Essays from 11 authors describe their personal experiences—frustrations, hurts, and triumphs— in confronting the challenges of disabilities.
At age 26, Cipriani (Blind, 2011, etc.) was beaten by childhood friends; the assault left him blind. His search for articles and literature about people living with disabilities led him to a career in journalism. Eventually, he asked other disabled writers to share their stories. This collection is culled from the numerous responses he received, and they reflect a broad spectrum of debilitating conditions: early-onset severe rheumatoid arthritis, deafness, loss of sight, cerebral palsy, high-functioning autism, and injuries inflicted by a vehicle. The chapter-length autobiographies are as different in experience as they are in voice. Whether they became disabled as young or middle-aged adults—or knew they were somehow different from childhood—all of these writers experienced what Cipriani calls their own “rites of passage,” the process of learning to navigate through personal relationships and an unfriendly environment. And for those stricken in adulthood, there is also a period of denial to overcome—a reckoning with the monumental and permanent change in their circumstances. The stories from several writers with autism are especially revelatory. Sam E. Rubin, in “Overdubbing the Cody Effect,” who was diagnosed early, vividly describes his childhood terror facing discipline meted out by a special ed teacher. To this day, Rubin suffers from recurrent PTSD. On the other hand, Kimberly Gerry-Tucker, in “Firsts in Art,” wasn’t diagnosed until adulthood. She firmly believes that she would have benefitted from the extra attention found in special ed. She also poignantly educates readers on the inner workings of the autistic experience. After a difficult but very successful presentation to a large audience, she discovered that the organizer wanted to hug her. “I don’t grant that sort of thing to just anyone,” she explains, “because hugs feel like indents afterward, which can’t be popped back out for hours at times. But we hugged, or I sort of patted her, which is my hug.”
Powerful and intimate self-portraits from writers who have much to teach readers.