The recent proliferation of books by writers with disabilities is indeed encouraging. Last year, the Disability Literature Consortium launched a first of its kind booth at AWP in Los Angeles providing work by over fifty different writers. In the face of so much choice, it might be difficult for those who are new to disability literature or who have only limited time to read to know where to begin. One solution to this problem comes in the form of anthologies.
During the last few months, three new disability literary anthologies have been published that give prospective readers a chance for a substantial sampling of writers whose work the might want to seek out further. The first of these, and the one that casts the broadest net is Dozen: The Best of Breath and Shadow. As many reading this will know, Breath and Shadow is a quarterly journal of disability literature, second only to Kaleidoscope in the length of time that it has been publishing. In this anthology, B & S editor Chris Kuell has selected poetry, fiction and personal essays that have appeared in his journal. Many in the disability writing community who open the cover will immediately recognize the work of their colleagues.
A collection that takes a somewhat narrower approach is The Right Way to Be Crippled and Naked: The Fiction of Disability. This anthology, edited by Sheila Black, Michael Northen and Annabelle Hayse is the first ever to be dedicated solely to short stories written by writers with disabilities. The book includes work by Thom Jones, Anne Finger, Dagoberto Gilb, and Stephen Kuusisto as well as lesser known writers. Each writer makes a brief comment on the significance of their story for disability.
The final collection Barriers and Belonging: Personal Narratives of Disability is another first of its kind. Edited by Michelle Jarman, Leila Monaghan and Alison Quaggin Harkin, it is created to introduce undergraduate students to the vast realm of disability experience through allowing those who live with disability to related their own stories. The editors offer these narratives as a counterbalance to the more medicalized approaches to disability that many students encounter.
Together, these three anthologies do much to enrich the field of disability literature. The first two will be available at the Disability Literature Consortium booth at this year’s AWP conference, which runs from Feb. 8-11 in Washington, DC.