Nola Family Bookshelf
Education, Family Life, Parenting, Special Needs, Stages

From the Bookshelf – Inclusion Books

April 1, 2021

Suggestions from a Librarian – Inclusion Books  

As the publishing industry pushes to diversify itself and the authors it represents, readers benefit from the inclusion of authors who represent the diversity surrounding us.  

A 2019 study from the Cooperative Children’s Book Center notes that only 3.2% of children’s books feature a disabled main character. Luckily, 2020 brought us books like My Rainbow by Trinity and Deshanna Neal, a mother-daughter author and advocate duo.  

My Rainbow

My Rainbow introduces readers to Trinity, a young, Black autistic girl who wishes to have long hair. When her mother points out that having long hair does not make you a woman/girl (for instance, she doesn’t have long hair), Trinity explains how longer hair would help her express her identity as a trans girl. Unable to find the perfect wig, Mom becomes determined to create one that fits all the aspects of Trinity’s identity. Featuring joyful illustrations by Art Twink, this book is a celebration of family love, pride, and individuality. 

Show Me A Sign

For middle grade readers, Ann Clare LeZotte’s Show Me A Sign transports us back to early-19th century Martha’s Vineyard and the thriving deaf community that flourished there. Utilizing her own experience as a deaf person, LeZotte is able to showcase in fiction both the social model of disability, where social structures (like communication) are what create impediments for people with disabilities, and the cultural model of disability, where the uniqueness of deaf culture is brought to the forefront and celebrated.

After the death of her brother, continuing land disputes between the English settlers and the native Wampanoag people, and the arrival of a scientist hoping to experiment with the Island’s deaf population, the novel’s protagonist, Mary Lambert, must learn how to stand up for what she believes in, even if it’s not popular with everyone. 

Wound from the Mouth of a Wound

The field of adult literature also saw publications last year that increased the diversity of authors with disabilities including Torrin A. Greathouse’s Wound from the Mouth of a Wound. Greathouse, a self-proclaimed “transgender cripple punk” uses poetry as a means to witness the parallel medicalization of her body as both a trans woman and a disabled person.

Moving beyond a desire to be beautiful, which often traps trans women in a double bind and leaves those with disabilities outside it’s fold, Greathouse’s poems embrace the messiness, uncertainty, and fragility of having a body that doesn’t align with normative expectations.

Disability Rights Advocates and Artists

These new books exist in a landscape long fought for by disability rights advocates and artists. Examples of this work can be found in the 2006 documentary, Sins Invalid: An Unshamed Claim to Beauty, which can be streamed through Kanopy, one of the New Orleans Public Library’s free streaming services, providing access to documentaries and classic films. 

Sins Invalid is a performance project that uses live performance to center and amplify the voices of artists with disabilities, particularly those who are queer, gender-variant, or people of color. Their work creates space for conversations surrounding beauty and desirability, sexuality, disability, and agency. 

These works challenge us to view the ways our own bodies, abilities, and outlooks determine what parts of the world we have access to and how we might dream a bigger and more accessible future for everyone. 

Hayley Morgenstern has worked for the New Orleans Public Library for three years as a children’s librarian. They currently work at Norman Mayer Library and have a specialty in queer and feminist children’s books.

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