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Expanding my Reading Horizons: Some Recommendations

October 15, 2010
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Last month I read a little book called Sparrows on Wheels that really got me thinking about my reading habits. It’s about a teenaged girl with Cerebral Palsy, and while reading it I tried to think of the last book I read that featured a character with disabilities. And, sadly, drew a blank. I knew that needed to change.

I gave a call out for recommendations, and through your suggestions and a little bit of research, I’ve come up with a list of 14 books featuring characters with disabilities. Some deal with metal disabilities, some with physical. Some due to genetic disorders, others due to unfortunately accidents. Surprisingly, almost all are YA. I plan to read all the books on this list, but I’m not going to set a time limit for myself. And I will likely add to the list as I go.

A few people mentioned that they would like to see the list once everything had been complied, so here it is!

Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin (Vasilly)
“Jason Blake is an autistic 12-year-old living in a neurotypical world. Most days it’s just a matter of time before something goes wrong. But Jason finds a glimmer of understanding when he comes across PhoenixBird, who posts stories to the same online site as he does. Jason can be himself when he writes and he thinks that PhoneixBird-her name is Rebecca-could be his first real friend. But as desperate as Jason is to met her, he’s terrified that if they do meet, Rebecca wil only see his autism and not who Jason really is.By acclaimed writer Nora Raleigh Baskin, this is the breathtaking depiction of an autistic boy’s struggles-and a story for anyone who has ever worried about fitting in.”

The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by Josh Berk (Kathy @ bermudaonion)
“THE DARK DAYS OF HAMBURGER HALPIN tells the hilarious story of Will Halpin, an overweight deaf teen who spends his first year at a mainstream high school looking for love, failing Algebra, unraveling the school’s social scene, trying to get invited to the greatest party ever … and, oh yeah, solving a murder.”

Tangerine by Edward Bloor
“Paul Fisher is legally blind. He wears glasses so thick he looks like a bug-eyed alien, and kids tell a story about how he blinded himself by staring at an eclipse of the sun. But Paul doesn’t remember doing that. And he doesn’t mind the glasses, because with them he can see. Can see that his parents’ constant praise of his brother Erik, the football star, is to cover up something that is terribly wrong. But no one listens to Paul. Until his family moves to Tangerine.

Tangerine is like another planet, where weird is normal. Lightning strikes at the same time every day. Underground fires burn for years. A sinkhole swallows a local school. And Paul the geek finds himself adopted into the toughest group around–the soccer team of his middle school. Suddenly the blind can see, geeks can be cool, and–maybe–a twelve-year-old kid can finally face up to his terrifying older brother.

In Tangerine, it seems, anything is possible.”

Jerk, California by Jonathan Friesen (Staci)
“Sam Carrier is one confused kid. The high-school senior has Tourette’s Syndrome messing with his body, Naomi Archer messing with his heart, and a dead dad messing with his mind. Sam takes off on a road-trip to California looking for some peace. Each stop brings Sam and Naomi (yep, she comes along) closer to a truth Sam doesn’t want to face, but can’t run from anymore. It’s the adventure of a lifetime, and his last chance to find out whose he really is.”

Rowan The Strange by Julie Hearn (write meg!)
“Had Rowan been invited to predict how the rest of that day would go his list would have gone something like this: 1. Breakfast 2. A nice long talk with the doctors 3. Lunch 4. A rest, or a walk in the fresh air 5. Another talk with the doctors 6. Supper 7. Read comics for a bit 8. Bed. If asked what he would like to happen the list would have been much the same, only with more time for reading, and the proviso that nobody got to see him naked any more. He would also have liked to be smiled at again by the young nurse, Sarah Jane. But that was a private hope, not something to be shared. He would have got “Bed” right but that’s about all. As the second World War begins, Rowan is diagnosed as schizophrenic and sent away to a hospital where the latest treatments are available. But the treatments are experimental still – and nobody predicts the effect they will have on Rowan…”

Accidents of Nature by Harriet McBryde Johnson
“It’s the summer of 1970. Seventeen-year-old Jean has cerebral palsy, but she’s always believed she’s just the same as everyone else. She’s never really known another disabled person before she arrives at Camp Courage. As Jean joins a community unlike any she has ever imagined, she comes to question her old beliefs and look at the world in a new light. The camp session is only ten days long, but that may be all it takes to change a life forever.”

Too Late To Die Young: Nearly True Tales From A Life by Harriet McBryde Johnson
“Harriet McBryde Johnson’s witty and highly unconventional memoir opens with a lyrical meditation on death and ends with a bold and unsentimental sermon on pleasure. Born with a congenital neuromuscular disease, Johnson has never been able to walk, dress, or bathe without assistance. With assistance, she passionately celebrates her life’s richness and pleasures and pursues a formidable career as an attorney and activist. Whether rolling on the streets of Havana, on the floor of the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, or in an auditorium at Princeton debating philosopher Peter Singer, Harriet McBryde Johnson defies every preconception about people with disabilities, and shows how a life, be it long or short, is a treasure of infinite value.”

Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick
“Originally published in 1993, this award-winning Scholastic / The Blue Sky Press young adult novel relates the unforgettable story of two boys – a slow learner too large for his age, and a tiny, crippled genius – who forge a unique friendship when they pair up to create one formidable human force.”

Watermark by Vanitha Sankaran
“The daughter of a papermaker in a small French village in the year 1320—mute from birth and forced to shun normal society—young Auda finds solace and escape in the wonder of the written word. Believed to be cursed by those who embrace ignorance and superstition, Auda’s very survival is a testament to the strength of her spirit. But this is an age of Inquisition and intolerance, when difference and defiance are punishable “sins” and new ideas are considered damnable heresy. When darkness descends upon her world, Auda—newly grown to womanhood—is forced to flee, setting off on a remarkable quest to discover love and a new sense of self . . . and to reclaim her heritage and the small glory of her father’s art.”

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork (write meg!)
“Seventeen-year-old Marcelo Sandoval hears music no one else can hear, part of the autism-like impairment no doctor has been able to identify.
Marcelo is tagged with a “developmental disorder” because of his pervasive interest in God and all things religious and because he does not relate to others as expected. He’s always attended a special school where his differences have been protected. But the summer after his junior year, his father demands that Marcelo work in his law firm’s mailroom in order to experience “the real world.” There Marcelo meets Jasmine, a beautiful and surprising coworker, and Wendell, the son of another partner in the firm. Marcelo learns about competition and jealousy, anger and desire. But it’s a picture he finds in a file — a picture of a girl with half a face — that truly connects him with the real world: its suffering, its injustice, and what he can do to fight.”

Stuck In Neutral by Terry Trueman
“Shawn McDaniel’s life is not what it may seem to anyone looking at him. He is glued to his wheelchair, unable to voluntarily move a muscle-he can’t even move his eyes. for all Shawn’s father knows, his son may be suffering. Shawn may want a release, and as long as he is unable to communicate his true feelings to his father, Shawn’s life is in danger.

To the world, Shawn’s senses seem dead. Within these pages, however, we meet a side of him that no one else has ssen-a spirit that is rich beyond imagining, breathing life.”

Cruise Control by Terry Trueman
“How sick is this: I’m the major jock-stud in a high school of over eighteen hundred kids, but my brother has the brain of a badminton birdie and a body to match.

How can you talk to your brother when he can’t understand the words? How can you love him when he’s so messed up he can’t love you back? And how can you have your own life when your father bailed out, making you the “man of the house”?

Paul is full of pent-up rage over his family’s tragic circumstances and haunted by his own mistakes. He knows he has to let it all out if he’s going to have any kind of future. If he doesn’t, he will explode.”

Reaching For Sun by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer
“Josie Wyatt knows what it means to be different. Her family’s small farmhouse seems to shrink each time another new mansion goes up behind it. Her mom is demanding, her gran is opinionated, and her father-well, she’s never known him. Then there’s her cerebral palsy: even if Josie wants to forget that she was born with a disability, her mom can’t seem to let it go. Yet when a strange new boy-Jodan- moves into one of the houses nearby, he seems oblivious to all the things that make Josie different. And before long, Josie finds herself reaching for something she’s never really known: a friend…and possibly more.  Interlinked free-verse poems tell the beautiful, heartfelt story of a girl, a proud family farm reduced to a garden, and a year of unforgettable growth.”

Izzy, Willy-Nilly by Cynthia Voigt
“Izzy is a normal high school girl, normally pretty (with especially good legs), normally popular, normally smart, just a nice girl, until an accident changes her – and her future – in a way that can never be undone.”

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. October 15, 2010 1:35 pm

    This is a great list! I’d love to help you add to it with a few I’ve read myself.

    600 Hours of Edward by Craig Lancaster about a man with Asperger’s Syndrome

    I Am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells about a young man with Antisocial Personality Disorder

    The Woman Inside by Marge Piercy about a woman who may or may not be Schizophrenic (it’s left up to the reader to decide)

    Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia by Marya Hornbacher (she also has Bipolar Disorder)

    Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen (Borderline Personality Disorder)

    Sickened: The Memoir of a Munchausen by Proxy Childhood by Julie Gregory

    When Rabbit Howls by Truddi Chase an autobiography by a woman with Dissociative Identity Disorder

    Sorry, kind of a long list. I’m a little obsessed with mental illness. :-)

    • October 15, 2010 3:52 pm

      Thanks for all the recs! I Am Not A Serial Killer, The Woman Inside, and When Rabbit Howls all sound really interesting. Actually, they all sound really good. I do want to make a page with the full list, hopefully I can get to it soon. But when I do, these will definitely be on it!

  2. October 15, 2010 1:36 pm

    Oh, PS, I hope you’ll make this list a page on your blog! It’d be a great reference for folks interested in books featuring people with disabilities.

  3. October 15, 2010 3:48 pm

    I am glad to see that you have Marcelo In The Real World on your list. That is such a good book. It is probably one of my favorites for the year. I hope you enjoy the read.

    I am going to come back to this post; I want to add some of these books to my list. Thanks for sharing.

  4. October 17, 2010 7:45 am

    This is a great list. I’ll have to add some to my TBR. Thanks for doing all the research. :-)

  5. October 17, 2010 12:08 pm

    These all sound interesting and different. Best of luck! I love when people step out of their comfort zones :)

  6. October 17, 2010 9:28 pm

    What a great group of books! A few titles in here that I want to read too.

  7. October 18, 2010 1:04 am

    I have another recommendation Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper. It is an excellent story about a girl with CP.

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