Representation for marginalized communities is vital in raising awareness about injustice.
It is also an important way of documenting every fragment of a community’s history. Literature, theatre, television, music are all proof of living breathing, culture. Here are a few novels that are actually doing it right:
1. The Silence Between Us by Alison Gervais
The Silence Between Us allows you to hear the aspirations, hopes, and dreams of a young deaf girl who is forced to transfer to a hearing school because of her mother’s job relocation. Alison Gervais provides powerful insight into the deaf culture and teenage romance. This book is a must-read for those looking for diversity in young adult novels and romance.
Favorite quote: “Just because my world looks a little different than yours suddenly means it’s not as important?”
2. A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer
The enchanting aspect of A Curse So Dark and Lonely is that it does not boil identity down to one thing. It focuses on a young woman with cerebral palsy who gets pulled into a magical world when she tries helping a stranger. Her cerebral palsy is just one facet of her identity. This book is a unique, daring rendition of Beauty and the Beast.
Favorite Quote: “I am always surprised to discover that when the world seems darkest, there exists the greatest opportunity for light.”
3. The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen
The Running Dream is a fast-paced novel about a young track member who loses her legs in a car accident and believes she can never run again. However, she perseveres, begins believing in herself again and starts to understand that her world didn’t end because she lost her legs. It is a beautifully written, poignant novel.
Favorite quote: “I feel like I’m flying.”
4. How We Roll by Natasha Friend
How We Roll walks you through the friendship between a girl who develops alopecia and a boy who loses his legs in a sudden accident. This compelling novel demonstrates how society encourages people with disabilities to be self-conscious.
Favorite Quote: “That’s what you had to do for Julius. You had to spell it out for him. And then you had to spell it out for everyone else, so they would understand why you were spelling it out for Julius.”
5. You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner
You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner is about a young, deaf Indian woman who is betrayed by her best friend and forced to go to a hearing school, where she gets involved in a street art war. There is no romance in this novel! It features a bold, witty unapologetic heroine and focuses on her personal development.
Favorite quote: “Six stencils and it’s gone. Okay, the tag vanished by Stencil Number Two, but I have a point to prove. I’m not covering up your scribbled slur with just anything. I’m making art here. I’m creating. I’m on fire.”
6. Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom
Not If I See You First is about a blind girl who refuses to be treated differently. So she creates a list of rules.
Additionally, the boy who hurt her in eighth-grade re-enters her life, all while she’s struggling through the death of her father. She is unapologetic, a bit of a mess, and imperfect. That’s what makes her character authentic.
Favorite quote: “He still looks at you like he used to, even before you got together like you’re the most important thing in the world.”
7. The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell
The Last Leaves Falling grapples with life’s big questions, questions like: is there life after death? A young teen develops ASL. His condition is rapidly becoming worse and he cannot attend school. He logs into a chat forum in an attempt to deal with the alienation and creates beautiful bonds. It is a piercing story about dealing with life’s trials.
Favorite quote: “And these are they. My final moments. They say a warrior must always be mindful of death, but I never imagined that it would find me like this…”
8. A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard
A Quiet Kind of Thunder is about a girl who develops selective mutism due to severe anxiety and a boy who is deaf. It is a pure, sweet romance novel that will allow you to hear a whole new world.
Favorite quote: “I want the world, I think. Even if it scares me.”
9. She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick
She Is Not Invisible is about a blind girl who goes searching for her father after he goes missing while conducting research for his new book. This book is cleverly written, intriguing, and will leave you wanting more.
Favorite quote:”… and you don’t have to understand everything about something to love it, do you? In fact, sometimes that can make you love something more.”
10. The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr
The One Memory of Flora Banks is about a 17-year-old girl who suffered a brain injury. Her memory resets multiple times a day and she has not been able to retain any new memories. She does not remember anything or anyone – except for her mother, father, brother, and best friend.
All until she kisses her best friend’s boyfriend, a memory that prompts her to set off to find him. This book will remain entrenched in your memories and you will grow to love Flora as she navigates her illness.
Favorite quote: “Whether someone is useful only matters if you value people by their use.”
11. On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis
On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis is a novel about an autistic, biracial, part-Dutch part-Surinamese Black girl. It is a brilliantly written, YA sci-fi about how Denise tries to get her gamily safely off-planet after a a massive comet strikes Earth and obliterates everything.
Favorite quote: “Yes, I always tell the truth.”
12. Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist
Love really knows no limitations in Love and First Sight. It is a story is about a young teenager who falls in love with a girl who is not deemed beautiful by society’s standards. And he can’t see. It is a deeply touching story about how love is more than skin deep.
Favorite quote: “Yeah, independence and self-reliance sound nice in theory, but in reality, they are just synonyms for loneliness. And before I met Cecily I was so tired, without even realizing it, so tired of being lonely.”
13. The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily by Laura Creedle
The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily is about a girl with ADHD and a boy with autism and how their differences connect them. This book is a powerful love story that will leave your mind racing.
Favorite quote: “I’d spent my entire life as a teacup with a jagged crack running down the side, an imperfect vessel threatening to spill my contents onto the table at any random moment. Tolerated but not adored. It didn’t seem like it would be even possible to love me. Probabilistically unlikely at best. But for Abelard, the jagged crack was the interesting thing about me.”
14. Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern
Say What You Will is about a girl with cerebral palsy who decides to hire a student aide to help her in her final year of high school. The student aide happens to have OCD. It is another classic story about two people dubbed misfits by society, who help each other feel less lonely. This is an evocative read that you will obsess over.
Favorite quote: “Let’s don’t wait forever for our lives to start.”
15. The Orange Houses by Paul Griffin
The Orange Houses is a novel about a girl with a hearing disability. She lives her life closed off and alone until she meets two people: a teenage refugee who sells newspapers and a homeless vet. This is a wonderful novel about friendship and love that will open your heart.
Favorite quote: “The money’s yours for whatever. I know you’ll do something beautiful with it.”
16. Gadget Girl: The Art of Being Invisible by Suzanne Kamata
This book is about a half-Japanese girl with cerebral palsy who is often her mother’s inspiration for sculptures. She dreams of becoming a manga artist and meeting her father. She realizes there is more to life than being her mother’s muse. This is a fun, quirky book about taking control of your own life.
Favorite quote: “Yeah, I could tell them how I hated physical therapy as a child, how I once flailed so badly while trying to get away that I broke my therapist’s glasses. Or how I always got picked last for the teams and how my classmates called me names and made fun of my walking. But who wants to hear all these sad stories? Isn’t it way more fun to read about fire-breathing dragons and magic elixirs? Boomerang bottle openers and wind-powered whisks? I’d rather stick to Gadget Girl.”
17. Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin
Rain Reign is about a young girl with autism who loses her dog during the storm. Her dog is special to her because they are often alone. Her dad goes out to bars during the evenings and doesn’t have much patience for her. So, she sets out on a journey to find her dog. This a powerful story about unconditional love, bravery, and determination.
Favorite quote: “Everyone calls me brave. Is this what bravery feels like?”
18. Silent Days, Silent Dreams by Allen Say
Silent Days, Silent Dreams is an autobiographical picture book (perfect for all ages!) about the renowned artist: James Charles. James Charles was born deaf, mute, and autistic and his work hangs in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. This book challenges ableist views.
Favorite quote: “He is known for his technical skill and varied style.”
19. 17 Marigold Lane by R.M. Gilmore
What would you do if you found out you were dying? 17 Marigold Lane is about a girl who truly starts living when she finds out she has cancer. She befriends a boy with autism on her journey and they embark on wild adventures. It is an exciting read.
Favorite quote: “My name is Prudence Penderhaus. I’ve never done anything remarkable. Never even bothered to look up. Until the day I found out I was dying.”
20. Because You’ll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas
Imagine you couldn’t meet your best friend. That is the precise dilemma Because You’ll Never Meet Me tackles: two friends who can’t meet due to their debilitating illnesses. It is a heartfelt story about the true meaning of friendship and perseverance.
Favorite quote: “Wait, how do most people make friends? I’ve only done it once. There has to be an easier way of going about it than getting thrown around and bleeding all over the place.”
21. Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin
Anything But Typical is about a young boy with autism. He searches for acceptance online and becomes nervous and excited because he could form his first real friendship. This is an adorable story about friendship and self-acceptance.
Favorite quote: “All we are, all we can be, are the stories we tell,” he says, and he is talking as if he is talking only to me. “Long after we are gone, our words will be all that is left, and who is to say what really happened or even what reality is? Our stories, our fiction, our words will be as close to the truth as can be. And no one can take that away from you.”
22. The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
How often do you find books about women with autism?!
The Kiss Quotient is about an economist with autism who desires a relationship. However, she feels she is bad at sex. So she hires an escort. This is a fun, touching read about a budding relationship.
Favorite quote: “All the things that make you different make you perfect.”
23. Counting to D by Kate Scott
Counting to D is about a young girl with dyslexia who is often bullied in school- she’s the smartest kid in her school but she’s also illiterate. Eventually, her mom gets a job in a different city and Sam thinks it’s the perfect time to start over- she hides her dyslexia. This is a witty novel about learning to love yourself.
Favorite quote: “Every advancement in human history, every scientific discovery, every artistic masterpiece, every new idea has come from an individual looking at the world in a new way. Thinking outside the box. So tell me, Samantha, why are you trying so hard to put yourself inside the box?”
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