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Throughout the history of literature many authors have thought up characters based on their personal experiences or of others they have known, creating unique personalities that take on a life of their own. These eight books that deal with disability are examples of just that.
The Cry of the Gull
The author and central character of this book is Emmanuelle Laborit, one of the most renowned champions for the deaf community in her home country of France. In this novel she recounts her journey from childhood, from learning to accept her own particular disability to dealing with the challenges of becoming an independent adult. In the same year that this precocious author published the novel (she was 21 when she wrote it), Laborit also received the Molière prize for her role in the theatrical production of Sons Of A Lesser God, becoming the first ever deaf actress to receive such recognition.
The Fault in our Stars
Touching and unique, The Fault In Our Stars was published in 2012 and soon became a best seller. The author John Green takes us into the young mind of Hazel Grace Lancaster, a sixteen year old girl who suffers from lung cancer. At a meeting with other young illness sufferers, she gets to know Gus, a boy whose leg has been amputated due to osteosarcoma. A novel written largely for teenagers has gone on to become a huge success as well as one of the essential works that deal with disability.
The Solitude of Prime Numbers
From one best seller to another. When published in 2009, The Solitude Of Prime Numbers went on to be the year’s biggest sales success. In it, author Paolo Giordano tells the story of Mattia, a gifted child who has a twin sister with learning difficulties, and Alice, a victim of an overbearing father who drives her to injury and illness. Both characters are scarred by their traumatic experiences but are drawn together in a lasting friendship by the same things that set them apart from those around them. An essential book.
Flowers for Algernon
The central character of this science fiction tale by Daniel Keyes is Charlie Gordon, a thirty-seven year old man with an IQ of 67 who is selected to undergo tests for a treatment that could triple his intelligence. Subjected to several rounds of testing, the results are then compared to those of Algernon, a mouse whom Charlie befriends.
Tuesdays with Morrie
Based on a true story, Tuesdays With Morrie tells of the relationship between the author, Mitch Albom, and his old teacher, Morrie Schwartz. After more than a decade without seeing one another, Mitch learns that Morrie has Motor Neuron Disease and decides to visit him. A veritable sea of feelings and emotions arise from the conversations between the two men, that Mitch records in his book, the proceeds of which he uses to pay the medical bills of his former mentor.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel became equally if not more famous for the film version starring Jack Nicholson as McMurphy, a convict who feigns mental illness in order to secure a transfer from a work farm to what he views as a softer sentence at a psychiatric institution. McMurphy’s rebellious character brings him into direct conflict with the sinister Nurse Ratched, whose methods of controlling the other patients include convincing them of the social stigma of their conditions. Although McMurphy’s outrage is ultimately his undoing, he succeeds in convincing many of the others to stand up for and respect themselves in a system that dehumanises them.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Mark Haddon’s 2003 novel was successful as both as a children’s and an adult’s book. Told from the perspective of fifteen year old Christopher John Francis Boone, the book deals with the difficulty of day to day living with an autism spectrum condition, as Christopher sets out to solve the mystery of why his neighbour’s dog was found dead outside. The overwhelming stimuli of the world beyond the safety of his routine and his difficulty in understanding interpersonal relationships are simply yet powerfully expressed in this touching tale.
The Spiral Cage
Author Al Davison was born with severe spina bifida and condemned to the 'spiral cage' of his own genetic makeup. In a book with a difference, the author uses the graphic novel format to beautifully illustrate his own struggle to overcome his disability from what doctors considered to be a hopeless case.
Check out our previous blog post for a list of films that deal with the theme of disability, many of which started life as critically acclaimed books. Live without limits and write your own story with a powered wheelchair or a manual wheelchair from Quickie.