Among the good problems that the Disability Literature Consortium faced at the recent AWP bookfair was how to display the sheer variety of books that came to us from various authors. For readers interested but not familiar with field, it can be overwhelming. One of the best solutions to get to know various writers and their work is an anthology. Indeed, anthologies were among our best sellers at the Dis Lit table simply for that reason.
Below are ten anthologies, arranged in order of publication date, that not only give readers a solid introduction to disability literary work but can provide a valuable reference for those who teacher. The list below looks only at collections that feature the work of traditional literary genres such as poetry, fiction and drama. It does not include those that focus on scholarly research or that provide space for personal testimony about disability. It is by no means exhaustive, but anyone with the following on their bookshelves will definitely be able to contribute to the discussion.
Beyond Victims and Villains: Contemporary Plays by Disabled Playwrights. (Theater Communications Group, 2006). Edited by Victoria Ann Lewis.
When it came out, Lewis’ anthology of plays written by disabled playwrights and featuring characters with disabilities was ground-breaking and it remains the best of its kind. It includes work by Susan Nussbaum, Lynn Manning and Mike Ervin among others.
Deaf American Poetry: An Anthology (Gallaudet University Press, 2009). Edited by John Lee Clark.
Clark established, once and for all that Deaf poetry has a history. Proceeding chronologically, he has sampled work by deaf writers from the early 1800’s up into the 21st century. Each poet is represented by a short biographical article and poetry.
Tilling the Hard Soil: Poetry Prose and Art by South African Writers with Disabilities. (University of Kwa-Zulu Natal Press, 2010). Edited by Kobus Moolman.
Moolman’s anthology is not strictly literary in that many of the pieces are biographical, but it is one of the very few anthologies that gives an African perspective on disability, which can depart considerably from those offered in other anthologies.
Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability (Cinco Puntos Press, 2011). Edited by Jennifer Bartlett, Sheila Black and Michael Northen.
The first anthology of American poetry by disabled writers to really gather the top poets in the field. While providing samples of some of the pioneers like Larry Eigner and Vassar Miller, it focuses on contemporary poetry. Each writers work is accompanied by an essay relating the poets art to disability.
Deaf Lit Extravaganza (Handtype Press, 2013) Edited by John Lee Clark. In this anthology Clark and Handype Press display the wide variety of literary work being created by D/deaf writers.
Accessing the Future: A Disability Themed Speculative Fiction Anthology. (Futurefire.net Publishing, 2015). Edited by Kathryn Allan and Djibril Al-Ayad.
Speculative fiction (particularly sci-fi) is one of the most fertile areas for exploration disability fiction because of its social and philosophical implications. Allan, a scholar in this area, has gathered together stories that deal with some of the most explosive issues.
QDA: A Queer Disabled Anthology. (Squares & Rebels Press) Edited by Raymond Luczak.
Lucak may be the USA’s most involved writer/editor/publisher for work at the intersection of Deaf and LGBTQ literature. He has gathered together many voices in the field.
The Right Way to Be Crippled and Naked: The Fiction of Disability. (Cinco Puntos Press, 2017). Edited by Sheila Black, Michael Northen and Annabelle Hayes.
A kind of companion book to Beauty is a Verb, this is Black and Northen’s attempt to ferret out the best disability short fiction that has been written and make it accessible to readers by putting it in one place.
Stairs and Whispers: D/deaf and Disabled Poets Write Back. (Nine Arches Press, 2017). Edited by Sandra Alland, Khairani Barokka and Daniel Sluman.
This anthology does for disability poetry of the UK what Beauty is a Verb did for American disability poetry. Coming six years later, however, it is more generally more experimental and much more in touch with the need for multiple modes of access.
Shaping the Fractured Self: Poetry of Chronic Illness and Pain. (UWA Press, 2017). Edited by Heather Taylor Johnson.
Notwithstanding its title, this anthology published by the University of Western Australia his heavily oriented to the work of Australian writers with disabilities. It pays tribute to Beauty is a Verb as well, and like that book, includes important essays by the writers like Andy Jackson and Anne M. Carson that complement their poetry.