Disability Themes in Fiction

Seeing myself in the stories I consume has become important to me as I’ve gotten older. Growing up as a middle class Caucasian female, this wasn’t difficult when I was young. In fact, that description fits MANY of the stories available to me from Kindergarten to the end of high school. Beginning when I was 19, I’ve been given a couple diagnosis that can be classified as a disability. The most recent label of Fibromyalgia sent me on quite the internet exploration as I tried to get a handle on what this meant for me and my lifestyle. Among the scientific papers, tips & tricks from fellow chronic pain survivors, and holistic treatment websites I found opportunities to see characters in fiction facing similar challenges as myself.

It’s a fairly recent trend but authors with disabilities, and stories of characters with disabilities, are gaining visibility. Typing “fibromyalgia fiction book” actually produces results – something I’m sure wouldn’t have happened even 10 years ago. Stumbling across one title led me to a full out hunt. Below are the 3 titles I’m most excited about and will be adding to my TBR pile:

A Song of Shadows by John Connolly

Nine year old Amanda has Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or more commonly myalgic encephalomyelitis, ME 

Still recovering from his life-threatening wounds, private detective Charlie Parker investigates a case that has its origins in a Nazi concentration camp during the Second World War.

Parker has retreated to the small Maine town of Boreas to regain his strength. There he befriends a widow named Ruth Winter and her young daughter, Amanda. But Ruth has her secrets. She is hiding from the past, and the forces that threaten her have their origins in the Second World War, in a town called Lubsko and a concentration camp unlike any other. Old atrocities are about to be unearthed, and old sinners will kill to hide their sins. Now Parker is about to risk his life to defend a woman he barely knows, one who fears him almost as much as she fears those who are coming for her.

His enemies believe him to be vulnerable. Fearful. Solitary. But they are wrong. Parker is far from afraid, and far from alone. For something is emerging from the shadows . . .

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

Protagonist Chloe has chronic pain and author Talia Hibbert has Fibromyalgia

Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost—but not quite—dying, she’s come up with seven directives to help her “Get a Life”, and she’s already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamorous family’s mansion. The next items?

  • Enjoy a drunken night out.
  • Ride a motorcycle.
  • Go camping.
  • Have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex.
  • Travel the world with nothing but hand luggage.
  • And… do something bad.

But it’s not easy being bad, even when you’ve written step-by-step guidelines on how to do it correctly. What Chloe needs is a teacher, and she knows just the man for the job.

Redford ‘Red’ Morgan is a handyman with tattoos, a motorcycle, and more sex appeal than ten-thousand Hollywood heartthrobs. He’s also an artist who paints at night and hides his work in the light of day, which Chloe knows because she spies on him occasionally. Just the teeniest, tiniest bit.

But when she enlists Red in her mission to rebel, she learns things about him that no spy session could teach her. Like why he clearly resents Chloe’s wealthy background. And why he never shows his art to anyone. And what really lies beneath his rough exterior…

Deenie by Judy Blume

Main character Deenie has Scoliosis

Her mother is pushing her to become a model, but 13-year-old Deenie just wants to worry about everyday teenage affairs: school, friends and whether or not the cute boy she has a crush on likes her back. But when Deenie is diagnosed with scoliosis, both her and her mother’s concerns are turned upside down. Deenie must add wearing a body brace for the next four years to the already difficult terrain of young adulthood, and her mother must reevaluate her priorities.