Characters with disabilities always seems to be the last thing writers or readers seem to include in terms of diversity. We ourselves, don't get a WHOLE lot of requests to review books that include disabled protagonists and finding the few YA, Fantasy, MG, or Sci-Fi books that are out there and capture disabled people in a multi-faceted, 3-Dimensional, Flattering light is very few and far between. There are a ton of amazing blogs out there that are dedicated to dismantling the negative connotations that are usually associated with disabled people. Today we're happy to be sitting down with another one of them!!!
We got in touch with Kayla @ "Disability in Kidlit", a diversity blog dedicated to exploring disabilities in books particularly YA, MG and Children's Lit. Not only was she was really interested in hopping onboard, she was very patient and understanding of what kind of message we were trying to get across with this particular post.
So much goes into what not to do with disabled characters in novels, that "Disability in Kidlit" could go on forever about the do-nots! Instead she's chosen to give us, and others where the future of disabled characters can and should go!
I can't say this isn't beneficial. I've learned so much about the stigma behind disabled characters just through these highlights alone. Some of the best and memorable characters in SF/F are disabled(check the best ones out!)
At Disability in Kidlit, we spend a lot of time dissecting disability tropes. We outline what they are and why they’re harmful, and there’s immense value in that. It’s important to acknowledge what NOT to do. But sometimes it’s fun (and helpful) to talk about what we would like to see in terms of disability and representation—what TO do.
- Disabled characters in genre fiction: Give me all your disabled characters on spaceships, saving kingdoms, practicing magic, etc. Give me disabled SUPERHEROES. Disabled characters are very rarely seen outside of contemporary fiction (and even when they appear there, they are rarely depicted as full characters, but that’s a rant for another day). Why are disabled characters excluded from SFF? Do people in fantasy realms or in the future simply not have disabilities? I find that very, very difficult to believe (read: impossible), and it’s, frankly, lazy writing.
- Disabled love interests: Disabled people who want romantic and/or sexual relationships have those relationships as much as abled people do. Those relationships are as complicated, confusing, sexy, exhilarating, painful, etc. as any relationship involving only abled people. But so often, disabled characters aren’t given the opportunity for relationships. I’d argue that most of the time, they aren’t even seen to have the desire for romance and sex. And not because they’re aromantic and/or asexual, but because they’re not seen as “worthy”. So, please, give me entire romance novels centered on one or more disabled characters. I would read those books so hard.
- Intersectionality: Characters that fall into one minority category tend to fall into only one category, which is ludicrous. I, for instance, am both disabled and bisexual. It’s completely unbelievable that ALL disabled characters are white, straight (if they’re seen as sexual at all), cis, Christian, etc. Give me characters who are gay, Muslim, AND disabled! Give me trans* disabled characters of color! Don’t ignore the intersections so many people experience.
- Disabled princesses: This one definitely has some overlap with the genre point, but I want to specifically ask the universe for disabled princesses. Princesses meant for young girls who ask to dress as them for Halloween. Princesses who are more Game of Thrones than Disney, who are ruthless and powerful and competent. Historical princesses who lived in a palace and also had a disability. Is this request probably the most selfish one of the bunch? Yes. But I told you this post would be personal, and personally? I want all the disabled princesses I didn’t get growing up and still don’t have as a grown woman. (See also: the disabled superheroes mentioned above.)
- “Cool kids”: Disabled characters tend to be outcasts. So much so that I honestly expected that’s how I should be viewed even though I always had tons of friends. Now that that’s how I would be viewed, but that that’s how I should be viewed. Disabled kids can absolutely be popular kids. I was one of them, and I had so many friends who were, too. Disabled cheerleaders and competitive athletes. People who were class president, who were DJs, who dictated school-wide trends, all of whom were also disabled. Show me that there is more than one narrative; that disabled characters are as capable of being social as abled ones.
Also check out Disability in Kidlit at all these wonderful places!
There's still time! Have you entered our giveaway yet?
And just to make things more interesting, Romance Novels in Color is also hosting a giveaway for a 10.00 amazon gift card through Twinja Book Reviews! Visit here for details!