We are making strides in improving representation in many areas of diversity, but disability rep is still light years behind. It feels like every day a new book is published with poor rep. Disability rep needs the same care as other areas of diversity. Some suggestions:
Use ALL of your resources. @DisabilityInLit is fantastic. Take a few hours + reading through that website. Sensitivity readers are ESSENTIAL to disability rep. Don't just have your nephew read it. Use sensitivity readers that represent throughout the spectrum of the disability.
My niche is specifically neurodivergence and mental illness, and here are a couple of tips if you are writing a character with ^.
1. Your character will not be cured at the end of the book FULL STOP. If they have the flu, food poisoning, or a bacterial infection, they can be cured at the end of the book. If they have autism, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, learning disability, etc. NOPE. No cures.
Even in a fantasy world.
They can gain tools over the course of the book.
They will not be cured or fixed.
2. If you have a secondary character with mental illness or a disability that exists solely to create tension or obstacles for your MC: NOPE. Time for a rewrite.
Do not use a disability as an excuse to not figure out an interesting plot for your MC.
3. Do not use mental illness as a character trait or as one-dimensional motivation. "He killed her because he was (insert mental illness here)" is lazy writing, stigmatizing, and shows ignorance. Don't do it.
That's all I have time for today.
Please, people. Show care. Real people with disabilities are affected by your books. Research, reach out, write carefully.
Maybe some shout-outs to books I love with disability rep? These are my picks, you are allowed to disagree with me.
OCD: Turtles All the Way Down by @johngreen : fantastic rep where the plot is not reliant upon the disability.
OCD: The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Roten: does a great job in showing a portion of the spectrum of OCD. When you have only one character, you get a narrow view. This book does a great job of expanding that view.
Anxiety: Paper Chains by @ElaineBVickers The accurate descriptions and social situations in this book are subtle, but empowering for any child with anxiety. Its so subtle, many people wouldn't consider this a disability rep book. One of my favs.
Tourette Syndrome: Forget Me Not by @ellieterrybooks. This is an #ownvoices written in verse. The plot DOES have to do with the disability, but it's a beautiful story of learning self acceptance.
Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by @Dusti_Bowling MC was born without arms. Great example of showing powerful self-acceptance, plot is not reliant upon the disability. Any book with good Tourette rep gets bonus points.
Learning Disability: The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle by @LeslieConnor29 I love the positive peek into special education in this book. Sped rep in MG is rare, and not always positive. Its a beautiful story.
I'm a dork, I totally meant LIKE MAGIC by Elaine Vickers. But, read Paper Chains, too. Pretty much, read anything by @ElaineBVickers

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