While the nostalgia factor alone convinced me of the merit of adult summer reading programs, there has been some push-back. Critics of the programs tend to say that adults shouldn’t need incentives to read, reading is its own reward, etc. And to these people, I say, “oh come on.” Unlike mandatory classroom reading logs (and there’s evidence those might not help as much as we think), these summer programs for kids and adults are voluntary. They are fun, for heaven’s sake. I’m all for anything that encourages people to read, use their public libraries, and think about how to squeeze in a few more pages before bed. Whether or not this reading meets some bizarre ideological purity standard just does not interest me. What does interest me? Library branded sunglasses, y’all.
The irony of the age of cultural abundance is that it still relies on old filters and distribution channels to highlight significant works. Barnes & Noble and corporate publishers still have enormous strides to make in fully reflecting America’s rich diversity. But without them, the kinds of books that challenge us, that spark intellectual debates, that push society to be better, will start to disappear. Without Barnes & Noble, we’ll be adrift in a sea of pulp.
Okay here me out.
A young adult novel written by a disabled author.
Where the main character gets into an accident and must use a wheelchair.
(And is written fairly accurately as the author is also in a wheelchair.)
There are more disabled characters than you can count.
The ones who aren’t disabled are the enemies.
It takes place in an alternate version of the 1950s, at an institution for people with disabilities and superabilities.
You see how the disabilities relate to the superabilities (superpowers).
The main character goes through the stages of grief after she realizes that she won’t be able to walk again but she is able to come out of it, not because of a love interest, but because she’s able to find her own strength. (And hit her mentor in the face with a weight.)
In fact, the main character doesn’t have any love interest at all.
You could make the argument that she’s aromantic/asexual.
And the author would totally support that argument.
But despite not having a love interest, the main character is truly cared for, especially by her gruff mentor with a heart of gold.
Did somebody say found families and father-figure-daughter-figure relationships?
Also there’s an interracial couple thirty years in the making.
And an underground resistance of students with disabilities trying to prove that they’re stronger than people think.
And in the end, they’re able to save the day.
And there are a lot of hugs.
And a lot of chocolate milk.
And the main character comes to terms with the fact that her biological family is horrible but she’s fine with that because she’s got the gruff mentor with a heart of gold who may or may not be in the CIA and also knew Al Capone.
And nobody dies.
And nobody dies.
And nobody kills themselves because they think that their lives are over now that they are in fact disabled.
Unlike some other books!
Oh and there’s a pig in a wheelchair.
And it’s all written by a disabled college student who really really needs the money for college and her apartment because apparently life is expensive (who knew?)
And it’s not the best written and it’s not error free but it was written with a lot of heart and a lot of passion in the early hours of the morning because that’s when the author had free time. But if nothing else, it has amazing disability representation. And a pig in a wheelchair.
Well, guess what?
That author is me, that book is mine, that book is published, that book is available for you to buy, that book even comes in a paperback version so that you can hold in your hands a story with disability representation in which none of the characters die or talk about how they’re a burden and how they’re lives are over (well, Juniper does once but Ryder knocks some sense into her.)
It’s called The Defectives and you can buy it here:
So if you’re looking for disability representation that doesn’t end with death and you want to help out a novice disabled author who really needs the money, please consider buying this book.
If nothing else, please signal boost!
OH MY GOSH GUYS I JUST READ THIS AND WHY ISN’T EVERYONE TALKING ABOUT IT
Imagine, if you will:
A boarding school for children who went to magical worlds like Narnia and Wonderland…and came back and now have to adjust to being stuck in the Real World again. Ever wonder what Alice, Dorothy, and the Pevensie kids went through afterwards? It was probably something like this.
The main character, Nancy, is openly asexual. RED ALERT RED ALERT AN ACTUAL FANTASY BOOK BY AN ACCLAIMED AUTHOR WITH A CANONICAL ASEXUAL HEROINE WHOSE ASEXUALITY IS OPENLY DISCUSSED BUT IS NOT CENTRAL TO HER PLOTLINE! THIS IS NOT A DRILL!
The deuteragonist is a trans boy*. His name is Kade; he’s really cool. (He’s a former Goblin Prince-in-Waiting, I want his story so much, come on Seanan McGuire give us a prequel about him).
There’s also a creepy murder mystery because why the heck not.
Basically, it’s everything I ever wanted in a book. And did I mention actual asexual representation…I swear, if I’d had this book as a teenager, my life would have been so different.
And the author is demi/bisexual.
(The kindle book is like $2.99 over at Amazon right now, if you want to go check it out.)
*(Trigger warning for some transphobist comments made by one character that are refuted by literally everyone else)
A Wide Variety of Jewish Fiction Not Set in 1940′s Europe
It’s more than okay because I totally feel this. And it can be hard to find ourselves in contemporary lit because if the story isn’t about Jewishness or a character isn’t terribly observant, the book’s blurb and keywords often give us no hints. Meanwhile, gentile authors love to plop us down in the middle of our most famous mass tragedy, when there’s so much more to us.
So I am really glad that I can help. All of the following links go directly to my reviews, which are pretty detailed and should give you an idea if the book sounds like something you’d like.
Starting with YA, I recommend Playing with Matches (Modern Orthodox setting, about a girl trying to repair her relationship with her older sister and accidentally starting a matchmaking service) and My Year Zero (all girl love triangle.) Additionally, one of the two main characters in Gone, Gone Gone (all boy love triangle, but also about the trauma of living through the 2002 sniper crisis in Maryland) is Jewish.
Leading characters, although not the MC, of YA superstars Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda and The Rest of Us Just Live Here, are Jewish. All of those have a contemporary setting; for historical f/f YA there is the short story The Fire-Eater’s Daughter, which is set in the 1950′s in a circus and has a Jewish lead. (With that time setting: her mom is a survivor but that’s not what the story is about.)
For graphic novels, I highly recommend the Rabbi Harvey books (philosophical/funny, setting some of our legends in the American Old West),The Rabbi’s Cat (philosophical/dark; this one kinda has some of that dissection you were trying to avoid), and the Mirka books (children’s fantasy about a lot of female characters in an Orthodox setting.) And I loved the two Jewish stories in the Dates LGBTQ+ comics anthology, both of which had trans characters.
Libi Astaire’s written a number of Regency mysteries set in London’s Jewish community, both short stories and full length. My favorite was The Doppelganger’s Dance, about a violinist being gaslit by a mysterious anonymous rival, and here’s a review of one of the shorts, “What’s in a Flame?” Speaking of historicals, Heather Rose Jones’s 1800′s lesbian fantasy series introduced well-rounded Jewish characters in its second book, The Mystic Marriage, which is about lesbian scientists creating magic rocks (the Jewish characters are the alchemist’s young apprentice and her father.)
For short, free Jewish sci-fi online I recommend Three Partitions (nonbinary, Orthodox) and Seven Commentaries on an Imperfect Land. Grand Jeté also fits these categories but is much darker (so not as much my personal preference.)
Finally, I hope you will consider checking out my own series, which is fluffy queer fantasy set in a made-up Jewish kingdom based on South Florida where I grew up. There are three novels and two short stories published so far with @torquerepress, with a fourth book and five more shorts coming this July. A good place to start is the two Tales from Outer Lands (the shorts), because they make a good intro and focus the most on the Jewishness. This free five-panel comic I wrote with @theloserfish makes another good preview; it’s about the queen’s girlfriend trying to bake gluten-free challah with the help of the palace wizard.
@returnofthejudai is this the post you’re looking for? It has loads of book recommendations and also worth reading the comments/reblogs because other people have recommended more things!
This is useful. Thanks for tagging us.
Hey guys, you can preorder the Kindle version. If you have Kindle Unlimited, it’s free!