#WeNeedDiverseBooks and Reading about Disability
Last month, I read an incredible article by Corinne Duyvis entitled Navigating Criticism and Discussions of Disability Representation from the Disability in Kidlit Blog. Some of Duyvis' other articles I have found equally insightful include Disability Metaphors in Sci-Fi and Fantasy, Happy Endings and Overcoming Autism, and The State of Disability on Book Covers. I have also found this interview with her particularly compelling. I keep going back to her posts because they are insightful, well-written, and challenge me to reflect upon disability representation in ways I perhaps would not--and in many ways, cannot--consider as someone who does not self-identify as disabled. In our current library landscape where #WeNeedDiverseBooks is more than just a hashtag, it is increasingly important for librarians to advocate and champion diversity in representation in children's and young adult literature. This is why the Disability in Kidlit Blog is such an invaluable resource to the library community.
Disability in Kidlit is dedicated to discussing the portrayal of disability in middle grade and young adult literature. As explained on their website, this team of authors publishes articles, reviews, interviews, and discussions examining this topic from various angles—and always from the disabled perspective. One of their main goals is to help readers, booksellers, librarians, and educators find good portrayals of disability in literature, specifically YA and Middle Grade novels. They do that by discussing books via reviews and articles written by those who self identify as disabled.
You may have seen the recent "Perspectives of Authors with Disabilities" series (parts one and two) published on the We Need Diverse Books website. What makes Disability in Kidlit crucial to the We Need Diverse Books conversation? They believe that a thoughtful portrayal of disability requires more than memorizing a list of symptoms. They want to share disabled people’s thoughts on stereotypes, pet peeves, portrayals, and their own day-to-day experiences. And by doing so, they aim to help readers learn about the realities of disability. We Need Diverse Books helps to promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people, and in my eyes, Disability in Kidlit does just that by promoting authenticity, accuracy, and respect.
So often we hear that books should be both windows and mirrors expanding and reflecting our unique experiences through literature. By starting dialogue and encouraging conversation, Disability in Kidlit wants to ensure that books mirror back an accurate, respectful, and honorable portrayal of characters with disabilities. The truth is that this can be a difficult conversation for librarians to have. But as Duyvis says in her article, "The more people genuinely listen to multiple opinions instead of becoming defensive, the more they will understand the underlying roots of the criticism." So, let us listen, be conscious, and encourage deep and meaningful conversation. Only then can we hope to connect, respect, and learn to understand each other.