In our own voices: 5 Australian books about living with disability



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Jessica White, The University of Queensland

Fiction and non-fiction works about disability and Deafness are often hampered by stereotypical representations. A disability is frequently presented as something to “overcome”, or used to characterise someone (ever notice all those evil characters portrayed as disfigured?).

These representations obscure the joys, frustrations and creativity of living with disability and Deafness.

Dutch author Corinne Duyvis started the #OwnVoices movement on Twitter because she was frustrated that calls for diversity within the publishing industry did not extend to diverse authors. Originating in discussions of young adult fiction, #OwnVoices aims to highlight books written by authors who share a marginalised identity with the protagonist.

Life writing also provides firsthand accounts of disability and Deafness, showing what it is like to navigate a world designed for able-bodied people. In addition, these books help people with disability and Deafness learn more about their condition, and create community.

Australia has an established literary tradition of writing about disability. Here are five books by Australian disabled writers that reveal insights into their lives and conditions.




Read more:
Creating and being seen: new projects focus on the rights of artists with disabilities


1. Alan Marshall’s Hammers Over the Anvil (1975)

Hammers Over the Anvil book cover

Many readers will be familiar with Marshall’s I Can Jump Puddles (1955), the first book in his series about growing up and living with polio in rural Australia.

Where that book is a cheerful and somewhat sanitised account of living with a disability, Hammers Over the Anvil (1975), the fourth and final book in Marshall’s series, is more realistic.

Marshall’s publisher refused to publish the book, thinking it would tarnish his image. Despite — or perhaps because of — his brutal treatment, Marshall shows a keen sympathy for disenfranchised people and also for animals.

2. Donna Williams’ Nobody Nowhere: The Extraordinary Autobiography of an Autistic Girl (1991)

Nobody Nowhere book cover

Donna Williams was not diagnosed with autism until she was an adult; prior to that she was thought to be deaf and psychotic.

Her story begins at age three and is thick with sensory details, which both delight and overwhelm Williams. She recounts interactions with hostile people — including her own mother, who wanted to admit Williams to an institution.

This book was the first full-length, published account by a person with autism in Australia. It became an international bestseller, spending 15 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, and was translated into 20 languages.

3. Gayle Kennedy’s Me, Antman & Fleabag (2007)

Me, Antman & Fleabag book cover

In this book, Gayle Kennedy, of the Wongaibon people of south west New South Wales, uses a series of engaging vignettes to describe her life as a First Nations woman who had polio.

Kennedy was sent away for treatment. When she returned, her parents seemed like strangers; it took a while to readjust. Though the subject matter sounds heavy, this humorous and accessible work is rich with stories about the importance of family (including dogs!) and the impact of racism.

It is also an important book because it chronicles some of the experiences of First Nations people with disability. It won the David Unaipon award in 2006.

4. Andy Jackson’s Music Our Bodies Can’t Hold (2017)

Music Our Bodies Can’t Hold book cover

Poet Andy Jackson, who has a condition called Marfan Syndrome that affects the body’s connective tissue, began performing poetry to give himself more control over representations of his body.

His collection consists of biographical poems of people with Marfan Syndrome, some of whom he interviewed, and historical figures who are thought to have had the condition, including Abraham Lincoln, the ancient Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten, Mary Queen of Scots, composer Sergei Rachmaninoff and blues guitarist Robert Johnson.

Poetry, with its focus on voice, is strongly connected to the way that bodies express themselves, often in unique ways. As Jackson writes at the end of his poem Jess:

now look at this photo and tell me

you still want sameness.

5. Carly Findlay (ed), Growing Up Disabled in Australia (2021)

Growing up Disabled book cover

The final book on my list is one I haven’t read yet — but I cannot wait until I can. Edited by Carly Findley, who has ichthyosis, this collection to be released early next year, will highlight the range of childhoods experienced by people with disability in Australia.

We will be able to read about how young people manage ableism and the (sometimes) soreness of not fitting in, and interviews with prominent Australians such as Senator Jordon Steele-John and Paralympian Isis Holt.

I lost most of my hearing when I was four, and when I was growing up I didn’t read a single book that featured a character who was Deaf. Books like Growing Up Disabled will help young Deaf and disabled people recognise themselves in Australian literature.




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In my own hybrid memoir, Hearing Maud, I weave together my experiences of Deafness with those of Maud Praed, the Deaf daughter of 19th century expatriate Australian novelist Rosa Praed.

Maud and I were born 100 years apart, and although our lives went in radically different directions many of our circumstances are the same — especially the expectation that we conform to a hearing world. My disability is often invisible, and I wanted to explain the relentless and exhausting attention that is needed for me to function. Deafness is far more complex than simply not hearing.

There are thousands more examples of the ways authors can write about living with disability. The International Day of People with Disability is a great time to start reading.




Read more:
On screen and on stage, disability continues to be depicted in outdated, cliched ways


The Conversation


Jessica White, UQ Amplify Associate Lecturer, The University of Queensland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Friday essay: how many climate crisis books will it take to save the planet?



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Ian Lowe, Griffith University

It’s that time of the year again. Brochures and emails spruik a bumper crop of new books about the climate crisis.

Book cover: Bill Gates How to Avoid a Climate Disaster

Goodreads

This time there are some really big names: How to Avoid a Climate Disaster by Bill Gates, Climate Crisis and the Global New Deal by Noam Chomsky and Robert Pollin, All We Can Save by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson, What Can I Do? The Truth About Climate Change and How to Fix It by Jane Fonda, as well as new efforts from David Attenborough and Tim Flannery.

The incoming tide of new books makes me reflect and wonder whether writing still more books about climate change is a waste of precious time. When the UN is calling for governments to act to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, are books just preaching to the converted? My answer is no, but that doesn’t mean publishing, buying or reading more books is the answer to our climate emergency right now.




Read more:
Friday essay: thinking like a planet – environmental crisis and the humanities


Decades of books

In April, on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, the New York Times told readers this might be the year they finally read about climate change. But many already have.

The earliest titles date back to 1989: The Greenhouse Effect, Living in a Warmer Australia by Ann Henderson-Sellers and Russell Blong; my own contribution, Living in the Greenhouse, and the first book aimed at the US public, Bill McKibben’s The End of Nature.

Book cover: planet earth image. By Al Gore.

Goodreads

The science was still developing then. We knew human activity was increasing the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane. Measurable changes to the climate were also clear: more very hot days, fewer very cold nights, changes to rainfall patterns.

The 1985 Villach conference had culminated in an agreed statement warning there could be a link, but cautious scientists were saying more research was needed before we could be confident the changes had a human cause. There were credible alternative theories: the energy from the Sun could be changing, there could be changes in the Earth’s orbit, there might be natural factors we had not recognised.

By the mid-1990s, the debate was essentially over in the scientific community. Today there is barely a handful of credible climate scientists who don’t accept the evidence that human activity has caused the changes we are seeing. The agreed statements by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC, led to the Kyoto Protocol being adopted in 1997.

And so — as the urgency being felt by the scientists increased — more books were published.

Former US vice president and 2007 Nobel Prize winner Al Gore’s book Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis was first published in 2008 and has since been issued in 20 editions. There have been more than enough books to furnish a list of the top 100 bestselling titles on the topic, recommended by the likes of Elon Musk and esteemed climate scientists and commentators. The ones I have acquired fill an entire bookcase shelf — dozens of titles describing the problem, making dire predictions, calling for action.

Girl walks through bookshop.
Preaching to the converted might not be such a bad thing.
Becca Tapert/Unsplash, CC BY



Read more:
‘The Earth was dying. Killed by the pursuit of money’ — rereading Ben Elton’s Stark as prophecy


Deeds not words

Does the new batch of books risk spreading more despair? If the previous books didn’t change our climate trajectory then what is the point in making readers feel the cause is hopeless and a bleak future is inevitable?

Book cover: What can I do? by Jane Fonda

Goodreads

No. Writing more books isn’t a waste of time, but they also shouldn’t be a high priority at the moment. The point of writing a book is to summarise what we know about the problem and identify credible ways forward.

Those were my goals when I wrote Living in the Greenhouse in 1989 and Living in the Hothouse in 2005. The main purpose of the first book was to draw attention to a problem that was largely unrecognised, trying to inform and persuade readers that we needed to take action. By the release of the second book, the aim was to counter the tsunami of misinformation unleashed by the fossil fuel industry, conservative institutions and the Murdoch press. Rupert Murdoch spoke at News Corp’s AGM this week, maintaining: “We do not deny climate change, we are not deniers”.

But there are two reasons why I’m not working on a third book right now.

The first is time. If I started writing today, it would be late next year before the book would be in the shops. We can’t afford another year of inaction. More importantly, the inaction of our national government is not a result of a lack of knowledge.

On November 9, United Nations chief António Guterres said the world was still falling well short of the leadership required to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050:

Our goal is to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Today, we are still headed towards three degrees at least.

Some believe the inaction is explained by the corruption of our politics by fossil fuel industry donations. Others see is a fundamental conflict between the concerted action needed and the dominant ideologies of governing parties. Making decision-makers better informed about the science won’t solve either of these problems.

They might be solved, however, by the evidence that a growing majority of voters want to see action to slow climate change.

And the COVID-19 pandemic has focused, rather than distracted, the community on the risks of climate change. A recent survey by the Boston Consulting Group of 3,000 people across eight countries found about 70% of respondents are now more aware of the risks of climate change than they were before the pandemic. Three-quarters say slowing climate change is as important as protecting the community from COVID-19.

The growing awareness and sense of urgency are backed by another recent study looking at internet search behaviour across 20 European countries. Researchers found signs of growing support for a post-COVID recovery program that emphasises sustainability.

Kids climate books on shelf.
Books have also educated young readers on the climate emergency.
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Read more:
Why it doesn’t make economic sense to ignore climate change in our recovery from the pandemic


Change is happening, more is needed

Still, preaching to the converted is not necessarily a bad thing. They might need to be reminded why they were persuaded that action is needed, or need help countering the half-truths and barefaced lies being peddled in the public debate. Books can fulfil that mission. So can speaking to community groups, which I do regularly.

I tell audiences the urgent priority now is to turn into action the knowledge we have about the accelerating impacts of climate change and economically viable responses. Our states and territories now have the goal of zero-carbon by 2050, so I am giving presentations spelling out how this can be achieved. We urgently need the Commonwealth government to catch up to the community.

Climate action protest sign above crowd.
Mass protests have called for environmental leadership.
Unsplash/Markus Spiske, CC BY

Change is happening rapidly. More than 2 million Australian households now have solar panels. Solar and wind provided more than half of the electricity used by South Australia last year and that state achieved a world-first on the morning of October 11: for a brief period, its entire electricity demand was met by solar panels.

The urgent task is not to publish more books on the crisis, but to change the political discourse and force our national government to play a positive role.The Conversation

Ian Lowe, Emeritus Professor, School of Science, Griffith University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Books on Donald Trump


The link below is to an article that considers the multitude of books on the Donald Trump era and looks for the best ones.

For more visit:
https://gen.medium.com/the-best-books-about-the-trump-era-according-to-the-critic-who-read-150-cc43cea9720a

WordGlo


The link below is to an article that takes a look at a device known as ‘WordGlo,’ which is said to bring some of the functionality of a Kindle device to reading printed books – you be the judge of its merits.

For more visit:
https://ebookfriendly.com/wordglo-kindle-glowlight-print-books/

Rare Stolen Books Worth Millions Found Under House in Romania


The link below is to an article reporting on rare stolen books that were found under a house in Romania.

For more visit:
https://lithub.com/3-2-million-worth-of-rare-stolen-books-have-been-found-under-a-house-in-rural-romania/