Lazyweb Book request: Disability activism

Lazyweb, do my homework for me!

Many of us can rattle off a list of feminist books that influenced our thinking, a list to answer the recurring feminism-101 question about reading lists.

I haven’t a clue about radical disability activism and rights reading lists, though. What are the formative works in the field? What should everyone have read at least a chapter or two from? Which are the anti-ableist pull-quotes that spring to everyone’s lips?

All I’ve read are The Mask of Benevolence, Seeing Voices, and Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language (which I’ve unfortunately lent to someone and never got back).

Extra special bonus points if what you suggest is available in the WA State Library system. Searching on “disability” in my local library gives only one really likely-looking result, “Disability in Australia : exposing a social apartheid” by Gerard Goggin and Christopher Newell, and it’s been pulled to not-for-loan in Joondalup for some reason. I’m not up to going up there and sitting up long enough to read it from the Reference section.


Edit April 13, 2009. I’ve started to compile the recommendations made in comments. Please keep them coming, and feel free to spread the meme to your own blogging networks. Asterisks mark authors who received more than one recommendation.

Anna suggests:

Paul K Longmore, Why I Burned My Book and Other Essays on Disability

Fleischer, Doris Zames and Freida Zames: The Disability Rights Movement: From Charity to Confrontation

Bayton, Douglas C. Forbidden Signs: American Culture and the Campaign Against Sign Language: 1847 – 1920. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998.

Burch, Susan. Signs of Resistance: American Deaf Cultural History 1900 to World War II. New York: New York University Press, 2002.

* Miriam Kaufman, Cory Silverberg and Fran Odette. The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability: for All of Us Who Live with Disabilities, Chronic Pain and Illness

This Disability & Sexuality reading list

Book Girl suggests:

Her LibraryThing list

Women With Disabilities Australia , including Oyster Grit: Experiences of Women with Disabilities

Deus ex Macintosh suggests:

Jenny Morris, Pride Against Prejudice, ISBN 0-7043-4286-3, and possibly Morris’ Encounters with Strangers: Feminism and Disability

* Susan Wendell, The Rejected Body: Feminist Philosophical Reflections on Disability, ISBN-10: 0415910471/ISBN-13: 978-0415910477

* Tom Shakespeare, Disability Rights and Wrongs, ISBN-10: 041534719X/ISBN-13: 978-0415347198

Rosemary Crossley and Anne McDonald, Annie’s Coming Out

Wildly Parenthetical suggests:

Lennard Davis, Enforcing Normalcy (introductory text on concept of the normal)

Rod Michalko, The Difference that Disability Makes: (acquired disability and adjustment)

Michael Oliver Understanding Disability (social model of disability)

Katherine Dunn, Geek Love (fiction)

David Mitchell and Sharon Snyder, Narrative Prosthesis, The Cultural Location of Disability and The Body and Physical Difference: Discourses of Disability

Margrit Shildrick: Vital Signs and Embodying the Monster: Encounters with the Vulnerable Self (theory)

Lennard Davis’ collection, The Disability Studies Reader (excerpts/sampler)

University of Arizona “Criplit” resource list

Theriomorph suggests:

John Hockenberry , Moving Violations: War Zones, Wheelchairs, and Declarations of Independence (memoir)

annaham suggests:

** Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, Extraordinary Bodies, and other works

cripchick suggests:

Joseph P. Shapiro, No Pity: People with Disabilities Forging a New Civil Rights Movement

Eli Clare, Exile and Pride

Jesse the K suggests:

the Electric Edge archive, final incarnation of a newprint magazine that began life as the Ragged Edge (US-centric)

Mary Johnson, Make Them Go Away (editor of the Edge)

Julie Shaw Cole, Getting Life (how women are turned against each other in the circle of caring and “caring.”)

Cal Montgomery, Critic of the Dawn (response to Martha Nussbaum)

Simi Linton, Claiming
(balance of theory and everyday activism, out of print but available via
Net Library)

Categories: social justice

Tags: ,

22 replies

  1. I’m ashamed that I can’t think of any off the top of my head; I’ll be watching this thread with interest before taking a trip to the library, methinks!
    Anji’s last blog post..Running for Rape Crisis

  2. Well, obviously the first thing everyone should read is my thesis. *laugh* (This is totally a lie – my thesis is about deaf educators. I frown that it comes under the Deaf history umbrella because I have no deaf voices in it.)
    Sincerely, though. By virtue of geography my list is all North American-centric.
    If you were only going to read two, and wanted a bit more of a general idea than anything on a specific disability, I would go with these ones:
    Paul K Longmore: Why I Burned My Book & Other Essays.
    Fleischer, Doris Zames and Freida Zames: The Disability Rights Movement: From Charity to Confrontation
    I have a really good book on disability in the cinema and popular television shows, but I can’t think of the title right now. I’ll dig it out later today and come back with it, cuz it is good.
    Here are a couple that are Deaf-specific from my bibliography:
    Bayton, Douglas C. Forbidden Signs: American Culture and the Campaign Against Sign Language: 1847 – 1920. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998.
    Burch, Susan. Signs of Resistance: American Deaf Cultural History 1900 to World War II. New York: New York University Press, 2002.

  3. Oh! I also have a good book on my shelf right now about sex & disability.
    Here’s a whole reading list on the topic, but the one I’ve looked at most is The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability: for All of Us Who Live with Disabilities, Chronic Pain and Illness, by Miriam Kaufman, Cory Silverberg and Fran Odette.

  4. I own a large number of fem/dis books, check the link for my LibraryThing at my blog, then look under the disability tag. Unfortunately, most of these are not in the WA library system, I had to order them from overseas or track them down in secondhand bookshops (prior to the net).
    Also, you’ll come up with very little searching under “disability” in the LISWA database – search using “handicapped” – ::gags:: . I spent a LOT of time muttering about this when I first went searching for disability related books years ago. There are a few books in the Alexander Library, though I don’t know if they’d still be there.
    For writing on feminism and disability in Australia, look at the Women With Disabilities Australia website –
    They have most of what is out there, and there is a book of essays and personal stories you can order from them called Oyster Grit, put together by Eastern States women with disabilities.

  5. Book Girl, when I was going through the public archives here for stuff on disability, I was referred to “Children, Defective and Backwards”.

  6. If only I’d kept the reading list from the Disability Equality Trainer course I took. The ones I best remember are:
    PRIDE AGAINST PREJUDICE by Jenny Morris. An excellent ‘starter’ text on the whole issue of disability equality and history of disability issues in the west. ISBN 0-7043-4286-3
    This goes in and out of print all the time, but would be my number one recommendation of all time. Wont frighten the ableds.) Jenny Morris has also wrote ENCOUNTERS WITH STRANGERS: FEMINISM AND DISABILITY which I haven’t read yet. On the contact between feminism and disability the one I have read and can recommend is
    It’s a little more academic but if you’re used to reading the more serious feminist theorists not particularly challenging.
    DISABILITY RIGHTS AND WRONGS by Tom Shakespeare. ISBN-10: 041534719X/ISBN-13: 978-0415347198. As well as being a popular columnist with the BBC Ouch! disability website, Tom is also a professional academic in the disability field. This is a good introductory text to the issues of social vs medical model of disability, bioethics and personal relationships but a bit dry. (Jenny Morris covers the same areas but is a ‘friendlier’ read.)
    And of course if you’re based in Australia, what about ANNIE’S COMING OUT by Rosemary Crossley and Anne McDonald?
    Deus Ex Macintosh’s last blog post..PETA Shop Boys

  7. *Doh!* delete ‘has’ or amend to ‘written’. Sorry, a bit under the weather today.

  8. I have a big collection of disability references from doing my thesis, but it is primarily academic, so I’m not sure if it’s entirely what you’re after… But just on the off chance, here’s a few… We use a bit of “Enforcing Normalcy” by Lennard Davis as an intro to disability in a course at uni, and I think it’s great. It’s particularly useful because it talks about how to avoid thinking that disability is the problem, and to begin thinking about what it is that makes it a problem (in an echo of the whiteness turn in critical race studies), and for some awesome history of the concept of the normal. I really like Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, who offers some interesting examinations of representations of PWD (ranging from ‘anthropological’ through to contemp. pop cult.). There’s another text we use for students by Rod Michalko “The Difference that Disability Makes” which is especially good for thinking about ‘acquired’ disabilities, and the complexities of ‘having been normal’ and adjusting to no longer ‘matching’ the world and its expectations. Michael Oliver’s “Understanding Disability” is one of the early explanations of the social model of disability (which has since been critiqued in useful, interesting ways, similar to the sex/gender distinction). There’s more, of course! I second the Tom Shakespeare recommendation up above, and Susan Wendell (although it’s showing its age a lil in terms of academic shifts). I’m a bit too weary to go check on the availabilities of these books in WA; but it might be worth checking university libraries (would they send them to you, I wonder?). Anyway, if I think of any other major figures, I’ll be back! 🙂

  9. Not academic/systemic in focus, but a beautifully written memoir from which I often pull excerpts not only to teach good memoir but also to challenge attitudes @ PWD (and which is also just a completely excellent read for pleasure) –
    Moving Violations: War Zones, Wheelchairs, and Declarations of Independence
    ‘Course, I can’t find a single review which doesn’t use the phrase ‘confined to a wheelchair’ or ‘wheelchair-bound’ about John Hockenberry. Apparently they didn’t actually *read* the book.

  10. Oh yes, fiction-wise, “Geek Love” by Katherine Dunn is fabulous (and excessively troubling, if my classes are any judge ;-)).

  11. I enthusiastically second the Susan Wendell recommendation. Also: Rosemarie Garland-Thomson’s work is fantastic, particularly Extraordinary Bodies.

  12. Oh, and Rosemarie Garland-Thomson is responsible for pointing to ‘feminist disability studies’ as an area that needs doing. I can bounce the article your way, if you’d like! 🙂

  13. I tried looking up books on disability in my local library over a year ago. There was only one. “Make Them Go Away — and I couldn’t make it three pages in; I had to throw the book down to keep myself from breaking down crying. Every word was an attack on the very existence of pwd. Every sentence full of hatred.
    The book itself, as far as I can tell, is ostensibly pro-disability-rights, but the style is just too difficult to actually read. I couldn’t take it; it was too heavy an emotional stress for me. It’s the kind of writing that just cuts deep into that part of your brain (heart?) that just cannot form coherent response, can only brood in white hot anger.
    I understand the point of the book as being that (in the US) the ADA is a “failure” — as in, it puts the onus on pwd to take people to court for failures in accessibility — it doesn’t actually put the responsibility on businesses/agencies/etc. to be accessible in the first place. Which is an excellent point itself, just, again, the style made it impossible for me to read…
    And that’s the only book on disability in our library — period. It’s frustrating.

  14. You can read the first few pages on Amazon, actually. I don’t have the heart to go back in there again.

  15. And our library is similar on feminist books, fwiw. There’s “The Feminine Mystique,” but then the rest of the books are your typical anti-feminist “Failures of feminism!” sort.
    I remember the libraries in California being wide-ranging and diverse on any one subject I wanted to look at — not unlimited, but at least a few different picks on any one subject. The library here, otoh, has next to nothing, and it makes me immensely sad. The next library over has nothing better. And I’m not making an hour drive one way to Pittsburgh to visit some random library there to see if it’s any better.

  16. i’m so glad to see this thread! (thanks amandaw for the link)
    i have a hard time with dis theory books, only because it starts to get abstract and over my head. frusterating because these are things i know i would identify with if they were written in other words.
    however, i rec’ No Pity to everyone i come across, it’s a great introduction to the DRM. Eli Clare’s Exile and Pride is powerful. I’ve been meaning to read Rosemarie Garland Thompson’s Extraordinary Bodies, people told me that changed their perspective on everything. Just picked up the Ultimate Guide to Sex and Dis mentioned above and reaaaaaaally like it, though I’ve only flipped here and there.
    i think a lot of stuff is happening on blogs, is there any way a few of us could work together to put together something using what we’ve written on our blogs? i use a lot of blogs excerpts when i give presentations, just don’t know that i have time to lead up effort to do some kind of super cool zine (does anyone else?)
    ❤ ❤ ❤

  17. Lazyweb, you are MADE OF AWESOME.
    I’ll compile the suggestions all into a post edit.

  18. Library searches done! I’ve found Moving Violations in the local system, and Enforcing Normalcy, Understanding Disability, and No Pity in the State system. A pretty poor showing, but at least it’s a start.
    The worst bit it, interlibrary loans from the State library have a two-week limit. Which is not usually the way I read non-fiction. Ah well.

  19. Oh yes: another, especially for those interested in the way that literature relies upon disability as a trope: David Mitchell and Sharon Snyder, “Narrative Prosthesis”. See also their “The Cultural Location of Disability” and “The Body and Physical Difference: Discourses of Disability”. They are both made of awesome, and heavily involved in filmmaking stuff which you can find online (e.g. Vital Signs: Crip Culture Talks Back) via Brace Yourselves Productions (I can’t find a direct link, sorry!) 🙂
    I’m also going to give in and point to my favouritest theorist in this area, Margrit Shildrick. Her work is, yes, theoretical, but does, IMO an unmatched job of reorienting contemporary styles of thought around issues of disability. “Vital Signs” is a good collection, but it’s particularly her intro to it, with Janet Price, that I think would be relevant here. And of course “Embodying the Monster: Encounters with the Vulnerable Self”, which is, be warned, heavy on the theory. But I think that theory prises open spaces we couldn’t otherwise imagine exist, so I’m not going to apologise for it anymore. Take that, world! I luvs theory! 😉
    Oh, and I forgot: excerpts of many of the books listed above (plus some others) are in Lennard Davis’ collection, “The Disability Studies Reader” (now in its second edition). It might provide a good way in/sampler style beginning point? If you can get hold of it, of course! 🙂 (I just checked, and UWA have a copy, if that helps…)
    And one last thing that I stumbled across trying to find a link for Brace Yourselves is the following: The ‘Criplit’ list is pretty good, but a teensy bit US heavy. Unsurprisingly, I guess. But it does include a fair number of fiction/more popular style books which might make for easier access for those not so cheery on the academic side.

  20. My new spam-preventer seems to be being very tough on commentors with lots of links or using certain words – I’m investigating. Let’s see if it will let me post this from commentor Jesse the K:

    This post was refused as “too spammy,” but it’s so full of useful info I
    couldn’t edit it any more 😦
    Just found the Hoydens & I’m so glad!
    For practical disability activists, primarily female, check out the Electric Edge archive the <a
    href=””> final incarnation of a newprint magazine that began life as the Ragged Edge in 1980. Ninetyfive percent US, but some useful things for all that.
    The Edge’s editor, Mary Johnson, wrote Make Them Go Away after 20 years’ slogging in the trenches of disability rights, and getting whacked over the head by the U.S. Supreme Court’s stubborn refusal to interpret the A.D.A as written. (Thankfully the ADA Amendments Act came into effect in January 2009, and undoes the damage the Supremes wrought.)
    One powerful and heartbreaking novel published by the Advocado Press — Edge’s umbrella — addresses life in an institution, and escaping it. Julie Shaw Cole’s Getting Life illustrates in grim detail how women are turned against each other in the circle of caring and “caring.”
    Cal Montgomery contemplates life inside and out of institutions, and why the clear lines between “us” and “them” are pretty damn blurry and socially constructed. She’s responding to Martha Nussbaum’s <a
    href=””>meditations on caretaking.
    Finally, Simi Linton’s <a
    href=””>Claiming Disability is just the right balance: enough theory so one learns why this stuff isn’t cataloged under “disability,” and enough everyday activism to keep the heart fired. It’s out of print, but that link shows it’s available via Net Library, to which many library systems subscribe.

  21. I know this thread is older, but on the off chance anyone is still following it, I’m looking for history books that examine blind residential schools in North America, perhaps from a social historical perspective. Anyone have any recs?


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