15 Canadian books to mark International Day of Persons with Disabilities
Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023 is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
To celebrate, we've put together a list of 14 Canadian works of fiction, nonfiction, poetry and children's books to highlight disabled writers and stories about disabilities.
The Future Is Disabled is a book of "love notes" about the power of disability justice to create a future in which humanity as a whole can survive fascism, climate crisis and pandemics. The book argues that disability justice can liberate us all and examines how disabled people kept and are keeping each other — and the rest of the world — alive during our current collective crises.
Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha is a queer, disabled, non-binary femme writer, educator and disability and transformative justice worker. They have written or co-edited nine books, including Care Work and Tonguebreaker.
Beryl: The Making of a Disability Activist shares the biography of disability activist Beryl Potter. Following an accident that led to Potter becoming disabled, she chose to devote her life to advocating for other people with disabilities, and bettering their lives. Dustin Galer details the contributions that Potter made, and the obstacles she faced and overcame in her devotion to disability justice.
Dustin Galer is a Toronto-based historian and writes about disability history and labour. He is also the author of Working Towards Equity, which details the history of the Canadian disability rights movement.
Something More is a YA romance following 15-year-old Jessie Kassis' first year of high school. Jessie is a Palestinian-Canadian girl who is coming to terms with her autism diagnosis all the while trying to make friends, get a spot in the school play and get her first kiss. When she catches the attention of two boys at Holy Trinity High, Jessie discovers more about who she is and what she truly wants.
Jackie Khalilieh is a Palestinian-Canadian writer currently based near Toronto. Something More is her debut YA novel.
Abolition is Love is a picture book which follows a young person called Amelie as they learn about care, justice and love in the everyday. This picture book engages in conversations for young people about how to imagine different futures for themselves and their communities.
Syrus Marcus Ware is a Toronto-based artist, writer and activist. He is also a founding member of Black Lives Matter Toronto and a contributor to the anthology series presented by CBC Arts 21 Black Futures. His other books include I Promise and Love Is in the Hair.
In Making a Home, Jen Powley tells the story of how she developed a shared attendant services system for young adults living with severe physical disabilities. The book looks at how putting young people with disabilities in nursing homes may meet their physical needs but not their social, psychological and emotional needs.
Powley is a writer living in Halifax. She is also the author of Just Jen: Thriving Through Multiple Sclerosis, which won the 2018 Margaret and John Savage First Time Author Nonfiction Book Award.
In her debut poetry collection, Phantompains, Therese Estacion shows what it means to bear witness to one's own pain and sexuality, to find catharsis and self-love, after a rare infection stole her limbs but not her life. Estacion takes her audience through the monotony of recovery and explores themes of disability, grief and life in a surrealist fashion, travelling across geographies and writing in a combination of English and Visayan, the language of Cebu, where her mother is from, and of her father's small home town of Guihulngan.
Therese Estacion is a writer and teacher from the Philippines who now lives in Toronto.
In More than Words, Nathan, who is a quiet boy, observes in school how people can communicate in different ways. From peers that use sign language, to peers that sing, there are many different ways of communicating. More than Words is a picture book about understanding each other to create belonging and friendship.
Roz MacLean is a B.C.-based visual artist and writer and illustrator of children's books. Some of her other works include Violet's Cloudy Day and The Body Book.
The Winter Knight reimagines the myth of the knights of the round table and sets it in modern-day Vancouver. When one of the knights is found dead, Valkyrie investigator Hildie is assigned to the case. One of her suspects is Wayne, a college student with autism and the reincarnation of Sir Gawain. As deaths pile up, Hildie and Wayne must face magic and mayhem to solve the mystery.
Jes Battis is the author of the Occult Special Investigator and Parallel Parks series and the novel Night Child, which was shortlisted for the Sunburst Award. They are also a professor at the University of Regina, where they teach medieval literature and LGBTQ studies.
act normal is a collection of poetry which reconstructs "normalized" notions of disability and difference through referencing various archival materials, court cases and similar sources. The book begins in an institution where children are sorted based on perceived intellectual inferiority, leading to greater conversations on care and normalcy.
nancy viva davis halifax is a poet and associate professor in critical disability studies in the Faculty of Health at York University. act normal is their second collection, after their 2015 book hook.
In Friends Find a Way, the picture book sequel to Fast Friends, friends Suze and Tyson must find a way to reunite back with their class when they get separated from them on a field trip to the zoo. Suze knows the way, but can she lead them back? A story about inclusion and friendship, readers will learn about non-verbal communication.
Heather M. O'Connor is an Ontario-based freelance writer and editor. She won the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Award for her debut picture book Fast Friends, which was also selected for the 2022 TD Grade One Book Giveaway.
Claudia Dávila is an Ontario-based author and illustrator who was formerly Chirp and Chickadee magazine's art director. Some of her other works that she illustrated include Child Soldier: When Boys and Girls Are Used in War by Michel Chikwanine & Jessica Dee Humphreys, The Canadian Kids Guide to Outdoor Fun by Helaine Becker and The Future According to Luz graphic novel series which she also wrote.
In her memoir, Falling for Myself, Dorothy Ellen Palmer makes a passionate case for disability justice. She was born with congenital anomalies in both feet. In Falling for Myself, she depicts her coming to terms with the past — and describes her discovery and embrace of activism.
Dorothy Ellen Palmer is a writer, educator, accessibility consultant and activist. She is also the author of the novel When Fenelon Falls.
In Sara and the Search for Normal, a young girl named Sara joins a therapy group. She hopes she can learn to quiet her mind and figure out how to be normal. Instead, she learns that there are other kids out there just like her. And that it's more important to be yourself than it is to be what is considered "normal."
In Disfigured, Amanda Leduc examines disability in fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm to modern-day interpretations in Disney films, showing us how they influence our expectations and behaviour and linking the quest for disability rights to new kinds of stories that celebrate difference. She argues for increased awareness and acceptance of that which is 'other' — helping us to see and celebrate the magic inherent in different bodies.
Disfigured was a finalist for the 2020 Governor General's Literary Prize for nonfiction.
Amanda Leduc is the communications and development coordinator for the Festival of Literary Diversity. She is also the author of the novel The Miracles of Ordinary Men, and was longlisted for the 2019 CBC Short Story Prize for her story All This, and Heaven Too.
At the Speed of Gus is a middle grade novel about a 13-year-old boy called Augustus Constantine who has ADHD. The story follows Gus, who takes medication to help him focus, as one day he misuses that medication and decides to take the ferry over to Vancouver Island to meet up with his sister at her university.
Richard Scrimger has written over 20 books for children and young adults, including Zomboy, Downside Up, Lucky Jonah and Autumn Bird and the Runaway, which is a collaboration with Melanie Florence. He lives in Toronto.
A World Without Martha is an unflinching yet compassionate memoir of how one sister's institutionalization for intellectual disability in the 1960s affected the other, sending them both on separate but parallel journeys. Their journeys are shaped initially by society's inability to accept difference and later by changing attitudes toward disability, identity, and inclusion.
Victoria Freeman is an Ottawa-born, Toronto-based writer, theatre artist, educator, and public historian. Her first book, Distant Relations: How My Ancestors Colonized North America, was shortlisted for the 2000 Writers' Trust Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing.
A World Without Martha was shortlisted for the 2020 Lambda literary award for bisexual nonfiction.
Freeman is also the co-creator of Birds Make Me Think About Freedom, a play about the experiences of people institutionalized for intellectual disability, which won a Patron's Pick award at the 2018 Toronto Fringe Festival.