Em & M’s Book Nook: Disability Visibility

Emily Luethy displays a copy of the book “Disability Visibility”.

The Silence Between Us

“The Silence Between Us” centers around Maya, a deaf teen whose move to Colorado prompts her to go to a hearing school for the first time since losing her hearing. With a younger brother, Connor, with cystic fibrosis, her dream has long been to become a respiratory therapist, and just because she is deaf doesn’t mean she isn’t capable. However, some people at her brand new high school seem to be stuck on their differences instead of how they are similar. But then there’s Beau, the student body president, who sees Maya for who she is and doesn’t care if she’s just a little bit different from everyone else. Battling regular high school drama certainly isn’t easy, not to mention convincing her classmates how normal she really is, and the reader gets a first-person perspective on Maya on how she grapples with everything. 

I enjoyed this immensely. Our character Maya was so well-crafted that it was easy to fall in line with her perspective, as well as how the author wrote her to be your average teenager who had some snarky comments, that I’m sure any teen reading can relate to. I also loved how we got extra representation for a character with cystic fibrosis, and though we didn’t see everything, the author still gave us a nice viewpoint. I also liked how the character took the viewpoint of not wanting a cochlear implant, as it offers a different perspective. Overall, this was a powerful read that taught me not only about what it’s like to be deaf, but also what it is like to be extremely confident and to follow your dreams. 


 The One Thing 

“The One Thing” follows our main character Maggie, who went officially blind six months ago. Her sight isn’t the other thing that disappeared, so did her ability to play soccer, and her friends not so soon after that. Feeling sorry for herself, she pulls off a prank, to hopefully accomplish some sort of normalcy, leaving her to community service and hopefully a better attitude adjustment. One day, she meets a ten year old boy named Ben and her world is flipped upside down, as she can actually see her younger friend. Their unlikely friendship grows, but soon Maggie must come to terms with why she can actually see Ben, while also finding her true self. 

This book certainly had its heartbreaking moments, but also had some amazing humor to balance it out.  Maggie was such an interesting character, and it was such a unique idea to make her adjust to being blind instead of being born with the disability. This really helped me to connect to her, even though I am a sighted person. Another incredible thing to note about this book is that you also get representation of the disability spina bifida, with Maggie’s young friend. The small fantastical of Maggie being able to see Ben element seemed reasonable enough, and it didn’t hinder my enjoyment. In fact, it was a nice mystery to keep me reading. This book caps just over 300 pages, and was thoroughly enjoyable, teaching me more about what it is like to be blind with its representation.


The Weight of Our Sky

“The Weight of Our Sky” takes the perspective of our main character, a Malaysian teen named Melati Ahmad. She looks like any other teenager, except for the part of her that lives inside of her. Mel struggles with OCD, which she calls her djinn. The djinn threatens her with terrible images if she doesn’t comply with the countless routines and rituals. However, soon there becomes something numbers can’t protect her mother from when racial tensions rise in her hometown, eventually leading to war between China and Malaysia. A 24-hour curfew is given, and with help of a Chinese boy, Melati must channel her inner courage to fight both the djinn inside of her, and the utter chaos in her city on the outside. 

Though being thrown into such a rich plot, as well as a heavy setting head on can be difficult, the author makes up for it with the amazing representation she gives of obsessive-compulsive disorder. I really appreciated how she broke the stereotype of cleanliness, or germaphobia, instead focusing on the routines, or rituals in order to keep Mel’s beliefs of mother dying, among other horrible things. I really feel like that was such an important barrier to cross, and because of how well the author wrote, described and showed us what it was like to live with OCD. I recommend you check this out for the representation.

Mrs. McCleish displays a copy of “The Weight of our Sky” that she checked out from the BG library.

While in search of a South Asian YA novel that did not ultimately result in a love story, our amazing librarian Mrs. Miklusak offered up this book as a suggestion.  I was immediately drawn in by Alkaf’s representation of OCD, a disability that I have never seen depicted particularly well.  The main character, Melati is tormented by the images she encounters and tries desperately to hide the rituals she must complete in order to rid her mind of them.  She is so anxious that her secret will be discovered that she can never truly be at ease.  I felt so deeply for Melati and can not imagine what it must be like to have to endure this kind of psychological trauma on a daily basis.  On top of this, add in the war between the Malays and the Chinese for even more drama.  I appreciated learning a bit about Malaysia during this conflict; something I did not know much about. This book offered such perspective not only about what it is like for a teen to endure a war torn country, but also gave visibility to a disability that not many know a great deal about.   


Disability Visibility: First Person Stories From the 21st Century

“Disability Visibility: First Person Stories From the 21st Century” is a collection of 44 stories, all featuring someone with a disability. Some of the stories are eulogies given by a close friend of the person who had a disability, others are speeches or TED talks the impaired individuals gave, and some are just personal anecdotes, as well as stories, informing readers about what it is like to live the way they do. 

This book is absolutely wonderful. I loved the different personalities each of our narrators had, as well as learning about how they have advocated to make the world more accessible for others like them. Though most of the different people highlighted in this collection certainly went through hard times, their way of overcoming their internal and external ableism is extremely inspiring, thought provoking, as well as proving to me, with my own disability, that I can overcome anyone, and anything.

Haben: The Deaf Blind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law 

“Haben: The Deaf Blind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law” takes the reader on a journey of what it is like facing a hearing and sighted world, as someone who can neither hear nor see. She takes us from her childhood, her teenage years, all the way up to when she met President Obama, she takes through her during moments of downfalls, but also her countless moments of strength. 

Going into this novel, I did not know who Haben Girma was, but after, I felt like I personally knew her. The way she wrote her memoir made me feel like I was right there next to her, listening to her speak directly to me instead of just reading words on a page.  Her story is extremely inspiring, and in my opinion relevant for anyone, not just those who have a disability.


Funny, You Don’t Look Autistic: A Comedian’s Guide to Life on the Spectrum

“Funny, You Don’t Look Autistic: A Comedian’s Guide to Life on the Spectrum,” authored by stand-up comedian Micheal McCreary, gives readers a first hand perspective on what it is like to be on the autism spectrum. He highlights good days, bad days and weird days, providing everyone with insightful commentary, as well as stories from his childhood, which reflect an honest portrayal of Micheal’s life.

Knowing that the author was a stand-up comedian, I knew that this would be a humorous take on Micheal’s life with autism, but what I didn’t know was how relatable this novel would be. Living with a cognitive disability myself, and my problems being a mystery for so long, a lot of the things Micheal would deal with, I found myself nodding my head along with what he would describe. Another aspect I really enjoyed was brought to my attention by the title. He talks in depth about how many people discuss with him about how he doesn’t look autistic, or even act how they think a person on the spectrum would act. This is something I face on a regular basis, and it made me feel so relieved that this part of me is not something I face alone.