You may be familiar with the phrase, “Nothing about us without us.” This refers to disability oppression and misrepresentation in media. Often, the disability community is misinterpreted by the able-bodied people who try to portray people with disabilities. This leads to further stereotypes about individuals with disabilities by able-bodied people. For an accurate, real, raw representation of disabilities, you must check out these four memoirs written by wheelchair users.
Sitting Pretty: The View from My Ordinary Resilient Disabled Body
Rebekah Taussig is an engaging writer, teacher and advocate. Rebekah has been paralyzed since receiving cancer treatments when she was three years old. Now an adult woman, she’s had 30 years of life experience, discovering her own strength and being a recipient of other’s perceptions of people with disabilities. She regularly shares personal essays on her website and social media. Her memoir, Sitting Pretty: The View from My Ordinary Resilient Disabled Body, is a collection of essays that reflects on topics such as the complications of kindness and charity, living both independently and dependently, experiencing intimacy, and more. You can find an excerpt from her memoir on Time.com.
Disability Visibility: First Person Stories from the 21st Century
Edited by activist Alice Wong, Disability Visibility: First Person Stories from the 21st Century brings together a collection of personal essays written by contemporary disabled writers. These essays range from blog posts and manifestos to eulogies and testimonies to Congress. This diverse compilation of original works shows the complexity of the disabled experience while also highlighting the passions, talents, and day-to-day life of the disabled community. Like Sitting Pretty, this memoir challenges those to question their own assumptions and understandings of individuals with disabilities.
In Golem Girl, author and artist Riva Lehrer talks about her life growing up with spina bifida in the 1960s. Living during a time where different bodies were less accepted than they are today, Riva explores different subjects, such as dealing with those close to her viewing her as something to be fixed and limiting her in her beliefs of where she could go in life. In her adult years, Riva joins a group of artists, writers, and performers who are building disability culture. As she paints the portraits of others, she transforms the myths others have engrained into her about people with disabilities while also discovering herself. If you love creativity, then this is the book for you!
If You Really Love Me, Throw Me Off the Mountain
Aerial dancer Erin Clark’s If You Really Love Me, Throw Me Off the Mountain, tells the adventure of her move to Spain to join a paragliding school after a series of dramatic events, including her wheelchair breaking, almost losing to a battle with sepsis, and the end of a marriage. Erin shares her experience mastering flying in a wheelchair and falling in love in the Andalusian mountains. Travel with Erin through her story as she goes from being grounded by others to soaring into a life of love and adventure.
Whether you are a wheelchair user and want to educate others on what it’s like to live with a disability or you want to enjoy an empowering read, these are some options to add to your reading list! For more first-person experiences of life as a wheelchair user, you can also check out our blog Life at iLevel.