Disability Fiction by JOY KLUVER

 Did you watch the final of Britain's Got Talent on Sunday? If so, you probably noticed the very talented Eva Abley. Just fourteen years old, she performed stand-up comedy. Hard enough for any teenager but even harder when you're disabled. Eva has cerebral palsy and was more than willing to poke fun at her disability. In the semi-final, she joked that people with disabilities can learn to drive at sixteen - she can't even push a shopping trolley straight. She was utterly refreshing and reminded me a lot of Rosie Jones. In fact, the world of entertainment is an area where, hopefully, progress is being made for disabled performers. A few years ago, would we have considered a deaf celebrity winning Strictly Come Dancing? Earlier this year, blind comedian, Chris McCausland, presenting a BAFTA award with Lee Mack,was brilliantly funny with Lee having to tell Chris what to say as he couldn't read the auto-cue himself. And one of my favourite characters inCall the Midwife, is Reggie, played by Daniel Laurie who has Down's Syndrome.

But what about the book world? Are disabled authors managing to get books published? Are disabled characters written with authenticity? Until recently, there was no section on Amazon for disability fiction. After a successful campaign by Victoria Scott and the Society of Authors, that will be changing. Children's fiction is leading the way with disabled authors but adult fiction is lagging behind. However, there are some books with excellent disabled characters. One standout protagonist for me is Tuva Moodyson, written by Will Dean. Tuva is female, Swedish, a journalist, bisexual and deaf. Fair to say that Will Dean has thrown the 'write what you know' rule completely out of the window. To ensure that he gets it right though, Dean has a sensitivity reader who's deaf, and he researched deafness thoroughly.

In my latest book, Left For Dead, I have an autistic character. Leigh Roberts is a female LCI (Local Crime Investigator) in Wiltshire Police. Unlike the Armed Forces, autistic people are allowed to join the police. As the nature of the job means that two days are never the same, I wanted to explore how that would work for someone whom routine might be important. I have first-hand experience of Autism but more with males than females. So I was slightly worried as to how readers would take to Leigh - had I done a good enough job to make her authentic? Thankfully, there were only positive reviews for Leigh, with quite a few readers wanting a spin-off series for her.

Hopefully, we'll see that disability fiction section on Amazon fill up very soon with amazing disabled authors! 


Peter Leyland said…
Very timely Joy. I am thinking about books I have read relating to disability - not many featuring children except the autistic lead in the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and Skellig where homeschooled Mina is probably on that spectrum although this is not stated. A book for adults about deafness, something I share, is Sound by Bella Bathurst. This book, which shows her moving from despair to triumph as the hearing loss is cured, is one full of hope that things can get better. I was reminded too of a deaf boy to whom I taught Science which he loved and I would talk to him through his personal hearing system while the rest of the class experimented.

I will keep a look out for your book. Thanks
Neil McGowan said…
Fascinating post, Joy. I loved Will Dean's book too. I'd add Emma Christie's Find Her First to the list of books that deal with disability in a sensitive manner - it's about a pair of sisters, one of whom is profoundly deaf and uses cochlear implants, wrapped in a crime story.
Will definitely be checking your book out :)
Joy Kluver said…
Thank you Peter & Neil! I’ll definitely check out Emma Christie as I’ve heard a lot about her.
Joy Margetts said…
Really interesting. I agree that it would be good to see the less able better represented in books generally. On a side note - as a young girl I longed to read a book where the hero or heroine was overweight and not particularly attractive. Being that way myself, I hated that all the overweight characters in the books I read were either the bully or the victim...

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