Some great reads for International Day of Persons with Disabilities

From Kara McClurken, Director of Preservation Services:

One in five Americans lives with a disability. Friday, December 3 is International Day of Persons with Disabilities, which the United Nations declared an annual observance in 1992. The day “aims to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development, and to increase awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.” In recognition of the day, we asked Library staff to recommend some books they’ve read recently.

You can find these titles at the UVA Library or at the nearby Jefferson-Madison Regional Library. Items not currently available at UVA are on order for the collection.

Elyse Girard, Executive Director of Communications and User Experience, recommends “Disability Visibility: First Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century” edited by Alice Wong. “Some disabilities are visible, others less apparent — but all are underrepresented in media and popular culture.” “Disability Visibility” brings together a variety of perspectives and articulates first-hand experiences and truths on what it means to live with a disability in a modern world. This collection of essays creates a great entry point for those who are unfamiliar with disability literature or theory and introduces topics and insights that are easy to understand. This book also highlights how ableism is prevalent in our culture. If you’re already an advocate or just interested in learning more about disability justice, then this book is for you.

Speaking of advocates…User Experience Librarian Melinda Baumann, suggests “Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law.” Haben Girma is a disability rights lawyer, a daughter of Eritrean and Ethiopian parents, a salsa dancer, a rock-and-iceberg climber, and a confident user of power tools. Haben Girma is also deafblind. This is a compelling and humorous memoir of a girl who learns to navigate in a sighted and hearing world, but on her own terms. Girma’s successes in fighting for her own rights led her to law school, then to disability rights consulting, writing, and public speaking, because “public speaking is a powerful form of advocacy. When done well, it moves people to action.”

Looking to learn more about a broader spectrum of sexual expression than what is depicted in the media? Katrina Spencer, Librarian for African American and African Studies, recommends A. Andrew’s “A Quick & Easy Guide to Sex and Disability.” This graphic work is narrated by “A.,” a friendly, queer, approachable character who encourages readers to approach sex through a lens of consent and care. Part of A’s mission is to challenge myths surrounding disability and to prevent some faux pas. The author disabuses us of the notion that people within the disabled community do not have sex. They also offer practical tips that help those who want to get down and sexy navigate potentially sensitive conversations, like using assistive devices for positioning bodies in ways that aid pleasure. This work is for anyone looking for ways to respect their partner’s or partners’ wishes and boundaries.

According to Brenda Gunn, Associate University Librarian for Special Collections and Preservation, Rebekah Taussig provides plenty to contemplate in her memoir “Sitting Pretty: The View from My Ordinary Resilient Disabled Body.” A great introduction to disability studies, “Sitting Pretty” is most compelling in the descriptions of separation and isolation that come from Taussig’s own experiences moving through a world that refuses to value her body. She expands on accepted definitions of ableism, while making the point that ableism is an oppressive structure, and the weight of that oppression is cumulative. The book’s power lies in Taussig’s critique of structures like the Americans with Disabilities Act, in her wrestling with the kindness of strangers, in challenging popular representations of disability, and in musing over feminism as it relates to bodies and how they work.

Want to talk about disabilities with young people? Kara McClurken, Director of Preservation Services, suggests Shane Burcaw’s “Not So Different: What You Really Want to Ask About Having a Disability.” Award-winning author Shane Burcaw shares answers to frequently asked questions about what it is like living with a disability in this book geared towards elementary school children. The questions are asked in a blunt and curious tone that anyone who has worked with young people has heard before and are answered with humor and honesty. Combined with Matt Carr’s hilarious full-color photographs alongside Burcaw family photos, the answers provide a realistic and refreshing perspective on life with a disability and the ways in which our similarities are far greater than our differences.

Looking for other titles related to disability studies? The UVA Library is continually acquiring new material and recently built a collection inspired by Indiana University’s excellent Contemporary Picture Book collection. You can search for those titles in Virgo.

Questions? Contact Sherri Brown, Librarian for English.

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