd be really interested to know how realistic you find it.

Selcaby said...

but, I should say, it's not just about those things. It's a huge book with a lot to say on many subjects.

Selcaby said...

Oh yes, Gridlock! The one with the opening scene where the hitmen come looking for the genius Dr. So-and-so, but overlook the guy in the wheelchair because obviously he can't be their target, so he escapes ...

"The Losers" by David Eddings (yes he normally writes fantasy, but this isn't) about a man dealing with the aftermath of an accident in which he lost a leg. "Izzy, Willy-Nilly" by Cynthia Voigt has a similar premise, but about a teenage girl, and I remember very little about it. Or don't "aftermath of accident" stories count?

Cheryl said...

If I remember correctly Jodi picoult interviewed the blogosphere's own Kara Ayers of before finishing up that book. 2 other books are Accidents of Nature by Harriet McBride Johnson and the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, I forget who that's by

Emma said...

Thanks everyone, love to see more recs if you have them

@Cheryl, she did indeed interview Kara, and I meant to mention that in my post but completely forgot.

Anonymous said...

Great suggestions here to add to my list. Thanks all!

Unknown said...

It's YA Fiction, but I've loved the book "Tell Me How the Wind Sounds" since I first read it when I was around 14. (So more than half my life. :D) The hero is deaf. I've worn out three copies already and will be needing a 4th soon. Probably read it 100 times.

Ruth Madison said...

I agree! Many more books need to be written with characters who have disabilities, not as the main plot of the book, but just part of the character. It will normalize it for society!

...Are you working on any books to fill that gap? ;)


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