Black d/Deaf and Disability Excellence

February 17, 2022 | Kim T.

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By Kim and Winona

Happy Black History Month! We’d like to contribute to the festivities by offering up some fantastic titles by Black authors with disabilities and Black authors who are d/Deaf.

Children's picture books

Cover of Change Sings: illustration of a Black girl standing in front of a colourful mural and holding up a guitar towards the viewer.

Change Sings: A Children's Anthem by Amanda Gorman and Loren Long

Poet Amanda Gorman, who grew up with a speech impediment and an auditory processing disorder, blew us all away when she read at the 2021 U.S. Presidential inauguration. Her debut children's picture book combines clear rhyming verse with vibrant artwork by Loren Long. It calls on readers to make the change they wish to see and be in themselves and in the world. Powerful and poignant.

Cover of Can Bears Ski?: illustration of a brown bear wearing hearing aids.

Can Bears Ski? by Raymond Antrobus and Polly Dunbar

Raymond Antrobus’ childhood experiences with hearing loss are represented in his debut children’s book, Can Bears Ski? Antrobus’s lyricism is perfectly matched with warm, bright images by illustrator Polly Dunbar (who herself is partially deaf). Readers of all ages will delight in the message that love can be communicated in myriad ways.

 

Poetry

Cover of The Perseverance: a black planet-like orb suspended against a cream background.

The Perseverance: Poems by Raymond Antrobus

Antrobus is also a multi-award-winning poet! Though the title comes from the pub frequented by his dad, it also symbolizes his lived experience as a d/Deaf person and as one of mixed-race. This collection is heart plus technique.

 

Fiction

Covers of books in The Nsibidi Scripts series: three books, each featuring an illustration of a Nigerian woman with albinism.

The Nsibidi Script Trilogy by Nnedi Okorafor 

Heavily influenced by Nigerian folklore and its rich mythology and mysticism, Akata Witch , Akata Warrior and Akata Woman are a compelling blend of culture, fantasy, history and magic that will keep readers spellbound. Perfect binge-read material.

Cover of Sorrowland - CD edition: illustration of pale, glowing fauna against a deep blue background.

 Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon

Sorrowland is rooted in Afrofuturism and owes plenty to Octavia Butler, James Baldwin and folklore from multiple cultures. Vern, its electrifying young hero, embodies both the trauma of the past and a thirst for understanding. Sorrowland is so perfectly plotted that readers won’t be able to predict what's to come.

Cover of The Fat Lady Sings: line illustrations of two Black women, one signing joyfully with raise hands, the other in profile with her hands clasped together.

The Fat Lady Sings by Jacqueline Roy

Jacqueline Roy's experience as a teenager in a psychiatric hospital informs this novel, the story of two British women of Jamaican descent who meet in a London psychiatric ward in the 1990s. It’s told in alternating chapters by Gloria, a middle-aged lesbian prone to sudden outbursts of song, and Merle, who is mostly silent but for the voices in her head. There are some harrowing depictions of sexual abuse here, but also much on beauty, friendship, strength, joy.

Cover of Get a Life Chloe Brown: cartoon illustration of an interracial couple in an affectionate embrace, watched by a grey cat.

Get a Life Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

Talia Hibbert demonstrates the strain that chronic pain can place on both familial and romantic relationships, while also showing that someone with chronic pain is deserving and capable of having a loving relationship - all while delivering a laugh-out-loud love story.

 

Non-fiction

Cover of Wow, No Thank You: photo of a floppy-eared rabbit looking decidedly non-plussed.

Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby 

No topic is too taboo for comedian and writer Samantha Irby: poverty, anxiety, weight, race, sex, menstruation, arthritis, Crohn’s disease, the daily indignities of the body. But Irby makes it fun! She writes hilariously about her life as a married, queer, disabled Black woman in small-town America. Smart, funny and foulmouthed, Irby will make you snort involuntarily while crying with laughter and breaking your heart wide open.

Cover of The Pretty One: photo of the author, a Black woman wearing glasses and smiling joyfully.

The Pretty One: On Life, Pop Culture, Disability, and Other Reasons to Fall in Love with Me by Keah Brown 

The journalist/activist behind 2017’s viral hashtag #DisabledAndCute, delivers her debut collection of essays, writing with both relatable girlfriend charm, raw and emotional honesty. Whether writing about her relationship with her able-bodied twin, pop culture, or her quest to find romantic love, Brown’s work presents a complex interplay of race, gender and disability.

Cover of Haben - Playaway edition: photo of the author in profile wearing a bright blue top against a red background.

Haben: the Deafblind Woman who Conquered Harvard Law by Haben Girma 

Girma is a human rights lawyer and the first Deafblind person to graduate from Harvard Law School. This warm, uplifting memoir challenges misconceptions about what people can and cannot do and will inspire readers to advocate for a better, more inclusive world.

Cover of Black Madness Black Madness - a painting depicting a series of nails arranged in groups of five to look like tally marks.

Black Madness :: Mad Blackness by Therí Alyce Pickens

If you’re interested in the intersections between Black studies, disability studies and literary criticism, this one’s for you. Pickens insists we must read “more madly, more Blackly” and suggests we can do this by looking to the work of Black speculative and science fiction authors such as Octavia Butler, Nalo Hopkinson and Tananarive Due. An important piece of theory, discourse and disruption for scholars and activists alike.

 


Who are the Black authors with disabilities and/or who are d/Deaf that you're reading? Share your recommendations in the comments. 

 

Related Reading  

Accessibility Book Lists – Explore recommended books for kids, teens, and adults about d/Deaf and disability experiences.

Black History – Celebrate Black History with reading lists, programs and more.

 

Accessibility at Toronto Public Library

Find resources and information about accessibility at Toronto Public Library on tpl.ca/accessibility.

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