Summer reading list

Summer reading: 7 books with disability representation

Summer reading list: 7 books with disability representation

If your summer plans include kicking back with a good book, we’ve got seven to add to your list!

Each of these books brings diversity to the literary canon, with main and secondary characters with disabilities. Many are written by authors with disabilities, providing a first-hand look at the disability experience. Ranging from nonfiction to poetry, there’s something to pique any booklover’s interest. And if you're looking for summer reading suitable for the kiddos, check out these 10 books featuring characters with disabilities.

Book cover featuring a profile photo of Haben. She is wearing a blue dress and looking into the distance stoically.

Haben by Haben Girma


At the age of 34, Haben Girma has wracked up a laundry list of accomplishments, including becoming the first deaf-blind person to graduate from Harvard Law, meeting two US presidents and being named one of Forbes 30 under 30. She’s an inspiring woman and influential self-advocate. This memoir details her life as a young child spending summers in the Eritrean city of Asmara through to her rise as an advocate for change on the world stage. It’s a thrilling, funny, thoughtful and uplifting look at her life so far.

Book cover featuring an illustration of a hand signing a word in ASL. The hand is many different colors, with True Biz written in multi colored letters above it.

True Biz by Sara Novic


This New York Times Bestseller follows Charlie, Austin and February as they navigate the challenges of life at River Valley School for the Deaf. Each main character is faced with challenges – both personal and political – leading them down an inextricable path that connects them for life. Author Sara Novic uses her experiences with hearing loss to explore themes of sign language, lip-reading, disability and civil rights, isolation, injustice and persistence.

Book cover with Disability Visibility written in bold, black letters across the top. It is over a background of many different shaped, different colored triangles.

Disability Visibility: First Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century

Nonfiction anthology

Disability rights activist Alice Wong brought together an anthology that shines a light on the lived experience of people with disabilities in the twenty-first century – as told by people with disabilities. This eye-opening collection features original essays, blogs, manifestos, eulogies, congressional testimonies and more. All offer insight into the everyday lives of the disability community while celebrating and documenting disability culture in modern society.

Book cover featuring an illustration of a person standing at the opening of a cave. The point of view is from behind, looking at the person's back out to the world beyond. Burrowed is written in thing yellow letters across the bottom.

Burrowed by Mary Baader Kaley

Science Fiction

This sci-fi novel is a young adult crossover that explores a postapocalyptic world split in two by a genetic plague. The main character is tasked with studying the population’s broken genetic code to reunite the world; however, complications threaten to wipe out humanity. Author Mary Baader Kaley uses her experiences as a mother of a child with autism to weave a story about scientific morality and overcoming challenges.

Book cover featuring a photograph of a woman in a wheelchair wearing a dress and goggles and floating at the bottom of a pool. There is a small black box in the upper right corner with the title of the book in small white letters.

Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability edited by Jennifer Bartlett, Sheila Black and Michael Northen


This is a unique anthology that brings together “disability poetry, essays on disability and writings on the poetics of both”. It’s a powerful collection that explores disability through poetry, with a diverse array of voices and experiences. It includes those that embrace the disability poetry movement as well as those who buck such classifications. It’s a captivating read for poetry and prose lovers alike, offering diversity and complexity to American expression.

Book cover featuring an orange background. There is a cutout photograph of the author, sitting in a wheelchair. Sitting Pretty is written in big white letters across the top and bottom of the cover.

Sitting Pretty by Rebekah Taussig


This collection of essays is a first-person account from disability advocate Rebekah Taussig. As a wheelchair user, she explores different aspects of her life in a body that “looks and moves differently than most”. Her essays reflect on growing up through the 90s and early 2000s. They cover topics such as the complications of kindness and charity, living independently and dependently, ableism in the media, and more.

Book cover featuring a black and white image of a woman walking down the streets from behind. She is wearing a hat and a long trench coat. The title of the book is written in bold red letters across the top half of the book.

A Woman of No Importance by Sonia Purnell

Historical nonfiction

This historical nonfiction book chronicles the fascinating story of Virginia Hall – an American spy who helped win World War II. Originally rejected from foreign service because of her gender and prosthetic leg, she went on to become the “Madonna of the Resistance”. She coordinated resistance networks, reported on German army movements, trained resistance fighters and arranged equipment drops. This incredible true story was chosen as a Best Book of the Year by NPR, a winner of the Plutarch Award for Best Biography and was a long running New York Times Bestseller.